The term ‘revolving door’ refers to the movement of individuals between positions of public office and jobs in the private sector, in either direction. Such movements have become much more common because Ministers and crown servants often leave public office at a younger age than used to be the case. Those in public service have also become more eager to learn from corporate experience.
Moving through the revolving door can be beneficial to both sides, improving understanding and communication between public officials and business. However, the revolving door also undermines trust in government, because of the potential for conflicts of interest. This is evident from a recent survey of public perceptions of the most corrupt sections of British public life carried out for Transparency International UK in 2010. Political parties ranked as the most corrupt sector, with Parliament and the legislature ranking third most corrupt after sport. The same survey also revealed that the revolving door comes a close second in the public’s ranking of potentially corrupt activities. A peerage for a businessman who has been a large political party donor was ranked first.
Transparency International UK’s conclusion, based on the research in this report, is that the current system of regulating the revolving door is not working and needs fixing. Recent changes are welcome, but they do not go far enough and are unlikely to restore public confidence. Urgent and comprehensive reforms are needed to reduce the risk of conflicts of interest and make the revolving door work to the benefit of government, the private sector and UK society more broadly. We present fifteen recommendations for how the system can be improved.