Mark Sedwill

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The Lord Sedwill

Mark Sedwill (cropped).jpg
Sedwill, circa 2013
Cabinet Secretary
Head of the Home Civil Service
In office
24 October 2018 – 9 September 2020
Acting: 25 June 2018 - 24 October 2018
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Boris Johnson
Preceded bySir Jeremy Heywood
Succeeded bySimon Case
United Kingdom National Security Adviser
In office
13 April 2017 – 9 September 2020
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Boris Johnson
Preceded bySir Mark Lyall Grant
Succeeded byThe Lord Frost
Director, Afghanistan & Pakistan of the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
In office
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byKaren Pierce
Succeeded byRichard Crompton
NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan
In office
January 2010 – June 2010
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
David Cameron
Preceded byFernando Gentilini
Succeeded bySimon Gass
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
11 September 2020
Life Peerage
Personal details
Mark Philip Sedwill

(1964-10-21) 21 October 1964 (age 56)
Ealing, England
Alma materUniversity of St Andrews (BSc)
St Edmund Hall, Oxford (MPhil)

Mark Philip Sedwill, Baron Sedwill KCMG FRGS (born 21 October 1964) is a British diplomat, public policy analyst and senior civil servant who served as Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service to Prime Ministers Theresa May and Boris Johnson from 2018 to 2020.[1] He also served as the United Kingdom National Security Adviser from 2017 to 2020. He was previously the United Kingdom's Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010 and the NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan in 2010. He was the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office from February 2013 to April 2017.

Early life and education[edit]

Sedwill was born in Ealing. He attended Bourne Grammar School in Bourne, Lincolnshire, becoming the head boy. He went to the University of St Andrews, where he gained a Bachelor of Science (BSc), and later gained a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in economics from St Edmund Hall, Oxford.[2][3]


Early diplomatic career[edit]

Sedwill joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1989 and he served in the Security Coordination Department and the Gulf War Emergency Unit until 1991.

He was then posted in Cairo, Egypt, from 1991 to 1994 as a Second Secretary, then First Secretary in Iraq from 1996 to 1997 whilst serving as a United Nations weapons inspector, then in Nicosia, Cyprus, as First Secretary for Political-Military Affairs and Counterterrorism from 1997 to 1999. He was the Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Robin Cook and later Jack Straw) from 2000 to 2002 in the run-up to and preparations for the 2003 Iraq invasion.[2]

He then served as the Deputy High Commissioner to Pakistan, based in Islamabad from 2003 to 2005, then the Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Department of the Foreign Office. From 2006 to 2008, he served as International Director of the UK Border Agency, part of the Home Office.[2][4]

Afghanistan ambassador and NATO roles[edit]

In April 2009, Sedwill became the Ambassador to Afghanistan, succeeding Sherard Cowper-Coles. In January 2010, he was additionally appointed as NATO's Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, to be the civilian counterpart to the ISAF Commander, U.S. General Stanley A. McChrystal and then U.S. General David Petraeus.[5][6] He was succeeded as ambassador temporarily by his predecessor, Cowper-Coles, and then by William Patey, formerly British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.[2]

In May 2011, Sedwill took over as the FCO's Director-General for Afghanistan and Pakistan (and thus as the UK's Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan) from Dame Karen Pierce DCMG. He additionally became the FCO's Director-General, Political, in autumn 2012, replacing Geoffrey Adams.

Home Office and National Security Adviser[edit]

In February 2013, Sedwill became the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, filling the vacancy left by Helen Ghosh.[7][8] Sedwill replaced Mark Lyall Grant as National Security Adviser in the Cabinet Office in April 2017.

During his time as Permanent Secretary, one of the organisations the Home Office is responsible for[9], MI5, failed to adequately safeguard data. In 2019 Lord Justice Sir Adrian Fulford stated MI5 had a "historical lack of compliance" with sections of the Investigatory Powers Act in 2016.[10]

Cabinet Secretary[edit]

Sedwill (left) meets with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in March 2019.

Sedwill became acting Cabinet Secretary in June 2018, while Jeremy Heywood took a leave of absence on medical grounds, and was appointed to replace Heywood on his retirement on 24 October 2018.[11] He is the second Cabinet Secretary never to have worked at HM Treasury, and the first whose career has been dominated by diplomatic and security work.[3][12] He was described as the Prime Minister's "first and only choice" to replace Heywood, with no recruitment process taking place and some suggesting the urgency of arrangements for the UK's departure from the European Union as a reason for the quick appointment.[3][12][13] Prime Minister Theresa May was criticised for allowing Sedwill to remain as National Security Adviser alongside his role as Cabinet Secretary, with speculation that the role was being kept for Europe adviser Oliver Robbins.[12][14][15]

In a February 2019 interview Sedwill said he would retain his role as National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister since becoming Cabinet Secretary is part of moves to make a success of Brexit. In an interview with Civil Service Quarterly, Sedwill said retaining the post would also ensure a "genuine sense of teamwork across and beyond government".[16]

In April 2019 it was reported that Sedwill had written to ministers on the National Security Council and their special advisers after The Daily Telegraph reported details of a meeting about Chinese telecoms company Huawei. Following the meeting of the council, the Telegraph reported that it had agreed to allow Huawei limited access to help build Britain's new 5G network, amid warnings about possible risks to national security. Several cabinet ministers have denied they were involved.[17]

In July 2019, The Times reported that two unnamed senior civil servants had said the 70-year-old Jeremy Corbyn might have to stand down due to health issues. The article drew an angry response from Labour, which denounced the comments as a "scurrilous" attempt to undermine the party's efforts to gain power. Downing Street said that Sedwill would write to Corbyn after the party demanded an inquiry into alleged comments. It is unclear whether he will order an investigation. Corbyn has said the civil service has a duty to be non-political.[18]

In November 2019, Sedwill blocked the publication of a document written by civil servants to cost the Labour Party's fiscal plans before a general election. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell had complained to Treasury Permanent Secretary Tom Scholar in a meeting arguing it would interfere in the upcoming general election.[19]

In June 2020, it was announced that Sedwill would be stepping down from his civil service appointments in September 2020.[20] The Telegraph said that Downing Street regarded Sedwill as "too much of a Europhile and establishment figure" to be in post through planned Whitehall reforms.[21]

Sedwill will be replaced as national security adviser by David Frost, currently serving as Johnson’s chief negotiator in talks on the post-Brexit trade and security relationship with the EU. Frost is a political appointment, while all previous national security advisers have been civil servants.[22] Sedwill was replaced as Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service by Simon Case on 9 September 2020.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Sedwill married in 1999 and has one daughter. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Fellow of the Institute of Directors[2] and President of the Special Forces Club.[24]


He was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 2008 Birthday Honours, and a Knight Commander in the 2018 New Year Honours.[2][25][26]

On 11 September 2020 he was created Baron Sedwill, of Sherborne in the County of Dorset.[27]


  1. ^ "Sir Mark Sedwill - GOV.UK". Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "SEDWILL, Mark Philip". Who's Who 2013. A & C Black. December 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  3. ^ a b c "The quiet rise of "securocrat" Mark Sedwill, the new head of the civil service". Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  4. ^ "300,000 UK visas 'wrongly issued'". BBC News. 18 November 2008. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  5. ^ "Ambassador Mark Sedwill". NATO. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  6. ^ Foreign & Commonwealth Office (26 January 2010). "NATO names Mark Sedwill as Senior Civilian Representative". Her Majesty's Government. Archived from the original on 15 November 2010. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  7. ^ "Cabinet office: new senior appointments and changes – GOV.UK". Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  8. ^ "New permanent secretary for the Home Office". Home Office website. Her Majesty's Government. 9 January 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  9. ^ "Security Service Act 1989: The Security Service". Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  10. ^ "MI5's use of personal data was 'unlawful', says watchdog". Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  11. ^ Statement on Sir Jeremy Heywood,, 24 October 2018
  12. ^ a b c Blitz, James (25 October 2018). "Critics question dual role for Britain's new top civil servant". Financial Times. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  13. ^ "Sir Mark Sedwill appointed Cabinet Secretary by Theresa May for 'no-nonsense approach' during Brexit deal". 25 October 2018. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  14. ^ "Security experts raise concern over top civil servant's double role". Evening Standard. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  15. ^ "Twin role of top civil servant and security adviser 'only temporary'". Evening Standard. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  16. ^ "Sedwill retaining national security adviser role as cab sec 'to help make success of Brexit' | Civil Service World".
  17. ^ "Top civil servant demands leak co-operation". 26 April 2019 – via
  18. ^ "No 10 criticises 'frail Corbyn' comments". 1 July 2019 – via
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ Syal, Rajeev (28 June 2020). "Mark Sedwill to stand down as UK's top civil servant". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  21. ^ Rayner, Gordon (28 June 2020). "Brexiteers to be recruited and departments moved to regions in huge Whitehall shake-up". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  22. ^ 28 June 2020: [ Cabinet secretary and top civil servant to step down in September - Boris Johnson’s supporters accused of undermining cabinet secretary through anonymous briefings]
  23. ^ "Boris Johnson picks No 10 official to be head of UK civil service". Financial Times. 31 August 2020. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  24. ^ "Sir Mark Sedwill - GOV.UK". Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  25. ^ "No. 58729". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2008. p. 3.
  26. ^ "Mark SEDWILL". Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  27. ^ "Lord Sedwill". UK Parliament. Retrieved 11 September 2020.

External links[edit]

Video clips[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles
British Ambassador to Afghanistan
Succeeded by
Sir William Patey
Preceded by
Fernando Gentilini
NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan
January–June 2010
Succeeded by
Sir Simon Gass
Preceded by
Karen Pierce
Director, Afghanistan & Pakistan of the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Succeeded by
Richard Crompton
as Director, South Asia and Afghanistan
Preceded by
Sir Geoffrey Adams
Director-General, Political of the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Succeeded by
Sir Simon Gass
Government offices
Preceded by
Dame Helen Ghosh
Permanent Secretary of the
Home Office

Succeeded by
Philip Rutnam
Preceded by
Sir Mark Lyall Grant
National Security Adviser
Succeeded by
The Lord Frost
Preceded by
Sir Jeremy Heywood
Head of the Home Civil Service
Cabinet Secretary

Succeeded by
Simon Case
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by
The Lord Field of Birkenhead
Baron Sedwill
Followed by
The Lord Sharpe of Epsom