Letter of advice: Nick Carter, Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

1. BUSINESS MEETING REQUEST FOR OPINION: Gen Sir Nick Carter, former Chief of the Defense Staff at the Ministry of Defence. An unpaid appointment with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

General Sir Nick has sought advice from the Professional Appointments Advisory Committee (the Committee) under the Government Rules for Professional Appointments for Former Crown Servants (the Rules) on an unpaid role he wishes to take up within of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution (Hoover Institution). The material information taken into consideration by the Committee is presented in the appendix.

The purpose of the Standing Orders is to protect the integrity of government. Under the rules, the committee’s mandate is to review the risks associated with actions and decisions made while in office, as well as the information and influence a former Crown official can offer the Hoover Institution.

The Committee recommended that a number of conditions be imposed to mitigate the potential risks to government associated with this appointment under the Rules; it does not mean that the Committee has ruled on the merits of this appointment for a former Chief of the Defense Staff 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. Review by the Committee of the risks presented

When examining this request, the Committee[footnote 2] considered this nomination as a Distinguished Scholar is not remunerated[footnote 3]. Overall, the Committee’s experience is that the risks associated with unpaid roles are limited. The purpose of the rules is to protect the integrity of government by taking into account the real and perceived risks associated with former ministers joining outside organizations. These risks include: using privileged access to contacts and information for the benefit of themselves or those they represent. The rules also aim to mitigate the risks that individuals may make decisions or take actions based on the expectation of rewards, by leaving government. These risks are considerably limited in cases of non-payment due to the absence of financial gain for the individual.

The Committee noted that as a former Chief of the Defense Staff at the Ministry of Defence, there is an inherent risk that General Sir Nick could be perceived to have access to relevant insider information and knowledge, which could unfairly benefit the Hoover Institution. However, the unpaid nature of this appointment limits the real and perceived risk that he will misuse the information to which he had access during his tenure for his personal benefit and he has an ongoing duty of confidentiality.

3. Committee advice

The Committee did not consider that this appointment raised any particular property rights concerns under the Government Business Appointments Rules. While there are inherent risks associated with General Sir Nick’s access to sensitive information and contacts, the standard terms below, preventing him from tapping into his insider information and using his contacts for the unfair benefit of his new employer, will be sufficiently mitigated in this case.

Under government corporate appointments rules, all former Chiefs of Defense such as General Sir Nick are subject to a 3 month waiting period to provide a gap between access to sensitive information at the highest levels of government and the taking of any outside appointments. .

In view of these factors, in accordance with the government’s corporate appointment rules, the committee recommends that this appointment to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University be subject to the following conditions:

  • a waiting period of three months from his last day in Crown service;

  • he must not rely on (disclose or use for his own benefit or that of the persons or organizations to which this notice refers) inside information which he has had since he has been in the service of the Crown;

  • for two years from his last day of Crown service, he must not personally involve himself in lobbying the UK Government or any of its independent bodies on behalf of the Hoover Institution at the University of Stanford (including parent companies, subsidiaries, partners and customers); nor shall he use, directly or indirectly, his contacts in government and/or departmental contacts to influence policy, secure business/funding, or otherwise unfairly advantage the Hoover Institution of Stanford University ( including parent companies, subsidiaries, partners and customers);

  • for two years from his last day of Crown service, he shall not provide advice to the Hoover Institution of Stanford University on the terms or with respect to the subject of any offer or a contract with, or relating directly to the work of the UK Government or one of its independent agencies.

The guidance and conditions under the Rules for Government Professional Appointments relate only to your previous role in government; they are distinct from the rules administered by other bodies such as the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists or the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. It is the applicant’s personal responsibility to understand any other rules and regulations to which they may be subject along with the advice of this committee.

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 Departmental Code/Civil Service Code or otherwise.

The corporate appointment rules explain that the restriction on lobbying means that the former Crown official/minister “should not engage in communication with government (ministers, civil servants, including special advisers, and other officials/relevant public office holders) – wherever it takes place – for the purpose of influencing 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.

General Sir Nick is to inform us as soon as he undertakes this work or if it is announced that he will. Otherwise, we will not be able to process any requests as we do not release information about appointments that have not been made or advertised. This could lead to a false assumption as to whether General Sir Nick complied with the civil service code. Likewise, he should inform us if he plans to extend or otherwise change his role with the organization as, depending on the circumstances, it may be necessary for him to seek further advice.

As soon as this appointment has been publicly announced or accepted, we will publish this letter on the Committee’s website.

4. Appendix – Material Information

4.1 The role

General Sir Nick said that “…the Hoover Institution focuses on scientific and empirical research that asks bold questions, offers powerful solutions to policy makers and advances ideas that improve people’s lives. It does this through scholarship, teaching, publishing, and outreach.”

The website states that it advances “…the principles of freedom through the extensive political research of an interdisciplinary group of Hoover Scholars and through access to the greatest archival collections on war, revolution and peace gathered in the modern age. We focus on scientific and empirical research that asks bold questions, offers powerful solutions to policy makers, and advances ideas that improve people’s lives. The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace is a conservative American public policy think tank and research institution that promotes personal and economic freedom, free enterprise, and limited government. Although the institution is officially a unit of Stanford University, it has an independent board of supervisors and depends on its own revenue and donations.

General Sir Nick said that as a fellow he would interact with students, fellows, faculty and research staff. He said he would give lectures, lead study group sessions, and conduct research. He said his role would not involve contact with the government.

4.2 Business in the office

General Sir Nick said he had not encountered the Hoover Establishment during his tenure. He said he was not involved in any business or contractual decisions regarding the organization. Nor did he have any commercially sensitive information about the Hoover Institution or its competitors.

4.3 Department evaluation

The MOD has confirmed the details provided by General Sir Nick in his request. The MOD said it “…will have developed an understanding of the landscape of the involvement of academic institutions, such as its proposed employer, with governments and defense and security organisations, it will not have been involved in the developing an understanding of the details of their business strategy or exposure.” Therefore, he said the risk of perceived advantage over other academic institutions operating in the field of defense and security is low.

The MOD noted that General Sir Nick had the highest levels of influence within UK and international governments on all matters relating to defense and security. However, given that his role with Stanford does not involve any interaction with Defense officials or foreign government leaders, and given the academic orientation of the Hoover Institution, the perceived risk of improper profiteering by the access to its British or foreign defense network is weak.

The ministry saw no concerns over the appointment, adding that standard terms should apply.