Former UK diplomats turn business advisers

An article of interest from Issue 944 of Gulf States Newsletter,  April 2013 (note: Cowper-Coles is now with HSBC) regarding the debate over the appointment of the British ambassador in Riyadh to head the British government’s controversial inquiry into the Muslim Brotherhood (author unknown, according to GSN format):

At a 1 March evidence session for the UK Foreign Affairs Committee’s hearing into London’s relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain (GSN 939/1, 934/16), MP for Penrith and the Border Rory Stewart asked former ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sir Tom Phillips whether “it is a problem… that such a very large number of our senior diplomats and soldiers go on to take jobs where they are employed by members of the Gulf royal families, or work with businesses with significant interests in the Middle East? Does that get in the way of our being able to achieve objective criticism of these governments?”

Sir Tom, who retired from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 2012, replied: “I do not think so. I know a few people out there in the positions you mentioned, but I do not think that it has ever come up as a factor or affected the way in which ambassadors on the ground seek to give advice upwards within the Whitehall system.” In late March, the Paris-based newsletter Intelligence Online revealed Sir Tom had joined the advisory board of the London and Dubai-based GPW, which describes itself as an international business intelligence firm.

Phillips served as ambassador to Riyadh from 2010 to 2012 but had to retire at 60. This relatively young mandatory retirement age for British diplomats may be the reason so many go on to serve companies with interests in the Middle East. The ambassador before Sir Tom, Sir William Patey, is a government and international relations adviser to Control Risks and non-executive director of HSBC Bank Middle East. His predecessor Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles is international business development director for BAE Systems.

Of the relatively recent ambassadors to Qatar, Sir Graham Boyce is the most active in taking on advisory positions of companies working in the Middle East. After leaving the FCO, he was an adviser to Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and then worked with Shell, VT Group, Lehman Brothers Middle East and Invensys. He is currently vice-chairman of the advisory panel at Nomura International, Middle East adviser to DLA Piper and chairman of MEC International, the home for retired diplomats.

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