Commercial chief Gareth Rhys Williams set to depart Cabinet Office

Government chief commercial officer will become chair of National Highways
Gareth Rhys Williams Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer/CSW

By Jim Dunton

21 Feb 2024

Government chief commercial officer Sir Gareth Rhys Williams is to leave the Cabinet Office to become chair of Department for Transport-owned roads company National Highways.

Rhys Williams has served in his current role since March 2016. At National Highways he will be the permanent replacement for Dipesh Shah, whose term as chair ended in December. Janette Beinart is currently serving as interim chair.

He is due to start work at National Highways in April, but will continue as government chief commercial officer on a part-time basis while the Cabinet Office finds a successor.

Transport secretary Mark Harper said Rhys Williams' appointment followed a competitive selection process and would see him tasked with overseeing major infrastructure investment.

"Gareth will be an excellent new chair at National Highways as we continue to deliver the government’s plan to back drivers across the country," Harper said.

"As we continue to invest in improving our road network, Gareth has been clear in his commitment to help keep the country moving through the delivery of the government’s £24bn investment into roads, creating jobs and growing the economy."

Rhys Williams said he was looking forward to working with National Highways chief executive Nick Harris and the team to develop the next road-investment strategy.

"I am delighted to be appointed as the chair of National Highways, such a vital component of the UK’s infrastructure; a network that we all depend on for economic growth and connecting us all every day," he said.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "We can confirm that Gareth Rhys Williams will be taking up the role as chair of National Highways.

"We thank him for all his work over the past eight years in the Cabinet Office and wish him well in his next steps.

"He will stay in post as government chief commercial officer while a successor is identified, working in a part-time capacity once he begins the new role in April."

The spokesperson added: "The appointment has followed normal procedures, and all steps have been taken to avoid any conflicts of interest that may arise."

Before joining government, Rhys Williams was chief executive officer of hygeine and cleaning-services firm PHS Group. He is also a former chief executive of engineering company Charter International.

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