Howell James "joined Barclays in September 2008 as Barclays Corporate Affairs Director where he is responsible for Barclays Group media and government relations, corporate communications and global community initiatives. Prior to this he was Permanent Secretary, Government Communication, in the Cabinet Office from July 2004 until 2008." 
He was appointed as Permanent Secretary for the Government Communications by the Blair government in July 2004. 
A biographical note states that he was head of promotions at Capital Radio then "head of publicity at the launch of TVam, Britain's first commercial breakfast television channel. In 1984 he became Special Advisor to Lord Young in the Cabinet Office, and moved with him to the Department of Employment and Trade and Industry. In 1987 he joined the Board of Management of the BBC as Director of Corporate Affairs." 
"He joined Cable & Wireless as Director of Corporate and Government Affairs in 1992 where he was responsible for Cable & Wireless's press, public and government relations in the UK, North America and Hong Kong. Howell became Prime Minister John Major's Political Secretary in 1994. He was a Founding Partner of Brown Lloyd James, a corporate PR Company. He was awarded the CBE in August 1997," the biographical note states. 
According to a report on Spinwatch:
- James is the former Director of Corporate Affairs for both TVAM and the BBC, overseeing the latter's commercialisation. Latterly, this 'close friend' of Peter Mandelson ran his own PR firm, briefly advising the Hinduja brothers in the donations for passports row which led to Mandelson's second resignation from the cabinet. In his role as partner of PR firm Brown Lloyd James, he also sat on the Phillis committee which recommended the creation of his new post. Phillis abolished the half century old Government Information and Communication Service in February, which had inhibited the progress of spin, leaving its incumbent director Mike Granatt, jobless. This was the culmination of the New Labour reforms of spin set in train by Mandelson and Alastair Campbell in May 1997.
- The Guardian thought there was a 'whiff of cronyism' about the appointment, but this is to see only the surface personal links in the tight knit New Labour milieu.  In fact the problem goes much deeper. James’ appointment is an indication of the profound changes set in train by Phillis which are most notably about opening the way for £hundreds of millions of public money to be spent on private sector PR consultants...
- James appointment sets a further record as the most senior propagandist ever to be appointed to a civil service job from the private sector. But typically the network of connections and revolving door links goes much further. James himself was a special advisor to Lord Young at the self styled ‘Department for Enterprise’ in the 1980s and later political secretary to John Major. He oversaw the Tories 1997 election campaign. He sat on the Phillis committee along with a brace of other PR consultants.
- Juliette Garside, "Media Profile: Putting politics in perspective - Howell James, Brown Lloyd James/The man who stayed with Major till the end is now setting up his own agency", PR Week, October 31, 1997.
- Matthew Tempest, "Profile: Howell James: Whitehall's new press chief is a 'rightwing' former Tory adviser with links to Peter Mandelson" , Guardian (UK), March 25, 2004.
- "Howell James – Permanent Secretary, Government Communications Role", May 8, 2005.
- David Miller, "Privatising Spin", Spinwatch, May 18, 2004.