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Minister got £8k severance then returned to DHSC weeks later

Published on: 16 Feb 2024

A health minister received an £8,000 severance payment before being reappointed to the department seven weeks later, government accounts show.

Maria Caulfield was a junior minister at the Department of Health and Social Care until early September 2022, when she lost the role as part of a reshuffle under then prime minister Liz Truss.

Ms Caulfield received a severance package of £7,920, but then returned to the department at the end of October that year, when Rishi Sunak became prime minister. She still holds this role.

Two former health ministers, Steve Barclay and Edward Argar, opted to repay severance payments they received in similar circumstances in 2022.

Under government-wide rules, ministers are entitled to a sum equivalent to a quarter of their annual salary when they stop holding office and are not appointed to another ministerial role within three weeks.

There is no obligation to repay the funds if they return to a ministerial position after this point, but they can opt to waive or return the payment.

Ms Caulfield has not responded to requests for comment. The DHSC declined to comment.

The payment was revealed in the DHSC annual accounts for 2022-23.

The then health secretary Steve Barclay, who was briefly replaced by Therese Coffey and then reappointed less than two months later, opted to return the £16,876 he received.

Edward Argar, who was a junior health minister at the DHSC until resigning in protest at Boris Johnson’s leadership, also returned his payout after being appointed to a role at the Cabinet Office two months later.

Helen Whately and Neil O’Brien resigned from the Treasury and Department Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in July 2022, in protest at Boris Johnson’s leadership, both receiving £5,593 for loss of office. They were appointed to the DHSC a few months later, and the accounts do not show the money was repaid.

Ms Whately is currently the minister for social care, while Mr O’Brien left government in November. They were also approached for comment.