I AM not surprised that senior ministers, engaged in the tortuous Brexit negotiations, have been venting their frustration at big multi-nationals, like Airbus, issuing dire threats depending on the outcome of the talks.

Airbus, which employs 14,000 people in the UK, have warned they will up sticks and move elsewhere if there is a “no deal” outcome.

This kind of ultimatum – which helps nobody – is the last thing ministers want as they grapple on behalf of the UK with a stubborn, obdurate and grasping Brussels negotiating team.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been commendably forthright in his criticism of Airbus, saying: “It was completely inappropriate for businesses to be making these kinds of threats for one very simple reason. We are at an absolutely critical moment in the Brexit discussions and what that means is that we need to get behind Theresa May to deliver the best possible Brexit – a clean Brexit.

“The more we undermine Theresa May, the more likely we are to end up with a fudge, which would be an absolute disaster for everyone.”

Hear, hear. The task is already hard enough for the negotiating ministers, without the big corporations making it worse.

CRUDELY, you could call it hush money – a term usually associated with criminal gangs. But in the past five years, the House of Commons, no less, have paid out some £2.4m in so-called gagging orders in relation to members of staff who have left their employment.

The object appears to be to ban these people from divulging to the media or anyone else, the goings on in the Commons which Westminster authorities would prefer to keep under wraps.

These orders are designed to prevent people disclosing instances of bullying or harassment at Westminster, and other matters the authorities feared would give Parliament a bad name.

In one case, it was reported that Angus Sinclair, formerly the Speaker’s secretary, was paid £86,000 – more than a year of pay – as part of a settlement that entailed him signing a non-disclosure agreement.

He felt he was being paid-off to stay quiet about being bullied by Commons Speaker, John Bercow. This was an allegation the Speaker denied.

A total of £2.4m is rather more than just a drop in the ocean, and there are already demands that this practice becomes “a thing of the past”.

I remember a case where an employee was sacked, some years ago, and then threatened to make public lurid stories about alleged bad behaviour at Westminster.

The powers that be panicked and feebly offered to take him back, but working in a different place than hitherto.

But the man said he wanted his old job back – or else. Once more, the cowardly authorities caved in and the man was reinstated in his old job.

It is no good parliamentarians preaching about the need for “transparency” when they are prepared, scandalously, to pay out large sums to give the impression that Westminster is a haven of unalloyed virtue.