Former Defra permanent secretary Bronwyn Hill cleared to take up job with nuclear watchdog

Public appointments watchdog Acoba approves former Defra perm sec's appointment to board of the Office for Nuclear Regulation

By Civil Service World

25 Jan 2016

The former perm sec of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has taken up a part-time post with the independent watchdog overseeing the nuclear industry.

Hill, who stepped down as Defra perm sec in July last year, will serve as a non-executive board member at the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) on a part-time, paid basis. 

Announcing the appointment, the ONR said Hill would bring "a wide range of experience and expertise in the delivery of infrastructure and services" to the regulator, which is a statutory body funded by the nuclear industry but reporting to the Department for Work and Pensions.

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Hill's appointment was vetted by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), the body overseeing the appropriateness of new jobs taken on by former ministers and top civil servants.

Acoba on Monday said there were no conflicts of interest in the former Defra perm sec taking on the role, saying she had had "no direct contractual dealings with ONR over her last two years of service, nor was she responsible for anyone who did". The committee added that Defra had had "no concerns" about the application.

As is the case with all appointments of former ministers and senior officials, Hill will be expected not to draw on any "privileged information" gleaned from her time at Defra, and must not become "personally involved in lobbying the UK government" on the ONR's behalf until two years have passed since she left the department.

Acoba itself announced earlier this year that it will now require more detail from those leaving government on their dealings with outside organisations while in office.

The watchdog will now require former ministers and senior civil servants to give details of meetings with their proposed employers that took place within the previous two years, including speeches and contact at stakeholder events. Policy and regulatory work that would have affected the employer must also be disclosed, while similar questions relating to competitors must also be answered.

A 2012 report by the then-Public Administration Select Committee called for the abolition of Acoba, arguing that it lacked "adequate powers and resources" to properly vet appointments. Committee member Paul Flynn also hit out at the body this month, branding it a "toothless pussycat".

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