Associate Profile Series | Sir Paul Silk 

GPG delivers specialist technical advice through a core group of retained Associates who are former Ministers, Members of Parliament, senior civil servants or parliamentary staff, and academics. We have built long-lasting relationships with Associates which we seek to highlight in this series of personal profiles. This month’s Associate, Sir Paul Silk, is a Former Secretary General of the National Assembly for Wales (now Senedd) and Chair of the Commission on Devolution in Wales, and supported GPG on many projects.

Why did you decide to workin politics? 

It happened by pure chance, really – I read a book in an American university library about working in parliament. I’d had no idea before then that those types of institutions had their own officials, but I thought it sounded an ideal job for me. 

What key moment in your career brought you where you are today?  

That would be getting the job as Clerk of the Welsh Assembly soon after it was set up. For me, that was the opportunity to help turn this institution into a proper Parliament. 

Which aspects of GPG’s projects and values encouraged you to join the organisation?  

GPG’s staff and Associates are without exception nice people to work with. I find the enthusiasm, diversity and youth of the permanent staff particularly energising. 

What work have you done with GPG, and which particular project with GPG stuck with you the most?  

Working in Honduras to help the anti-human trafficking legislation work more effectively. I had never thought about the wickedness of modern slavery before. If the GPG team did anything to help its suppression in central America (and I think we did) that was so worthwhile. 

What future do you envisage for parliaments across the world after the pandemic?   

They’re going to have adapt to new ways of working, and they mustn’t let governments use the pandemic to escape parliamentary scrutiny. 

Share your thoughts on a news story from the past year that caught your attention. 

One of my old friends is a former official of the Peruvian parliament, so I was intrigued by the Peruvian presidential elections in 2021 in which an outsider to politics – a rural primary school teacher – just squeaked past the daughter of a disgraced ex-President to win the election. I’ll be watching how politics plays out there – will it be urban elite against rural poor, or people coming together? And wouldn’t it be great if GPG had work in such an interesting place? 

About our Associate 

Sir Paul Silk was a Clerk in the House of Commons from 1975 to 1977 and 1979 to 2001. From 2001 to 2007, he was Clerk to the then National Assembly for Wales – now Senedd – before returning to the House of Commons as Director of Strategic Projects from 2007 to 2011. He then chaired the Commission on Devolution in Wales from 2011 to 2014. 

The work he mentioned was a project GPG conducted with his support with the Honduran Congress, focussed on the effectiveness and implementation of anti-human trafficking legislation in the country. We assisted two Congressional committees – the Family, Children, Youth and Older Persons Committee, and the Justice and Human Rights Committee – to develop and implement Post-Legislative Scrutiny (PLS) and follow up techniques. 

Our work consisted of enabling the Honduran Congress to improve the implementation of the 2012 Law Against Human Trafficking, and resulted in a significant increase in public funding for agencies tasked with implementing the law. GPG’s project team introduced the concept of PLS and guided an inquiry process, focusing on building capacity around planning, consultation, and coordination within the Congress. In doing so we worked closely with the Interinstitutional Committee against Sexual Exploitation in Children (CICESCT), a Honduran interagency commission with a mandate for monitoring the implementation of the human trafficking legislation in the country. 

An expert in decentralisation, Sir Paul Silk drew on his experience to write two publications on the topic for GPG: Devolution and Decentralisation, which explores the cases of the United Kingdom and Wales, and the first paper of our Guide to Decentralisation series: Principles and Models of Decentralisation. You may find the rest of our Guide to Decentralisation papers on our Publications page.