Andrew Turnbull, Baron Turnbull

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The Lord Turnbull

Official portrait of Lord Turnbull crop 2.jpg
Cabinet Secretary
Head of the Home Civil Service
In office
1 September 2002 – 1 March 2005
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded bySir Richard Wilson
Succeeded bySir Gus O'Donnell
Permanent Secretary to the Treasury
In office
ChancellorGordon Brown
Preceded byTerence Burns
Succeeded bySir Gus O'Donnell
Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
In office
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
John Major
Preceded byNigel Wicks
Succeeded byAlex Allan
Personal details
Born (1945-01-21) 21 January 1945 (age 75)
Alma materChrist's College, Cambridge

Andrew Turnbull, Baron Turnbull, KCB CVO (born 21 January 1945) was the head of Her Majesty's Civil Service and Cabinet Secretary between 2002 and 2005 when he was succeeded by Sir Gus O'Donnell. He now sits in the House of Lords as a crossbencher.

He was educated at Enfield Grammar School and Christ's College, Cambridge, where he studied Economics.[1]

He serves on the Dulwich College Board of Governors, and has been its chairman since 2009. Since 2006 he has chaired the international development charity, Zambia Orphans Aid UK.[2]


Turnbull was appointed an Overseas Development Institute Fellow in 1968 and was posted to work as an economist in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Foreign Trade in Lusaka, Zambia.[3] Turnbull served as Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister under Thatcher and Major (1988–1992). He served as Defra permanent secretary then Permanent Secretary to the Treasury (1998–2002), the latter traditionally the second-highest-ranking Civil Service post, before succeeding to the highest-ranking post.

The two most senior civil service roles at the top of government have in recent decades been filled by the same individual. As head of the civil service, Lord Turnbull was akin to the chief executive of the organisation, though the lines of reporting are somewhat more complex than is typical in the private sector since Permanent Secretaries (senior civil servants within each department of government) report to ministers. As Cabinet Secretary, a post created in 1916, Turnbull was responsible for the organisation of the Cabinet Office, providing support to the Prime Minister and to the government as a whole. When Turnbull succeeded to the dual role on 2 September 2002, Prime Minister Tony Blair asked him to focus on the management of the civil service, and to make its reorganisation his priority.

Turnbull was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1990,[4] a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in the 1992 Birthday Honours[5] and promoted to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the 1998 Birthday Honours.[6]

He was created a life peer as Baron Turnbull, of Enfield in the London Borough of Enfield, on 11 October 2005.[7]

He has taken on directorships, and in 2007 was listed as Senior Executive Advisor with Booz Allen Hamilton.[8]


Iraq war[edit]

Turnbull became involved in controversy when on 28 February 2004 he wrote a formal letter admonishing ex-minister Clare Short for making media statements alleging that British intelligence had intercepted communications from (amongst others) Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan. Short made the confidential letter public, and in turn rebuked Turnbull for allegedly allowing the government decision-making machinery to crumble in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war. Short suggested that the government's legal expert, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, had been "leant on" to provide advice that war would be legal.[9] She argued that Turnbull had been responsible for what she alleged was inadequate Cabinet scrutiny of the legal advice, of the basis for the decision to go to war and the alternatives:

"He allowed us to rush to war in Iraq without defence and overseas policy meeting, looking at all the military options and the diplomatic options and political options. (He) allowed the Joint Intelligence Committee to meet with Alastair Campbell chairing it."[10]

In March 2005, Lord Turnbull revealed that Lord Goldsmith's opinion on the legality of the Iraq War was only one page long.

Turnbull gave evidence to the Iraq Inquiry on 13 January 2010.[11]

Opinion of Gordon Brown[edit]

On 20 March 2007, the day before the 2007 budget was announced, he gave an interview with the Financial Times in which he described Gordon Brown as acting with "Stalinist ruthlessness",[12][13] contrary to the convention that former civil servants do not talk to the media about serving government ministers.[14]

Environmental views[edit]

He is a trustee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. In 2011, the Foundation issued a report under Turnbull's name, which stated that global temperatures were "on a plateau". The report also called for more scepticism about global warming.

Personal life[edit]

Lord Turnbull has been married to his wife Diane since 1967 and has two sons. He lists his hobbies as golf, opera and sailing.[15]


  1. ^ Staff; agencies (19 April 2002). "Profile: Sir Andrew Turnbull". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 27 August 2016.
  2. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Turnbull, KCB, CVO, Baron. "Biography". Parliament. Retrieved 10 July 2017.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "No. 52371". The London Gazette. 20 December 1990. p. 19581.
  5. ^ "No. 52952". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 June 1992. p. 4.
  6. ^ "No. 55155". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 1998. p. 3.
  7. ^ "No. 57787". The London Gazette. 14 October 2005. p. 13295.
  8. ^ "The New Demographics Reshaping the World of Work and Retirement" (PDF). 2007. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  9. ^ "Attorney General's Iraq response". BBC News. 17 March 2003. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  10. ^ Lyons, Jamie (29 February 2004). "Short Launches Attack on Top Civil Servant". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 8 February 2005.
  11. ^ "Campbell attacked for criticism of Short's Iraq stance". BBC News. BBC. 13 January 2010. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  12. ^ "Brown accused of 'ruthlessness'". BBC News. 20 March 2007. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  13. ^ / World – Brown allies defend ‘Stalinist’ chancellor
  14. ^ Chris Mullin (2010). Decline and Fall: Diaries 2005–2010. pp. 159–160. ISBN 978-1-84668-399-2.
  15. ^ "Profile: Lord Turnbull". BBC News. 20 March 2007. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
Government offices
Preceded by
Nigel Wicks
Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
Succeeded by
Alex Allan
Preceded by
Sir Terence Burns
Permanent Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Sir Gus O'Donnell
Preceded by
Sir Richard Wilson
Cabinet Secretary & Head of the Home Civil Service
Succeeded by
Sir Gus O'Donnell