Former perm sec Martin Donnelly cleared for City commission

Watchdog Acoba also approves roles for ex-No 10 strategy director and DIT "cybersecurity ambassador"

Sir Martin Donnelly Credit: Civil Service World

By Jim Dunton

15 Jun 2018

Former Department for International Trade permanent secretary Sir Martin Donnelly has been cleared to take up a new role with the City of London Corporation, it has emerged.

Watchdog the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments said Donnelly had successfully sought permission to work for the local authority responsible for London’s Square Mile in his latest post-Whitehall job since leaving DIT in March last year.

Acoba vets new roles sought by former ministers and senior civil servants for two years after they leave government to guard against collusion with previous contacts and investigate the potential for trading on inside information garnered from their past connections.


Clearing Donnelly to take up the City of London role this month, Acoba secretariat Nicola Richardson said the committee had sought advice from both DIT and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – where Donnelly was joint perm sec in 2016 – before reaching its decision.

Prior to prime minister Theresa May’s machinery of government changes in the wake of the EU referendum result, Donnelly had been perm sec at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for six years.

Richardson’s letter said Donnelly had told Acoba that his work with the City would involve “giving internal advice to the corporation on its policy formulation process, and its wider strategic goals in the light of Brexit”, cautioning that the role would not involve any contact or lobbying with government.

Civil Service World asked the corporation for more details but it declined to comment.

The Acoba letter noted that Donnelly had informed Acoba he had attended some City functions and had “occasional meetings” with the corporation when he was BIS perm sec. It said Donnelly had asserted that those meetings with corporation members had been in the department’s “wider role” of staying in touch with business and supporting exports and “did not deal directly with issues of regulatory or policy concern to the City”.

DIT told Acoba it had no concerns about Donnelly’s commission. It said: “Given that Martin left his post over 12 months ago – and at that time DIT was still a relatively new department – the information he had access to is unlikely to be relevant to the City of London Corporation, or to put them at an advantage.”

The department concluded by saying that the standard two-year ban on lobbying would prevent its former boss from “using his old networks to any advantage”.

Since he left DIT, Donnelly has so far sought – and received – clearance to become an unpaid trustee of the single-parent charity Gingerbread; an adviser at Llewellyn Consulting; a senior adviser at consultancy Teneo; a visiting academic at Oxford University’s Hertford College; a board member at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts; and approval to set up his MD Global Strategy consultancy.

Elsewhere, Acoba’s latest tranche of transparency publications reveals that it cleared former No 10 strategy director Ameetpal Gill to take up a commission with the Faraday Institution, despite its involvement with a £246m government investment in battery technology.

Acoba noted that the appointment – through consultancy Hanbury Strategy and Communications, where Gill is a partner – had “some connection” with Gill’s Downing Street work because it related to a government-backed initiative and drew on his professional experience in communications.

But it said that Gill had confirmed he had no involvement with the initiative, and observed that the Faraday Institution had been established “a significant amount of time after [he] left office”.

Gill left Downing Street in July 2016; the Faraday Institution – which counts former Cabinet Office minister Sir Oliver Letwin as a senior adviser – was founded in October 2017.

Another Acoba letter approved former DIT “cybersecurity ambassador” Conrad Prince’s request to set up an independent consultancy and accept commissions from a company he formed – called Garron Consulting – while he was a civil servant.

Prince left DIT in January this year after taking on the ambassador role in 2015. He previously served as director general for intelligence and strategy at GCHQ between November 2011 and March 2015.


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