FCO's top woman to join former boss at NatWest

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The Independent Online

Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, until recently second highest official in the Foreign Office and the Prime Minister's chief foreign affairs adviser, is leaving to join NatWest Markets, the investment banking arm of NatWest Group . Although it has not yet been publicly announced, she will be joining her former Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd.

He has been a director of the bank and deputy chairman of NatWest Markets since October, with a salary of pounds 250,000 for a two-day week, "providing services of a promotional or ambassadorial nature". As final arrangements for her move have not been completed, details of Dame Pauline's new job have yet to be revealed.

The move follows a rancorous dispute in the upper echelons of the Foreign Office. Dame Pauline, 56, was expected to be made ambassador to Paris, having recently left the position of Political Director, number two to the permanent Under Secretary, Sir John Coles. The Paris embassy is traditionally given to the most senior official as a last post before compulsory retirement at 60.

Friends of Dame Pauline say she was unfairly treated by the Foreign Office, cheated of this last honour after a distinguished career. She was passed over by Michael Jay, a man six years her junior. She is the highest ranking woman ever in the Foreign Office, a department that lags behind the rest in promoting women. Only 1 per cent of the top three grades at the Foreign Office are women, far fewer than the average for all Whitehall departments, where women hold 8.5 per cent of top posts.

Promoted to Political Director by the Prime Minister in 1994, Dame Pauline travelled with him on foreign trips and was his chief foreign affairs adviser. She was also Britain's chief negotiator on Bosnia, and signatory to the peace accords signed at Dayton, Ohio.

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