Press release

Sir Michael Barber joins Ministry of Justice board

Sir Michael Barber has joined the board of the Ministry of Justice as a non-executive member, it has been announced today (2 December 2015).

Sir Michael Barber

Sir Michael Barber brings with him extensive experience of public service reform around the world, with a focus on effective implementation, standards and performance.

From 1997 to 2001, he was Chief Adviser to the Secretary of State for Education on School Standards. From 2001 at the Prime Minister’s request, he founded the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, and led it for four years. Since leaving government he has worked for McKinsey & Company and Pearson.

He will join current non-executive board members Liz Doherty, Sir Martin Narey, Lizzie Noel – who all joined the board in August – and lead non-executive board member Sir Theodore Agnew.

Appointed by the Secretary of State, non-executive board members are senior figures from outside government. They are appointed to provide challenge and advice to government departments.

Commenting on Sir Michael’s appointment, Justice Secretary Michael Gove said:

I am delighted Sir Michael has agreed to join the Ministry of Justice as a non-executive board member. No one knows more about delivering public service reform than Sir Michael. His global perspective, experience and advice will be invaluable as we embark on vital reforms within our prisons, making them places of hard work, rigorous education and high ambition.

Sir Michael Barber said:

I am looking forward to joining the Ministry of Justice at a time of such change. The Secretary of State has made clear his plans for reform of the prison system, putting a clear emphasis on providing offenders with education and giving them the skills to contribute to society. I look forward to providing advice and challenge on policy proposals to ensure they deliver the necessary change for the public.

As set out in the government’s Code of Practice, non-executive board members should be appointed directly by the Secretary of State and are not civil servants. Their role is to:

  • give advice to ministers and officials on the operational and delivery implications of policy proposals
  • provide independent support, guidance and challenge on the progress and implementation of the department’s strategic direction
  • advise on performance and support the development of Key Performance Indicators to monitor implementation of the department’s business plans


A fair and open competition for all non-executive board member posts was conducted, with the recruitment and selection process overseen by Sir Ian Cheshire, the government’s lead non-executive.

An advertisement for non-executives was published on 4 June. The deadline for applications was 30 June. The appointments of Sir Martin Narey, Liz Doherty and Lizzie Noel were announced on 20 August. Sir Michael was appointed on 29 October.

All shortlisted candidates were subject to a panel-based assessment. In accordance with the rules, the panel for the non-executives comprised the new lead non-executive board member and the Permanent Secretary.

Recruitment of non-executive board members followed the procedures set out in the government’s Code of Good Practice for Corporate Governance in Central Government Departments, and its supporting guidance.

The guidance makes clear:

  • Non-executive board members in Whitehall will be appointed by the Secretary of State.

  • It is recommended that the appointment panel includes the Secretary of State, the Permanent Secretary of the department and lead non-executive board member (for non-lead NEBMs). The Secretary of State may wish to delegate the assessment of shortlisted candidates to the Permanent Secretary and a lead non-executive board member, and to make their selection based on the recommendations of the panel.

  • Non-executives on departmental boards are not employees and they do not benefit from temporary civil service status.

  • Previous or current political activity should not be an automatic bar to appointment.

Published 2 December 2015