Advisory Committee on Business Appointments

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Overview

Crown servants at all levels, including civil servants, special advisers, members of the Armed Forces and diplomats, are subject to rules on accepting outside appointments, which apply for two years after they have left Crown service.

Aim

The 'Rules on the Acceptance of Outside Appointments' form part of the Civil Service Management Code [External website]. There are corresponding requirements for other Crown servants.

The purpose of the rules is to maintain trust in the Crown services and in the people who work in them, and in particular to

Process

Applications from the most senior Crown servants are referred to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which gives its advice to the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary or the First Ministers of the Scottish or Welsh Governments as appropriate. Decisions on all other applications rest with the employing Department or Agency as set out in the Guidelines for Departments.  

Terms of approval

Applications may be approved unconditionally or subject to conditions which may last for up to two years. These may, for example, include a waiting period before the appointment can be taken up, or a requirement that the individual should stand aside from certain activities of his or her new employer for a period. It is also open to the Advisory Committee to say that they consider a particular appointment to be unsuitable.

Former Permanent Secretaries are normally subject to a minimum waiting period of three months from the date they leave Crown service, which takes account of their access to policy issues at the highest levels. This ‘automatic’ waiting period can, however, be waived if in the Committee’s view the appointment is entirely unconnected with the applicant’s official knowledge and no questions of propriety arise.

Special Advisers

Special Advisers were brought into the system in 1995, following a recommendation by the Committee on Standards in Public Life. All applications by Special Advisers must be referred to the Advisory Committee, who will provide advice to the relevant Permanent Secretary who will make the final decision. 

Former Ministers

Former Ministers are expected to seek and abide by advice from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments about appointments or employment they wish to take up within two years of leaving office. In these cases the Committee gives its advice directly to the former Minister concerned. Ministers of Cabinet rank are normally expected to observe a similar minimum waiting period to that which applies to Permanent Secretaries.

Publishing the Advisory Committee’s advice

All cases are considered in confidence, but the Committee’s advice is normally made public on this website if the appointment has been taken up (or announced). Consolidated records of these cases are published in the Committee’s reports.