Charity Commission chair to be announced 'very soon'

24 Nov 2021 News

Nadine Dorries, culture secretary, official parliament portrait

The government's preferred candidate to be chair of the Charity Commission will be announced “very soon”, the culture secretary said yesterday. 

Nadine Dorries, secretary of state at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), was giving evidence to the DCMS committee in parliament yesterday alongside Sarah Healey, permanent secretary at the department. 

The committee had been told it should expect to hold the pre-appointment hearing for the proposed chair on 9 December, and was under the impression that a candidate had already been selected. 

However, Dorries said the government had not chosen a candidate, and was not “anywhere near [making] an appointment”. 

During the meeting, Labour MP Clive Efford asked Dorries: “We were told that the government had a preferred candidate in October but that’s yet to be announced, when will we told who that person is?”

Dorries replied: “There is no preferred candidate from where I’m sitting and from my perspective and my office.”

Dorries repeatedly said that the appointment is an ongoing process that she is unable to comment on any further, though she did say the new chair would be announced “very soon”. 

Pre-appointment hearing 

Julian Knight, Conservative chair of the DCMS committee, asked for clarification on whether the committee should continue to hold the 9 December date. 

Healey, said: “Interviews have taken place and the process is ongoing and we’ve given you a date that we anticipate we'll be able to meet.” 

She continued: “I’ve no reason to believe that you shouldn’t be anticipating that date.”

That date is just 15 days away. Once the committee has had the opportunity to grill the preferred candidate it will either endorse or reject them, as it did 2018. But the government can press ahead with the appointment regardless of the committee's opinion, as it did in 2018. 

The role was advertised in March and final interviews should have been held in the spring so the chosen candidate could take over in summer. 

However, there has been a number of delays. Ian Karet has been the interim chair since February, though he was only supposed to be in the role for six months, but had his appointment extended until the end of the year.

'Woke agenda'

Efford also asked the culture secretary on remarks made by her predecessor Oliver Dowden. Dowden said in September that the appointment of a new chair of the Commission was an opportunity to “rebalance” charities that “have been hijacked by a vocal minority seeking to burnish their woke credentials”. 

Efford asked: “When it comes to looking for a preferred candidate, then, do you agree with your predecessor that whoever takes up that role should focus away from any woke agenda?”

Dorries said she did not know of any instructions that suggest the chair should be attacking a woke agenda. 

She said the recruitment process was being undertaken in line with a code of governance. 

Last week, the Labour shadow civil society minister Rachael Muskell called for the search for a new Charity Commission chair to be restarted with all "political interests" removed. Dorries responded that the process had been conducted fairly. 

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