Advisory Committee on Business Appointments

From Powerbase
(Redirected from ACOBA)
Jump to: navigation, search
Revolving Door.jpg This article is part of the Revolving Door project of Spinwatch.

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments describes itself as "an independent body which provides advice to the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, or other Ministers if requested, on applications from the most senior Crown servants who wish to take up outside appointments within 2 years of leaving Crown service." [1]


The committee was set up in 1975 to advise the prime minister on applications by the most senior Crown Servants to take up appointments outside government. [2] It is an advisory non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Cabinet Office.


Current members of the committee in 2016 are:

In October 2014 ACOBA announced that it was seeking applications for the position of chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, and for three positions as members of the Committee. Closing date for applications was 30 October 2014, with interviews due to take place for the chair role in November and for members in mid-December 2014.

For the Chair role a non-pensionable honorarium of £8,000 is payable. For the Member roles a non-pensionable honorarium of £3,000 is payable. All members of the Committee are also eligible to claim any reasonable travel and subsistence expenses incurred in the course of their work.
The Chair is expected to commit an average of 2-3 days a month to the role. Members are expected to commit an average of 1-2 days a month. [6]

Former members

  • Ian Lang (Lord Lang of Monkton), Conservative former Scottish Secretary and former Member of Parliament. (Committee Chairman.) - stepped down in March 2014
  • Juliet Wheldon (Dame Juliet Wheldon) - served on the Committee from April 2009 to July 2011. She stepped down at the end of July 2011 for personal reasons. [7]
  • Bryan Nicholson - dates tbc
  • Gus Macdonald (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston). Labour former minister and former MP.
  • Navnit Dholakia (Lord Dholakia), Liberal Democrat deputy leader in the House of Lords.
  • Colin Budd


The secretariat for the committee is provided by the Cabinet Office, who sponsor the Advisory Committee as an advisory non-departmental public body. [8]

Representatives as of December 2011: Geraldine Alexander (Secretary) | Kate Campbell | Richard Jarvis | Roger Sampson

Record numbers of revolving door appointments

Record numbers of former civil servants and ministers are taking up powerful new posts in the business and private sectors, a watchdog has revealed. The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) reported that last year 33 ex-ministers were cleared to take up a total of 123 jobs in lucrative roles outside government. It was criticised recently for allowing the most senior civil servant at HM Treasury, Sir Nicholas MacPherson to become chairman at a private bank with links to offshore-financial services and as a result, the committee has responded by doubling the amount of cases where it has enforced a two year wait before taking up new jobs.

In their annual report, it was also revealed that Sir Eric Pickles has been cleared to become director at a waste management, despite failing to lead a drive to save weekly bin collections as communities secretary. Tamasin Cave, director of public transparency campaign group Spinwatch, has appealed to new Prime Minister Theresa May to do something about it:

'The previous government under David Cameron was big on rhetoric but bloody useless on sorting out lobbying,..Let's see if the new administration can get a grip on this. We have always said that public trust is seriously damaged if you have lobbyists, including senior ministers, stalking Westminster - and now in this report it is writ large.'

Over the past year, the committee's workload has grown substantially, advising 33 ministers on as many as 123 appointments, compared to 19 ministers on 49 jobs in 2014/15. The trend is attributed to the high level of Liberal Democrats leaving government. There was a similar rise in advice given to former civil servants.

Among them, the most striking appointment was Sir Nicholas MacPherson, who has worked under three different chancellors (Brown, Darling and Osborne) and was made permanent secretary to the Treasury in 2005. ACOBA found there to be no conflict of interest in his new private banking role, and that none of the parties involved served to gain from the move. They simply advised that MacPherson does not participate in any lobbying or use public sector contacts for the for the bank within two years of his leaving crown service.

C Hoare & Co were asked to comment but had not responded before the Daily Mail went to press. [9]

Review into ACOBA

In March 2012 the House of Commons Public Administration Committee held an evidence session looking at the Business Appointment Rules. It heard evidence from Sir Christopher Kelly the chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Chandrashekhar Krishnan from Transparency International UK and Professor David Miller from campaign group Spinwatch. Watch the session on BBC Democracy Live.

Special Advisers loophole

In August 2016, it was revealed that the government had changed the rules of ACOBA to exempt former special advisers from needing to seek approval for an appointment in the private sector. The change in policy was implemented prior to the 2015 general election and was revealed after Theresa May's current co-chief of staff Fiona Hill failed to declare her job working for Lexington Communications. A previous rule change in July 2014 only required aides with a salary of £95,000 a year or above to need ACOBA's approval, and all others required to simply register the a job change with their former department.

Tamasin Cave of SpinWatch said the change was 'supportive of a culture in Westminster and Whitehall that sees trading insider knowledge as routine’. [10]

2017 Early Day Motion

On 15 March 2017 an early day motion (EDM) calling for reform of ACOBA was tabled in the House of Commons, sponsored primarily by MP Paul Flynn. It noted:

That this House recalls former Prime Minister David Cameron's condemnation in 2010 of politicians who are out to serve themselves and not the country by lobbying; notes the abject failure of the Government's watchdog, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, to reduce the abuses of the potentially corrupting revolving door between ministerial office and big business lobbying; and calls on the Government to establish an effective watchdog that would enhance the House's reputation for probity, removing the opportunities for former Ministers to sell their inside knowledge and contacts for financial advantage by prohibiting their lobbying for companies they influenced or regulated in their Ministerial roles.[11]


Address: Room G/8,
1 Horse Guards Road,
Phone: 020 7271 0839 or 07880 740627



  1. Advisory Committee on Business Appointments Home Page Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, accessed 12/02/2010
  2. Advisory Committee on Business Appointments: About Us [1], accessed 12/02/2010
  3. Gov.UK Mark Addison, accessed 10 March 2015
  4. Gov.UK Lord German, accessed 10 March 2015
  5. Gov.UK 'ACOBA annual report 2015-16', accessed 19 July 2016
  6. Public Appointments, Cabinet Office, undated, accessed 28 October 2014
  7. Committee, ACoBA website, page last updated 2 December 2011
  8. Advisory Committee on Business Appointments: About Us [2], accessed 12/02/2010
  9. Daniel Martin, 'Yet more ex-ministers pick up lucrative jobs in the private sector' 20 July 2016, Press Reader, accessed 20 July 2016
  10. Mario Ledwith, New loophole helps ministers’ aides to pick up cushy jobs: Government rule changes allow dozens of special advisers to be exempt from conflict of interest checks, The Daily Mail, 2 August 2016, accessed 9 January 2017.
  11. Session: 2016-17, Date tabled: 15.03.2017, Primary sponsor: Flynn, Paul, Sponsors: Stephens, Christopher Hopkins, Kelvin Cunningham, Jim Salmond, Alex MacNeil, Angus