Sedwill and May lead tributes after national security chief Charles Farr dies

Written by Richard Johnstone on 18 February 2019 in News
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Cabinet sec says Farr “dedicated his entire career to keeping our citizens safe and the country secure”

Charles Farr in 2013. Photo: PA

Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill has led tributes to Joint Intelligence Committee chair and former Home Office director general Charles Farr, who died on Friday afternoon after a period of illness.

A Cabinet Office announcement today described Farr as one of Whitehall’s "best and brightest".

Sedwill said he and Farr had worked together over many years both at the Home Office and at the centre of government. “His rigorous judgement, penetrating analysis and natural authority will truly be missed,” Sedwill said. “He dedicated his entire career to keeping our citizens safe and the country secure, and the nation owes him a huge debt. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this sad time.”

Farr’s civil service roles included working at director general of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism at the Home Office from 2007-2015, where he delivered cross-government strategies and institutional reforms to combat terrorism and organised crime. 

He was then appointed to head up the Joint Intelligence Committee, the cross-government body based in the Cabinet Office that coordinates intelligence assessments from across government and oversees the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6; the Security Service, MI5; the Government Communication Headquarters, GCHQ; and defence intelligence.

Prime minister Theresa May, who also worked with Farr at the Home Office, said he was “an outstanding public servant who dedicated his life to national security”.

“As home secretary and prime minister, I valued his commitment, expertise and advice enormously. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and all of those who worked with him.”

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said Farr “was committed to making this country a better and safer place, and I feel a great sense of gratitude for the tireless efforts he made throughout his career”.

“Government has lost a true asset and those who worked with him have lost a mentor and a friend,” he said.

Farr was awarded an OBE in the 2003 New Year Honours, and appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 2010. The Cabinet Office said the Queen also approved a knighthood for him before he died.

A new chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee will be announced in due course, the Cabinet Office. The position will be filled on an interim basis by Sir Simon Gass, a former director general political at the Foreign Office and UK ambassador to Iran and Greece. Gass is currently a commandant of the Royal College of Defence Studies, which instructs senior officers of the armed forces and civil service in defence and international security matters at the highest level.

About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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