Guidance

Business Appointments - making applications under the Rules for former ministers and senior Crown servants

How former ministers and senior crown servants (director general level and above, and equivalents) should apply for advice from ACOBA.

Overview

When you take up any new paid or unpaid appointment outside of government within 2 years of leaving ministerial office or Crown service, you must apply for advice.

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) considers applications from the most senior levels:

  • ministers
  • permanent secretaries (and their equivalents)
  • directors-general (and their equivalents)

Applications from all other levels of Crown servant are handled by their employing departments in line with the Cabinet Office’s guidelines for departments and their own internal processes.

The purpose of the rules is to avoid:

  • any suspicion that an appointment might be a reward for past favours
  • the risk that an employer might gain an improper advantage by appointing a former official who holds information about its competitors, or about impending government policy
  • the risk of a former official or minister improperly exploiting privileged access to contacts in government

Rules on the acceptance of outside appointments

Government’s Business Appointment Rules for Former Ministers in HTML format

Government’s Business Appointment Rules for Civil Servants in HTML format

Former ministers: how to apply

flowchart for former ministers

This file is in an OpenDocument format

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Steps in the Process for former Ministers

Please read the Rules and the guidance on making an application; then complete the ACOBA application form for former ministers (MS Word Document, 96.5KB) and send it to our secretariat.

You can put in a speculative application as long as you’re able to provide enough information about the position you’re hoping to take up. We can consider your application even if a formal offer of employment hasn’t been made. You can also seek guidance from ACOBA if you’re exploring potential employment areas and want a better idea of what restrictions may be imposed.

Office address

Advisory Committee on Business Appointments
Room G/8
1 Horse Guards Road

London
SW1A 2HQ

Former ministers are expected to refrain from drawing on any privileged information which was available to them when a minister. They will normally be asked to observe a 2-year ban on lobbying government on behalf of their new employer or clients.

Former cabinet ministers will normally be subject to a 3-month waiting period from their last day in office before taking up any outside employment.

We’ll give you an opportunity to review our proposed restrictions on your new appointment. If you don’t agree with our advice, you’ll be able to explain why.

The guidance on making an application explains more about confidentiality, transparency and process for:

  • ‘one-off’ activities such as speeches, broadcasts, or newspaper articles
  • independent consultancies and commissions

Senior Crown servants: how to apply

flowchart for Crown servants

This file is in an OpenDocument format

This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.

Request an accessible format.
If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a version of this document in a more accessible format, please email acoba@acoba.gov.uk. Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.

Steps in the process for Crown servants

Permanent secretaries, directors-general and their equivalents (SCS3 and above), including special advisers of equivalent standing, must complete the model business appointments application form for civil servants (MS Word Document, 129KB). You must then send it to your HR department, who will consider it in line with the rules and accompanying guidance. The department sends the application and their comments to ACOBA.

Please read the Rules and guidance on making an application before making an application.

You can put in a speculative application as long as you’re able to provide enough information about the position you’re hoping to take up. We can consider your application even if a formal offer of employment hasn’t been made. You can also seek guidance from ACOBA if you’re exploring potential employment areas and want a better idea of what restrictions may be imposed.

Office address

Advisory Committee on Business Appointments
Room G/8
1 Horse Guards Road

London
SW1A 2HQ

All senior Crown servants are expected to refrain from drawing on any privileged information which was available to them when in office. You’ll normally observe a 2-year ban on lobbying government on behalf of your new employer or clients. Former permanent secretaries will normally be subject to a 3-month waiting period from their last day in office before taking up any outside employment.

We’ll give you an opportunity to review our proposed restrictions on your new appointment. If you don’t agree with our advice, you’ll be able to meet us and explain why. Once a final decision has been made, our advice is sent directly to you.

After this, we advise whether the appointment should be approved unconditionally or be subject to a waiting period and/or other conditions. We advise:

  • the Prime Minister - for applications from most civil servants and certain at the MOD
  • the Foreign Secretary - for applications from diplomats
  • the Defence Secretary – for applications from certain roles in the MOD
  • the relevant First Minister - for applications from people in the Scottish and Welsh governments
  • the relevant permanent secretary - for applications from special advisers

The guidance explains more about the process, including confidentiality and transparency

Published 1 October 2014
Last updated 22 September 2020 + show all updates
  1. HTML versions of documents added

  2. HTML versions added

  3. Adding HTML versions

  4. Updated business appointment rules for ministers and civil servants.

  5. Application forms and guidance updated.

  6. Application form for former ministers updated

  7. First published.