Peter Mandelson, the openly gay new Business Secretary, will not fulfill the role of the Government’s Anti-Corruption Champion as part of his new role.

Lord Mandelson’s predecessor as Business Secretary, John Hutton, held the brief during his time in the Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform role, but now, the brief will be held by the Justice Secretary Jack Straw.

The Conservatives have pointed to the move as evidence that Prime Minister Gordon Brown does not trust Lord Mandelson. Nick Herbert (also openly gay), the Shadow Justice Secretary, said:

“We’re being told that it’s all sweetness and light between Gordon Brown and Lord Mandelson, but for some inexplicable reason the Prime Minister has decided not to trust his new Business Secretary with an anti-corruption portfolio held by the previous incumbent.

“Surely the former European Commissioner is qualified for the job?”

Downing Street responded to these queries by insisting that the alteration to the role was nothing unusual, and that Jack Straw is a good candidate for the role. A spokeswoman said:

“The post of the Government’s anti-corruption champion hasn’t always resided in BERR.

“It was held by John Hutton, but before him by Hilary Benn.

“There is a clear precedent for it being a cross-government role with no one department that has ownership of it.

“Jack Straw is a natural choice for the anti-corruption champion, not only because he is currently Secretary of State for Justice, but also because of his previous work as Home Secretary, when he announced a range of anti-corruption measures covering MPs’ conduct in the Commons, and as Foreign Secretary, when he announced the UK ratification of the UN Convention Against Corruption.”

Mr Straw confirmed that his position as Anti-Corruption Champion had been a “personal appointment” of Gordon Brown.

He said: “For two years, the government has undertaken a concerted programme of action to coordinate and to improve our anti-corruption systems through annual anti-corruption action plans driven forward by my predecessors John Hutton and Hilary Benn.

“The role of Anti-Corruption Champion is a personal appointment by the Prime Minister and the Secretariat and support functions remain within BERR.

“Government investment in dedicated police resources has led to a dramatic increase in the number of investigations into allegations of foreign bribery by UK nationals and companies, up from four investigations in 2006 to over 20 live cases this year.

“Investigations are feeding through into prosecutions and convictions of wrongdoers.”

A ministerial statement yesterday revealed that officials in charge of investigating bribery abroad will still work through the Business Department, but will be under Mr Straw’s control.

Much controversy has surrounded Lord Mandelson’s role in the Cabinet.

Having resigned from the Cabinet twice in the past, his relationship with the Prime Minister has been rumoured to have been unstable.

Further media attention focused on Lord Mandelson when it emerged that he gave trade concessions of £50 million per year to a Russian oligarch who entertained him on his
yacht.

He is under pressure from opponents about a financial package he is eligible for as a former EU Commissioner.

The Conservatives have called on him to reject the generous transitionary payments of £78,000 per year from the EU that he is entitled to for the next three years.

In addition to his salary as a Cabinet minister he will be earning close to the £182,500 he received as a Commissioner, as well as being eligible for a £15,000 relocation grant.

Lord Mandelson became Baron of Foy last week.

He becomes one of three openly gay peers, all men, in a House of 741.

He is also the first out gay man to serve in the Cabinet since 2001