3 Jul 2019
I do not know him, have never met him or have any personal axe to grind but last week’s announcement that the ‘Rasputin’ of Brexit is to leave (when Theresa May leaves office) his role as head of the European and Global Issues Secretariat, advising the Prime Minister on the EU and to oversee Brexit came as not a big surprise
Brexit has been a very toxic affair causing divisions of an unimaginable scale nationwide.
According to his Wikipedia page some interesting intelligence is gleaned, Robbins's Brexit role “led to some Conservative MPs blaming him for an anti-Brexit "establishment plot", criticising him as "secretive" and comparing him to Grigori Rasputin.
A group of former military and intelligence officials associated with pro-Brexit pressure group Veterans for Britain including the former head of the Secret Intelligence Service Richard Dearlove said Robbins had "serious questions of improper conduct to answer" over defence and security co-operation between the UK and the EU after Brexit.
What was a surprise is that he is looking to follow the well-worn cabinet minister path to the City.
When a minister leaves office he or she should be subject to the Ministerial code, it sets out the standards of behaviour expected from all those who serve in Government.
The business appointment rules note that “Ministers will be prohibited from lobbying Government for two years. They must also seek advice from the independent Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA) about any appointments or employment they wish to take up within two years of leaving office. Former Ministers must ensure that no new appointments are announced, or taken up, before the Committee has been able to provide its advice”.
The same rules apply to senior civil servants such as Olly Robbins.
But will they?
The business appointment rules for civil servants has key principles to be observed:
Integrity You must not misuse your official position, for example by using information acquired in the course of your official duties, to further your private interests or those of others.
Honesty You must not be influenced by improper pressures from others or the prospect of personal gain.
Objectivity You must take decisions on the merits of the case.
Impartiality You must not act in a way that unjustifiably favours or discriminates against particular individuals or interests.
The rules note that civil servants should be able to move into other sectors, and that such movement should not be “frustrated by unjustified public concern over a particular appointment”.
But it is equally important that when a former civil servant takes up an outside appointment or employment there should be cause for justified public concern, criticism or misinterpretation.
The aim of the Rules is to avoid any reasonable concerns that:
Robbins may have some fantastic commercial value but given the code constraints why would a big City firm want to employ this person in particular, given the hugely negative brand damage aura that his name could be associated with. I’m thinking here of the 52% who voted leave for a start.
Would a two year wait to head to the city be a good idea allowing the passage of time to establish what his real value may be to a prospective City employer as well as what his true cost to the nation may have been too?
Just a thought?