Civil servants’ second jobs to be scrutinised after Greensill saga

Ben Riley-Smith
The Cabinet Secretary discussed the second jobs rules in his weekly meeting with permanent secretaries of government departments - Mark Cuthbert/UK Press
The Cabinet Secretary discussed the second jobs rules in his weekly meeting with permanent secretaries of government departments - Mark Cuthbert/UK Press

Britain’s top civil servant has ordered senior colleagues to more tightly police officials who take second jobs after the Greensill saga, The Telegraph can reveal.

Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, also said behind closed doors that the current rules would be looked at again to see whether they should be changed.

The message was communicated by Mr Case at a meeting he held with the top civil servants in government departments on Wednesday morning.

Earlier this month it emerged Bill Crothers, a former head of Whitehall procurement, became an adviser to the lender Greensill Capital while still working in the civil service.

Last week, Mr Case launched a hunt for new conflicts of interest by asking all government departments to find out whether senior officials have rule-breaking second jobs.

It is understood the vast majority of cases that have been flagged were deemed not to be conflicts of interest, such as roles with charities or as school governors.

However, a small number of cases that have come to light have been flagged as requiring further attention. The exact figure is still being processed.

Mr Case discussed the second jobs rules in his weekly meeting with permanent secretaries of government departments, widely known as the “Wednesday Morning Colleagues” meetings. One source familiar with the discussions said that Mr Case had urged colleagues to improve scrutiny when approving second jobs.

The civil service management code says there should not be a conflict of interest for second jobs, but there is room for interpretation of what that means.

The most serious cases should be passed onto the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, a watchdog chaired by the former Tory MP Lord (Eric) Pickles.

It is largely down to permanent secretaries - the top civil servants in each government department - to decide whether individual cases amount to a conflict of interest.

Mr Case is also understood to have said that the rules should be looked at again, though it remains unclear what changes would be considered. It remains possible the rules could be looked at in the review ordered by Boris Johnson into the wider Greensill lobbying row. That review is being led by the lawyer Nigel Boardman.

Details of what Mr Case’s quick review of civil servants with second jobs found are likely to be put into the public domain over the coming days.

Supporters of allowing civil servants to hold some second jobs argue that holding positions on charities and in the local communities is a positive thing that should not be discouraged.

Debate in the coming weeks is likely to focus on how tightly defined the conflict of interest test is for second jobs, and whether there should be even more scrutiny in the process.