Cabinet Office seeks new first parliamentary counsel as Gardiner departs

Elizabeth Gardiner retiring from key legislative role after eight years
Elizabeth Gardiner. Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

By Tevye Markson

13 Feb 2024

The Cabinet Office is recruiting for a new first parliamentary counsel, a permanent-secretary level role leading the team of lawyers responsible for writing the UK’s legislation.

The post is currently held by Dame Elizabeth Gardiner KC, who is stepping down after more than eight years in the role. Her successor could earn up to £190,000 a year.

Gardiner, who was the first woman appointed to the role, said it has been a “huge privilege” to be first parliamentary counsel in a post on X. She is also the Cabinet Office's gender champion.

 

Former minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington said her Gardiner “will be a hard act to follow”.

The first parliamentary counsel heads up the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, a team of around 50 government lawyers and 10 support staff who specialise in drafting legislation. Their role is to work closely with departments to translate policy into clear, effective and readable law.

They also lead the wider government in parliament group, which consists of the OPC plus the Offices of the Parliamentary Business Managers.

The candidate pack for applicants says Gardiner’s successor “will need to be able to provide first class authoritative advice” on the work of the OPC, advising ministers and civil servants – “sometimes at short notice”.

The successful candidate will also be expected to examine how the government in parliament group functions and lead the implementation of any changes to the group. The first parliamentary counsel also acts as a legal and constitutional adviser to the cabinet secretary on issues relating to government formation, machinery of government changes, the appointment of ministers, and other constitutional matters.

In a foreword to the applicant pack, cabinet secretary Simon Case said: “I am looking for an exceptional leader with strong legislative skills and the ability to lead and manage the government in parliament group and the delivery of the overall legislative programme. This is a critical leadership role across government and a fascinating time to join the civil service.”

Applications for the role close on 28 February at 9am.

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