The government’s most senior legal official has used her first day in the post to highlight the Government Legal Department work in helping women succeed in the civil service, but has also pledged to guard against complacency.
Susanna McGibbon has taken up her post as Treasury Solicitor today, becoming the new permanent secretary of the Government Legal Department and HM Procurator General.
She succeeds Sir Jonathan Jones, who quit as the government’s top lawyer in protest at ministers’ decision to insert clauses into the Internal Market Bill that would allow the government to back out of parts of the EU Withdrawal Agreement, breaching international law in the process.
In a statement released to mark her accession to the top post, and also to mark International Women’s Day, McGibbon said that it was “a huge honour to become the permanent secretary of GLD – an organisation of outstanding people”.
She added: “I am proud to be the second female Treasury solicitor, following in the footsteps of the late Dame Juliet Wheldon [who held the post from 2000 to 2006], on this International Women’s Day.”
McGibbon said that the department had “a lot to celebrate” on its efforts to promote gender equality. “We are one of the best legal organisations for women to succeed in,” she highlighted. “Nearly 59% of our senior civil servants are women and, even prior to Covid-19, colleagues were encouraged to work flexibly and were offered a range of work patterns.”
The department highlighted that its flexible working network supports GLD employees, male and female, who wish to work flexibly, and has recently set up three job sharing networks for lawyers at different stages of their careers to help anyone interested in job sharing to make contact and share their experiences.
However, McGibbon urged colleagues not to be complacent. “We need to challenge ourselves to not make assumptions based on working patterns or family commitments for example. I want GLD to continue to be recognised as a representative and diverse employer where all colleagues feel welcome and their contribution is valued.”
Prior to taking up the top post in the department today, McGibbon was a director general at the GLD, and has also previously worked as director general of the legal group in the Department for Work and Pensions.
During her 25-year civil service career, McGibbon has also steered primary legislation through Parliament and worked on the public inquiries into the Bloody Sunday shootings, the Grenfell Tower fire, and the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly.