Ex-DExEU and Defra perm sec Moriarty to leave civil service

“I could not have asked for better, more committed colleagues," Moriarty says in statement

Clare Moriarty Credit: Civil Service World

Two-time permanent secretary Clare Moriarty is leaving the civil service after three and a half decades in government, she has confirmed.

Moriarty will leave government at the end of March, two months after her last high-profile role as the head of the Department for Exiting the European Union ended. In an announcement this afternoon on Twitter, said she "could not have asked for better, more committed colleagues" during her civil service career.

Some personal news. Following DExEU's closure I will be leaving @UKCivilService at the end of March. I could not have asked for better, more committed colleagues in 7 departments over 35 years. I will always be a huge supporter of the Civil Service and its wonderful people

— Clare Moriarty (@ClareMoriarty) March 12, 2020

Moriarty left the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, where she had been permanent secretary for four years, last April to take up the top job at DExEU.

In both roles, she has been integral to the government's preparations for Brexit. In the latter months of her DExEU perm sec role, she had been heading up work by officials in both her department and the Cabinet Office to support operational planning and negotiations with the EU.

In a statement, Moriarty said she was "immeasurably grateful" to staff in both departments for their work.

When the Brexit department closed as the UK left the EU on 31 January, Moriarty had been expected to transfer to another high-profile role.

But she said in a statement: "With DExEU’s role now complete and the department wound up, it feels the right time to move on myself.


She added: "I’m proud to have played a part in helping the civil service to become more digital, more delivery-focused, more representative of the country we serve, and more inclusive."

DExEU has always been described as a “time-limited” department and the day it closed, Moriarty said it had been “been a department like no other – a project department”.

A perm sec reshuffle has looked likely for some weeks, thanks to both the closure of DExEU and the vacancies left by Dame Melanie Dawes and Sir Philip Rutnam, who have both left within the last month. Dawes recently left the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to head up Ofcom, while Sir Philip Rutnam resigned as the head of the Home Office at the end of February, alleging that home secretary Priti Patel had bullied staff.

Before moving to Defra in mid-2015, Moriarty was director general in the Department for Transport, first leading the corporate group and then as head of the Rail Executive.

Her previous roles included stints as constitution director at the Ministry of Justice, a director at the Department of Health and interim chief operating officer at the Shareholder Executive.

In a 2016 interview with CSW, Moriarty, a qualified accountant, said she had not initially planned for a long career in public service. “I wouldn’t say I thought: ‘I must become a civil servant!’ But I did know when I was growing up that I wanted to do something interesting,” she said at the time.

In a statement, cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill said Moriarty had demonstrated "exceptional leadership" in her perm sec posts.

"She made an immeasurable contribution to both those departments during periods of great challenge, in addition to many years of dedicated public service in a number of other civil service roles," he said.

"I want to pay particular tribute to her dedication to the causes of change and diversity. Through her work on leadership and talent, and as faith and belief champion, Clare played a big part in delivering on vital components of the civil service’s corporate agenda."

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who was in charge of the government's no-deal Brexit planning, said: "I have had the great pleasure of working with Clare at two departments and I am deeply personally grateful for her hard work and dedication.

"At both DExEU and Defra she led exceptionally broad portfolios of activity and deepened engagement with parliament, business, industry, and civic society – work which was instrumental in our successful departure from the EU.

"I am delighted to pay tribute to her enormous contribution to public service."

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