Former Lord Chancellor takes second law firm consultancy role

Buckland: Ex-departments said low risk in him taking role

Former Lord Chancellor Sir Robert Buckland KC has taken on a second law firm consultancy role after joining the policy team at leading defendant practice DAC Beachcroft (DACB).

He will be paid £50,000 a year for 12 hours a month, adding to the £48,000 a year for 32 hours a month he receives from London firm Payne Hicks Beach, where he was appointed head of policy and senior counsel a year ago.

The Conservative MP for South Swindon was Solicitor-General for nearly five years and Lord Chancellor and justice secretary from July 2019 to September 2021. He also had a short spell as Welsh secretary in 2022.

Under government rules, former ministers are banned from lobbying for two years after they leave office and must seek advice from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) on any appointments or employment they wish to take up that time.

ACOBA imposed conditions on the Payne Hicks Beach job and has done likewise for his role at DACB.

ACOBA said Sir Robert’s responsibilities would involve “providing advice and support to DAC Beachcroft and its clients, relating to legal and policy issues that are relevant to them” and providing “briefings to the company and its clients as and when required, both in person and online”.

Sir Robert told the committee the job offer arose when he was “approached by a senior member of the firm” and confirmed that it would not involve contact with government.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Wales Office said he was not involved in any policy or regulatory decisions specific to DACB during his time as minister.

The MoJ said its departmental spend with the law firm was “limited to small legal matters” which he was not involved in, administered “via the standard Government Legal Department process”.

Sir Robert was, however, in post at the time the Official Injury Claim portal was launched nearly three years ago – he argued last year that it had helped keep down motor insurance premiums – and this is a significant area of interest for DACB.

ACOBA said that since Sir Robert “did not make any decisions that would have specifically affected” the law firm while in office, “the risk that this appointment could be reasonably considered as a reward for actions taken in office is therefore low”.

Both the MoJ and Wales Office considered the risk associated with the MP’s access to information was also low, with more than two years having passed since he left the former.

Nonetheless ACOBA imposed a condition that, for two years from his last day in ministerial office, his work should be “limited to providing advice on matters that do not conflict with your time as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice as well as Secretary of State for Wales”.

This was in keeping with the formal restraints placed upon him, including the Bar Code of Conduct.

He was also told not to draw on “any privileged information” available to him from his time in office.

While Sir Robert said he would not be involved in lobbying, ACOBA also prevented him from making use of contacts “to unfairly advantage your new employer in relation to policy, funding or contractual matters related to the UK government”, or providing advice to DACB or its clients in relation to any bid or contract relating directly to the work of the government”. These again have a two-year limit.

According to the House of Commons register of financial interests, Sir Robert also expected to earn £2,500 for attending a three-hour “discussion event” at DACB last September and a further £2,500 from a briefing he conducted at another City law firm, Norton Rose Fulbright, last July.

He became a tenant at Foundry Chambers in London in December 2022 but has yet to register any fees.

Sir Robert is standing again in the upcoming general election.

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