Europe, devolution and civil liberties: Rowena Collins Rice on what 2016 will bring for the Attorney General's Office

Written by Civil Service World on 18 December 2015 in Interview
Interview

With the end of 2015 in sight, we asked Whitehall's top officials to review the year, set out their priorities for 2016 – and shed some light on their festive plans. Rowena Collins Ricedirector-general of the Attorney General’s Office (AGO), takes part in our biggest-ever perm secs' round-up series...

How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your organisation in 2015?
It’s certainly been a year for big challenges in “making law and politics work together at the heart of the UK constitution”, as AGO’s programme puts it. You can take your pick from lawyering the new government’s ambitious manifesto and legislative programme; supporting HMG’s defence and security priorities; the launch of the Government Legal Department (GLD); helping our prosecuting authorities through some tough operational and organisational times; and managing a continuing steep climb in our “public interest” litigation work: intervening to support public confidence in the justice system, for example in getting unduly lenient sentences rectified or inquests reopened.

How do we do it? As a diverse and integrated team (second highest engagement score in the 2015 Whitehall survey – so proud) with transparent governance and a focused and resilient executive board. And through a network of fantastic and supportive colleagues in legal, private office and policy teams right across government.

What are your department’s top priorities in the year ahead?
Staying very focused on the Attorney General’s exhortation to AGO – and to government lawyers everywhere – to be “a crack team of problem solvers” on the difficult legal and constitutional issues of the day. There will be plenty of those in the year ahead, as the UK prepares for the referendum on its future in Europe, continues to develop thinking on our devolution and civil liberties settlements, and seeks to promote justice, peace and prosperity at home and abroad. As head of the government legal profession, the Attorney General will be working with Jonathan Jones (Treasury Solicitor and head of the GLD) to promote the cutting-edge professional skills and legal knowledge we all rely on to help get government business done. 

What film do you hope to watch over the festive period – and what’s the best game to play with the family on Christmas Day?
We have a bit of a tradition of watching the Trevor Nunn film of Twelfth Night at the end of the holidays. Warm and funny, strong cast and gorgeous Cornish settings. There should be no games required on Christmas Day: it’s fine just to be together for a day of festive cheer and good company. Now, Boxing Day on the other hand… 


Perm secs round-up 2015: Whitehall's top civil servants review the year – and look ahead to 2016

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