House of Commons Library

Business Appointment Rules

Published Thursday, April 11, 2019

Ministers and civil servants leaving office are subject to rules regarding appointment in other sectors. These rules, known as the Business Appointment Rules, exist to prevent former civil servants and ministers being able to profit from their knowledge of and contacts within Whitehall, and to prevent any perception of wrongdoing. The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA) administers the rules.

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ACoBA considers applications under the Business Appointment Rules about new jobs for former ministers, senior civil servants and other Crown servants. It is an advisory non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Cabinet Office. The Membership includes political party nominees and independent members appointed by the Prime Minister. The current chair is Baroness Browning, who took up her post in 2015.

Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee (PACAC), and its predecessor Committee the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) have held inquiries on the Business Appointment Rules and ACoBA. In January 2012, PASC reported that the system had lost public confidence and needed reform. They recommended the Advisory Committee should be abolished and replaced with a statutory system of ethics regulation in the UK. The Government rejected the main recommendations.

A further report by PACAC published in July 2016 was again critical of the system for regulating business appointments and called for “major reform”. The Committee’s calls for changes to the Civil Service Management Code and Ministerial Code were turned down by the Cabinet Office. PACAC stated that they considered the Government response as “inadequate given the seriousness of the issues raised in their report and their potential to undermine public confidence”.

This Commons Library Briefing Paper sets out the rules and the role of ACoBA before setting out recent parliamentary scrutiny of the system for considering business appointments.

Commons Briefing papers SN03745

Authors: Lucinda Maer; Pat Strickland

Topics: Central government, Civil Service, Ministers

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