Public service

Letter of Advice: Jonathan Slater, Commission with Public Service Consultants

October 2021

1. BUSINESS MEETING REQUEST: Jonathan Slater, commission to Public Service Consultants (PSC) as part of his independent consulting firm.

You have sought advice from the Advisory Committee on Professional Appointments (the Committee) under the Rules for Government Professional Appointments for Former Crown Servants (the Rules) to assume a role with Public Service Consultants (PSCs) under your independent consulting firm. The material information taken into consideration by the Committee is presented in the appendix.

The purpose of the Rules is to protect the integrity of government. Under the Regulations, the Committee is tasked with reviewing the risks associated with actions and decisions taken during your tenure, and the information and influence you can offer to the PSC, based on information provided by you. and your former departments.

The Committee considered whether this appointment was inappropriate given your former role as Permanent Secretary in the Department for Education (DfE) and the work of the PSC in the education sector. The Committee should also consider information provided by the DfE and the Cabinet Office regarding any potential conflicts. The Committee advised that a number of conditions be imposed to mitigate the potential risks to government associated with this appointment under the Rules; this does not mean that the Committee has decided on the advisability of this appointment in any other respect.

The rules[footnote 1] state that Crown officials must comply with the advice of the Committee. It is the candidate’s personal responsibility to manage the merits of any appointment. Former Crown servants must uphold the highest standards of propriety and act in accordance with the 7 Principles of Public Life.

2. The Committee’s review of the risk presented

You said this is a strategic advisory role focused on improving public services, involving the resolution of ad hoc issues with the PSC management team. The committee[footnote 2] consider this commission to be largely within the scope and advice previously offered on your council, which you believe would draw on your generic skills and experience to provide consultancy work to local government.

In considering this application, the Committee noted that the DfE had received consultancy services from the PSC during your tenure. However, the DfE and the Cabinet Office have confirmed that you were not directly involved and would not have known that the PSC were the consultants selected for the consultancy services in question. The ministries have confirmed that you had no contact with the PSC during this period, as this responsibility fell to other DfE officials. The Committee considered that the risk that this work would be perceived as a reward for decisions made or actions taken in the course of his duties was low.

The Committee has taken into account that there is a general overlap with your mandate – in particular with regard to your work in the field of education. As Permanent Secretary, your decisions have had a significant influence in this area. However, the Committee considered a number of mitigating factors that help reduce the risks associated with your access to information and insight that may be perceived as giving the PSC an unfair advantage:

  • you are prevented from obtaining privileged information and have an ongoing duty of confidentiality;
  • you have been out of the office for more than 12 months, which reduces the likelihood that any inside information will be sufficiently up-to-date;
  • the departments consider the risk associated with any specific information to be low; and
  • the work for which you are seeking advice is internal to the PSC, and you have confirmed that you will not have any contact or dealings with the government.

The Committee noted that PSC clients are unknown and there is a risk that you will be asked to advise clients who have been affected by issues related to policy areas in which you have been directly involved or clients with whom you have had a relationship while in the service of the Crown.

3. Committee advice

The committee has determined that the majority of the above risks can be appropriately mitigated by the conditions that apply to your advice below. However, since PSC clients are unknown and these risks are more likely to arise in relation to your work at the DfE in particular, the Committee has also imposed an additional condition. This makes it clear that in working with the PSC you are not to advise it or its clients on labor in relation to any policy for which you have had specific involvement or responsibility as Permanent Secretary of the Department of Public Affairs. ‘Education.

The Committee advises, under the Government Enterprise Appointment Rules, that your commission with public service consultants be subject to the terms of your consultation:

  • you must not take advantage of (disclose or use for your benefit or that of the persons or organizations to which this notice refers) any inside information that you have had since your time in the service of the Crown;
  • for two years from your last day of employment with Crown, you must not personally engage in lobbying the UK government and its independent bodies on behalf of those you advise as part of your independent advice (including parent companies, subsidiaries, partners and customers); you also must not use, directly or indirectly, your contacts in government and/or Crown service to influence policy, obtain business/funding or otherwise unfairly advantage those you advise in connection with your independent consulting (including parent companies, subsidiaries, partners and clients);
  • for two years from your last day of Crown service, you must not provide advice to any firm or organization on the terms or in respect of the subject matter of any tender or contract with, or directly related to the work of the UK government and its arm’s length bodies; and
  • for two years from your last day of Crown service, before accepting commissions for your Independent Counsel and/or before extending or otherwise changing the nature of your commissions, you must seek the advice of the Committee. The committee will decide whether each commission complies with the terms of the consultation and consider all relevant factors in accordance with the rules for nominating companies.

In addition, the Committee imposed the following condition on this work with the public service consultants:

  • for two years from your last day in Crown service, you must not advise public service consultants (including parent companies, subsidiaries, partners and clients) on work relating to any policy in which you were specifically involved or responsible as permanent secretary in the Department of Education, or where you had a relationship with the business or organization during your tenure as permanent secretary in the Department of Education.

By “inside information”, we mean official information to which a Minister or Crown servant has had access by reason of his office or employment and which has not been made public. Applicants are also reminded that they may be subject to other confidentiality obligations, whether under the Official Secrets Act, the Civil Service Code or otherwise.

The company appointment rules explain that the restriction on lobbying means that the former civil servant/minister “should not engage in communication with the government (ministers, civil servants, including special advisers, and other relevant civil servants/ public office holders) – wherever they take place – in order to influence a government decision, policy or contract/grant award related to their own interests or the interests of the organization through which they are employed, with whom they are under contract or with whom they exercise a function”.

You must inform us as soon as you start this work, or it is announced that you will. Once the appointment is publicly announced or taken over, we will post this letter on the Committee’s website.

Please also let us know if you propose to extend or change the nature of this role as, depending on the circumstances, you may need to reapply.

4. Appendix – Material Information

4.1 The role

The PSC’s website says it is a team of public service consultants “…united by the belief that better public services are the key to a stronger society”. It works to ‘…improve public services, for organisations, society and individuals’. The PSC works exclusively in the public services, partnering with leaders and teams from the health, central government, education sectors and more.

You said you were asked to do part-time paid consulting work related to improving public services. You described this as a “strategic advisory role,” involving ad hoc problem solving with the PSC management team. You said you would have ‘…associate expert involvement in selected projects’. You have also confirmed that the work you have been asked to do is entirely internal to the PSC and that you will not be involved in any government lobbying. You have stated that this appointment is unlikely to include any contact or dealings with his former ministry or government more generally.

4.2 Business in the office

You informed the Committee that you did not meet with the PSC during your term. Further, you said that you had not participated in the development of policies or decisions that would have been specific to the PSC and that you had no commercial or contractual responsibility for them. You said you hadn’t met any competitors of the company; nor have you had access to sensitive information about these competitors.

4.3 Department evaluation

The DfE and Cabinet Office have confirmed the details you provided, saying they have no concerns about the appointment.

Departments confirmed that the DfE received consultancy services from the PSC from July to October 2020, overlapping your mandate. This was for coronavirus support for the department’s Covid response unit. The departments noted that you likely would have been aware of this consulting work, that you were not directly involved, and that you would not have been aware of the PSC if the consultants had been selected. The ministries have confirmed that you had no contact with the PSC during this period, as this responsibility fell to other DfE officials. The departments also said you do not have access to commercially sensitive information that would give the PSC an unfair advantage.

The DfE and Cabinet Office have noted that in this role you will work on projects related to improving public services, involving areas such as local government, education and health. They have no reservations about the approval of this nomination and recommend the standard conditions. Ministries emphasized the prohibition of tenders and contracts, with particular mention of the risks linked to financing in relation to education.