Nicholas Montagu

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Sir Nicholas Lionel John Montagu KCB (born 12 March 1944) is a retired British Civil Servant. He was Chairman of the Inland Revenue from 1997 to 2004, before its merger with Her Majesty's Customs and Excise to create Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs in 2005.[1]

Nick Montagu was educated at Rugby School and New College, Oxford, where he was Secretary of the Oxford Union, President of New College Junior Common Room and obtained a double First in classics, ancient history and philosophy. Immediately after leaving Oxford in 1966, he became a lecturer in philosophy at Reading University, remaining there until 1974, when he joined the UK Civil Service as a Direct Entry Principal.

Montagu served over the next 30 years in a number of government Departments, including Health and Social Security, the Cabinet Office, Transport and Social Security. He was involved, as a civil servant, in a number of key policies for both Labour and Conservative governments, including the establishment of executive agencies, major pension reforms and the privatisation of the railway. In 1997 he was appointed Chairman of the Inland Revenue through an open competition.

Over the next seven years, Montagu led the Inland Revenue through the greatest changes in its history, as it became a social department responsible for paying out what had previously been social security benefits and led the rest of Whitehall in the development of electronic services. He changed the culture of the Department, making it more outward-facing and responsive to its customers, and took a particular interest in diversity, for which he was appointed the Civil Service Diversity Champion.[2] Montagu also chaired the Civil Service Benevolent Fund.[3]

During his time the Revenue won numerous awards for its achievements in this field. In his last year as Chairman, Montagu became embroiled in two controversies, the first when the systems installed by IT firm EDS for the new tax credits system failed to work (EDS subsequently paid nearly £100m compensation for this failure [1]), and the second over the joint sale, with Customs, of the Revenue's estate to a company headquartered in Bermuda. This decision, required by the Treasury as part of the 1998 public spending settlement, was based on legal advice that to have excluded the company would have been illegal under European law;[4] it was subsequently described by the National Audit Office as a model for other departments and a commercially sound deal ["PFI: the STEPS Deal" HC: 530 2003-2004 ISBN 0102928045].

Since retiring in 2004, Montagu has been associated with a number of commercial activities, mainly in the pensions and insurance field and on PricewaterhouseCoopers' Advisory Board,[5] and with higher education. He also developed and facilitated governance workshops for Ministers and civil servants in a number of developing countries. He is currently (since February 2012) Chairman of the Financial Ombudsman Service,[5] Chairman of Council at Queen Mary, University of London (since August 2009), and was previously Chair of the Committee of University Chairs (from 2011 -2014).[5]

Personal life[edit]

Montagu is married and has two daughters.[6][7]


  1. ^ Innovation will bear fruit despite budget squeeze - Marketing Week
  2. ^ "Diversity Annual Report 2002-2003" (PDF). National Audit Office. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  3. ^ "Nicholas Montagu, Sir - Personally Speaking Bureau". Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  4. ^ "Oral evidence taken before the Treasury Committee". Treasury Sub-Committee. 18 June 2003. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c "Sir Nicholas Montagu, Queen Mary University of London". Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  6. ^ Sir Nicholas Montagu to be appointed Chairman of Council - Queen Mary University of London
  7. ^ About Us - HM Revenue and Customs
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Anthony Battishill
Chairman of the Inland Revenue
Succeeded by
Sir David Varney