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DCMS Committee demands more detail over Baroness Stowell appointment

DCMS Committee demands more detail over Baroness Stowell appointment

The DCMS Committee, headed by Damian Collins MP, has again written to Secretary of State Matt Hancock following the announcement that Baroness Stowell would be the next Chair of the Charity Commission despite the Committee having rejected her for the role following her pre-appointment hearing. 

In a letter to the Committee, published on 21 February, Hancock stated that, despite their reservations, he was ‘convinced that the best candidate has been selected for the role.’

He went on to say:

“The advisory assessment panel included two independent members, one of whom is a respected charity sector expert. The panel assessed all candidates against the criteria as set out in the role specification. I confirm that the panel unanimously agreed the outcome that Baroness Stowell was not just the most qualified candidate, but is an exceptionally strong candidate for this role. They noted that she delivered an excellent presentation which was well structured and spanned a wide range of issues, evidencing an ability for clear strategic oversight. They were also impressed by the high degree of emotional intelligence and personal integrity that Baroness Stowell displayed.”

However, yesterday (22 February) the Committee wrote again to Hancock in response, expressing disappointment that the concerns they had raised had been so quickly dismissed and demanding more answers to the points they had raised in their previous letter.

The Committee also raises further questions:

  • Can you confirm that the role of the interview panel was simply to assess which candidates were appointable, and not to indicate which one should be appointed? Can you confirm that the final decision on who should be appointed was a decision for Ministers to make?
  • Did your Department recommend to 10 Downing Street the appointment of any other candidate for the role of Chair of the Charity Commission to succeed Sir William Shawcross, prior to recommending Baroness Stowell – either before or since your appointment as Secretary of State?
  • Since she left the Government in 2016, has Baroness Stowell been offered or recommended for any other public appointments by the Department?
  • Were any candidates with regulatory and/or charities experience interviewed? If so, why was the preferred candidate was chosen ahead of them?

They also point out that while Hancock’s statement to the press said ‘Select Committee advisory decisions have often been set aside by appointing Ministers’, such action is in fact unusual, ‘having happened only three times out of nine negative committee reports, following over 100 pre-appointment hearings.’

The Committee has asked for a response by noon Monday 26 February, following which they will issue their report on the appointment.

Main image: Baroness Stowell. Crown Copyright.

Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via www.thepurplepim.com.

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