Cross-government and public administration

Investigation into governments management of the Business Appointment Rules

The Cabinet Office are responsible for the Business Appointment Rules, but have not published any guidelines, and have no oversight of departmental compliance.

People in Whitehall
  • The National Audit Office has today published the findings of its investigation into the Business Appointment Rules (the Rules), and how they are administered by Government. The Rules apply to all civil servants who leave the civil service and move to employment in other sectors, and exist to mitigate risks including: abuse of office, profiteering and undue influence. All current and former civil servants must consider whether they need to make an application under the Rules before accepting a new role in another sector. The Rules are developed and owned by the Cabinet Office and approved by the Prime Minister.Some of the key findings of the investigation are as follows:
  • The Rules form part of the Cabinet Office’s Civil Service Management Code, and are legally binding as part of the terms and conditions of civil servants’ employment contracts.
  • The guidelines for departments on administering the Rules have been removed from the Code. The Cabinet Office has been preparing guidelines for departments since 2012, but has not yet published these.
  • The Rules do not state departments can reject applications. The Rules state that departments can either approve an application unconditionally, or with certain conditions such as being prohibited from lobbying government. The Cabinet Office believes that departments do reject applications, however it was unable to evidence this.
  • The centre of government has no oversight of departmental compliance with the Rules. The Cabinet Office has the right to monitor how the Code is being applied in departments, but it does not exercise this right in respect of business appointments. The Cabinet Office currently relies on departments enforcing compliance, transparency and public scrutiny to promote compliance with the rules.
  • It is not possible to know from transparency data whether all those leaving the civil service that should have made an application under the Rules did so. Since 2014 the Rules have required departments to publish the outcomes of business appointment applications on their own websites. As at June 2017, central government departments had published 170 decisions under the Rules.Three departments have never published information and one published a nil return.
  • From their sample, the NAO found that departments were not consistently applying the Rules. It also found that no department has assurance that former civil servants remained compliant with the Rules for up to two years after they had left public service. The majority of departments considered the onus to be on former civil servants to comply with the Rules, and any conditions placed on them.

19 July 2017


Publication details:

ISBN: 9781786041388 [Buy a copy]

HC: 245, 2017-19

Work In Progress