Treasury Solicitor Jonathan Jones on 2017 and what Brexit means for the the Government Legal Service

Written by Civil Service World on 15 December 2016 in Interview

With the end of 2016 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top officials to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2017 – and shed some light on their festive favourites. Jonathan Jones, Treasury Solicitor and head of the Government Legal Service, takes part in our annual perm secs round-up...

What was your highlight of 2016?
I was very pleased to agree that the legal teams in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Department for International Trade will join the Government Legal Department in the first half of 2017. This means that GLD will provide the full range of legal services for almost all central government departments, with the only exceptions being HM Revenue and Customs and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It will facilitate closer working between the BEIS and DIT legal teams and other parts of GLD on the many important legal issues we are dealing with together. It will also help us better coordinate how we deploy our people between different teams within the expanded GLD, to reflect changing priorities and levels of demand, as well as giving our people the best possible development and career opportunities.   

What has been the most significant change in your service this year?
Inevitably it’s Brexit. The outcome of the EU referendum created major new strands of legal work – on the legal processes for leaving the EU, on options for the UK’s future relationship with Europe, and on the domestic changes that will be necessary to our domestic legal framework.

What will be the biggest challenge of 2017 – and how are you preparing to meet it?
See my answer above! But of course we will also continue to provide the best possible legal support for all the government’s priorities – since so much of the government’s agenda raises major legal and constitutional issues. We’re continuing to improve and invest in our service, for example upgrading our litigation case-management system (we handle about 45,000 cases a year), and developing a new digital system to give clients online access to materials and basic advice, leaving our lawyers free to dedicate more time to advising on trickier questions.

What was the best Christmas present that you’ve ever given or received? And the worst?
I find the best presents are ones you can eat or drink – so whatever it was, it will be long gone. But the worst – I recently threw away a jar of unspeakable festering home-made chutney.

More: Perm secs round-up 2016 – Britain's top civil servants review the year and look ahead to 2017

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