FORMER chancellor Philip Hammond has escaped punishment despite being condemned for using government connections to assist a bank he now advises.

The Cabinet Office decided against sanctioning Lord Hammond of Runnymede after Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) chair Lord Pickles said it was an “unwise step” for him to contact a senior Treasury official about a project developed by OakNorth.

The Tory peer argued he emailed Charles Roxburgh, the second permanent secretary at the Treasury, in a bid to establish that senior officials in the department were aware the bank was offering free support to aid the “Covid pandemic national response”.

Lord Pickles wrote to the Cabinet Office with his findings and said Lord Hammond’s use of his contacts in government “in this way was not consistent with the intention of the rules and was not acceptable”.

But Lord True, a minister in the department, noted that the Acoba chair did not believe it was a deliberate attempt to breach the rules.

“In that light, although we concur with your conclusion, we do not believe further sanctions should be taken given the particular circumstances of this case,” Lord True said in a letter to the chair.

“We also note there has already been public criticism from your committee.”