Former MoJ perm sec set to run Cambridge college

Richard Heaton cleared to become warden of Robinson College from October
Richard Heaton, photographed for CSW by Paul Heartfield

By Jim Dunton

26 May 2021

Former Ministry of Justice perm sec Sir Richard Heaton is to become warden of a Cambridge University college – a stark contrast with his previous job, which included oversight of HM Prison and Probation Service.

Heaton’s new role effectively makes him chief executive of Robinson College, the university’s newest college and its first to be co-educational from launch. He will be only the third warden since the college’s foundation in 1977.

Anti-corruption watchdog the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments this week published its approval letter for Heaton’s new role, which he is set to take up from the start of October. It stresses the usual ban on lobbying ministers for a new employer for two years after the end of government service.

Acoba’s letter also reminds Heaton not to draw on any privileged information obtained during his time working for government to assist his new employers. It also warns him against advising the college or any subsidiary operations on bidding for government contracts until August 2022 – which will be two years after his departure from the MoJ.

Acoba noted the MoJ had stated Heaton had no dealings with Robinson College during his time at Petty France, an assurance also given by Heaton himself.

Heaton served as MoJ perm sec from 2015 to August last year.  He was Cabinet Office perm sec from 2012 to 2015. Additionally, Heaton was the civil service’s senior race champion for six years.

He said he was “delighted and humbled” to have been elected as Robinson College’s new warden.

“Robinson has a reputation for friendliness, which I have already discovered from many conversations with staff, students and fellows to be entirely well-founded,” he said.

“Building on its proud and relatively short history, it is also clear that Robinson has a limitless future as a modern, academically excellent, inclusive and happy college in the Cambridge tradition.”

College deputy warden Prof Melinda Duer said Heaton’s experience and “obvious warmth and compassion” were exactly what the college needed to widen its participation and make it “the gold standard for diversity, inclusion and sustainability”.

“Fellows, staff and students all hugely enjoyed meeting him during our selection process and we can’t wait to welcome him properly in October,” she said.

Antonia Romeo was named Heaton's successor as MoJ perm sec in January this year; Mike Driver served as interim perm sec following Heaton's departure.

Read the most recent articles written by Jim Dunton - Union rebuffs Defra pay offer

Share this page
Read next