Former MI5 boss gets permission to start work as an after dinner speaker at up to £25k a speech

The former head of MI5 has been cleared to embark on a new career as an after-dinner speaker earning up to £25,000 a speech, less than six months after stepping down as Britain’s spy chief. 

Andrew Parker, who headed MI5 for seven years and oversaw the security service’s response to a spate of terror attacks inspired by Islamic State, has been graded "A", the second-highest band for speakers by Jeremy Lee Associates (JLA).

Sir Andrew has also been given the go-ahead to advise a new IT company working with defence and security clients. Telicent, which has a business address in Southend, Essex, and was established one month before Sir Andrew left office in April.

But the company, headed by Ian Bailey, a former science and research adviser to the UK government, may have timed its launch to perfection. This week Boris Johnson pledged a £16 billion on a four-year investment in Britain’s defence and cyber technologies. 

Last month Sir Andrew also took up a non-executive position on the board of UK defence company Babcock International. 

In his new public speaking role, Sir Andrew joins Sir John Sawers, the former head of MI6 also ranked as an "A" by JLA, and Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, one of Sir Andrew’s predecessors at MI5, who is a "B" commanding lower fees of up to £10,000.

Only stellar speakers such as astronaut Buzz Aldrin and comedian Jack Whitehall are in the "AA" category where speakers command fees of more than £25,000. 

During lockdown, the after-dinner speaking circuit has remained popular through video conferencing. 

But guests hoping to hear Sir Andrew share top-secret spy stories about dangerous terrorists or Russian spies will be disappointed. 

The Office of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA), which gives guidance to senior government employees who move into the private sector, has reminded Sir Andrew of strict conditions for the terms of his new part-time roles. He will not be able to "draw upon any privileged information available to him during his time in office." Neither can he lobby for business on behalf of his new clients for two years.

The committee said: "By virtue of his role as director general at MI5,  it could be perceived Sir Andrew could offer Telicent an unfair advantage over competitors as he will be providing advice to a company focusing on defence and security.  This could give them an unfair advantage over their competitors due to Sir Andrew’s privileged access to information about the UK’s security strategy from his time in office.  The [government] departments noted Sir Andrew’s seniority would mean he has access to a wide range of information however they both recommended this will be mitigated by the conditions that would apply to someone of his seniority."

Steve Kochli, Telicent’s chief operating officer, told the Sunday Telegraph: "We invited Sir Andrew to consider joining our Advisory Board because of his strong reputation in Government for leadership and technology-led transformation. Sir Andrew joined our Advisory Board in November 2020 following proper scrutiny by ACOBA, with accompanying guidance that reflects the relationship conditions that he made clear to us at the outset. His input will help us understand the mindset of those who lead transformation in complex environments, and also help us establish a supportive and inclusive leadership culture within Telicent."

Explaining the company’s business strategy, Mr Kochli added: "We are a small software start-up formed in February this year to do some cool things to help businesses who are struggling with digital transformation. Our goal is to build tools that help remove the architectural friction and inertia that prevents business leaders making effective change in their IT estate or adopting new innovative technologies to deliver better customer outcomes and reduce costs. Like everyone else, COVID has made our start a bit more difficult than we would have liked but hope to have some of our early tools ready to enter the market next year."

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