The Department for International Trade has paid recruitment companies £1.15m to find senior staff since last July, it has been revealed.
In an answer to a parliamentary question from former Labour cabinet minister Lord Adonis, DIT minister Lord Price said the money had been paid to “organisations for services relating to the recruitment of staff since July 2016”.
He stated that recruitment costs were managed locally by the functional areas of DIT, as there was no central budget for recruitment.
The DIT – which has been tasked with drawing up a new trade and investment policy for Britain, and forging new deals with the rest of the world once Britain quits the EU – was formed by prime minister Theresa May when she moved into 10 Downing Street last year.
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Antonia Romeo, formerly the UK's consul-general in New York, took up the post of permanent secretary in March, while the department has also made a number of other key hires in recent months.
These include naming Crawford Falconer, an experienced trade negotiator who is a New Zealand/UK dual-national, as second permanent secretary and chief trade advisor tasked with reaching agreements across the globe following Brexit. He had held a number of posts including as New Zealand’s ambassador to the World Trade Organisation and vice minister for international trade and foreign affairs.
The department is also seeking a chief scientific adviser to provide the new department with assistance on the technical aspects of trade deals.
Speaking to MPs last November, Oliver Griffiths, the department’s director of capability, said DIT wanted to build the trade skills of existing civil servants rather than buy in outside help.
He said the department had been able to draw on existing internal expertise as it undertook its work, and pointed to a trebling of its trade policy staff numbers since the referendum.
"We start from a core that was strong on trade policy," he said. "We had about 45 people in June  that were focused on trade policy – albeit within the context of that being a support position for the European Commission in the EU. That's the core that we're building from."
Adonis had also asked for the same figure for the Department for Exiting the European Union, but Price said these were not yet available.