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Top civil servant Sir Gus O’Donnell speaks at Queen Mary

Head of the civil service, Sir Gus O'Donnell and former senior mandarin, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, will give the last Mile End Group seminar of the season at Queen Mary, University of London, on 21 July.

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Sir Gus O'Donnell - credit UK in Canada
Sir Gus O'Donnell - credit UK in Canada

The Whitehall stalwarts will discuss 'The Theory and Practice of taking the Cabinet Minutes' to mark the Mile End Group's acquisition of The National Archives' paper copies of the Cabinet Minutes, 1916-80.

It has been a tremendous year for the Mile End Group, which holds contemporary history seminars for civil servants, politicos, academics, and history and politics students alike.

This season, the MEG has attracted a succession of heavy-weight political speakers, and substantial corporate sponsorship from IT giant Hewlett Packard, to its calendar of events.

Elder statesman and former Chancellor Lord Healey and former Foreign Secretary Lord Hurd offered revealing first-hand accounts of their time in the Cabinet.

Others drawn to the lectern included: David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science; Lord Hennessy and Lord Mandelson, who both unveiled the Clement Attlee statue at the College in April; former senior Labour MP Tony Wright; Lord Speaker Baroness Hayman; along with the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow.

Dr Jon Davis, historian and former banker, who runs the Mile End Group, is pleased to have attracted such eminent speakers to close the season. “For all of MEG's undoubted enthusiasm towards e-learning, we were delighted that The National Archives offered us the chance to take the paper copies of the Cabinet Minutes. To have Sir Gus and Lord Armstrong present to highlight this acquisition could not be more fitting,” Dr Davis said.

Sir Gus O’Donnell has risen steadily rising through the ranks at Whitehall, and now heads up the civil service. He has vast experience of working for ministers, and chancellors, from both sides of the political divide, and has guided his fair share of governments through testing times. Following a press secretary role in the prime minister's office under John Major, O'Donnell was appointed as permanent secretary at the Treasury before taking his current role and that of Cabinet Secretary.

And in a long civil service career, Lord Armstrong worked in several departments, including the Treasury and the Home Office. He was knighted in 1978. From 1979 to 1987, he served as Cabinet Secretary under Margaret Thatcher. He was made a life peer in 1988, and sits as a crossbencher.

Event: 'The Theory and Practice of taking the Cabinet Minutes’

Date: Thursday 21 July

Time: 6.30pm

Venue: Arts Two Lecture Theatre, Mile End.


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