Guidance

New business appointments for 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 within 2 years of leaving ministerial office or Crown service, you must apply for advice on the suitability of the new post.

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

Business appointment rules for former ministers

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Business appointment rules for civil servants

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Former ministers: how to apply

Complete the ACOBA application form for former ministers (MS Word Document, 85KB) 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.

However, you can get informal advice 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

Application process: former ministers

This flowchart showing business appointments procedure for former ministers (PDF, 187KB, 1 page) sets out how ACOBA will handle your application.

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 meet us and explain why.

The guidance on ACOBA applications for former ministers (PDF, 122KB, 3 pages) explains more about confidentiality and the rules for former ministers on:

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

Senior Crown servants: how to apply

Permanent secretaries, directors-generaland their equivalents (SCS3 and above), including special advisers of equivalent standing, must complete the model business appointments application form for civil servants (RTF, 429KB) . 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.

Application process: senior Crown servants

This flowchart showing business appointments procedure for senior Crown servants (PDF, 259KB, 1 page) sets out how ACOBA handles the applications it receives from former permanent secretaries, directors-general and their equivalents including special advisers.

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
  • 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 on ACOBA applications for senior Crown servants (PDF, 156KB, 3 pages) explains more about confidentiality and the rules for senior Crown servants.

Lobbying ban

Under the rules a lobbying ban means that the former civil servant or minister should not engage in communication with government (including ministers, special advisers and officials) with a view to influencing a government decision or policy in relation to:

  • their own interests
  • the interests of the organisation by which they are employed or to which they are contracted

It will usually cover the whole of the UK government (or the Scottish or Welsh governments, where applicable) and, for the most senior individuals, lasts 2 years from their last day of service. However, we sometimes recommend a modified version of the ban, eg limiting it to a single department. We’ll do this if we believe that this is the best way to address any sensitivities raised by a particular appointment.