I left York in the summer of 1996 and have since worked as a Clerk of the House of Commons, other than during a brief secondment to the Cabinet Office, when I helped some Cabinet Committees. Clerks are not civil servants but we are similar in some respects, especially in terms of offering non-partisan advice.
Clerks give procedural advice to the Speaker and other MPs and we also staff Select Committees. I’ve been very lucky to have had a varied career in the House: I’ve worked in the Table Office and the Public Bill Office, helping Members ask questions of the Government and to scrutinise legislation. I’ve been a clerk on a range of Select Committees, including Health, Home Affairs, Energy and Climate Change, and Justice. I’ve dealt with a very diverse range of committee inquiries, including child and adolescent mental health services, police training and recruitment, legal aid and the UK’s oil and gas industries, amongst many more. I’ve also been the Delegation Secretary to the UK’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which involved lots of travel. My most bizarre overseas experience in the service of the House was probably playing the piano while the then Chairman of the Health Committee sang On Ilkley Moor Baht ’at to a bunch of bemused Cuban schoolchildren in downtown Havana. It was an odd way of being reminded of Yorkshire and university.
I am currently Head of the Office of the Chief Executive. My boss is the Clerk of the House (main procedural and constitutional adviser to the Speaker and the House), but he is also the Chief Executive of the House of Commons Service, which employs around 2,000 people and has a budget of around £200m annually. As well as helping him carry out his functions as Chief Executive, I am the Secretary to our Management Board. It’s a fascinating job which lets me poke my nose into everything the House Service is doing.
Although I didn’t require any specific expertise before coming to the House, my studies at York were extremely useful. I didn’t spend hours examining the minutiae of Parliamentary procedure at York. However, I did look at British political institutions, the relationship between Parliament and government, and, more broadly, the philosophical background which informs political discourse today, all of which has helped me do my job in a practical sense, and has also helped me to understand the broader context in which my work takes place. For that - as well as the pubs - I am very grateful.