Ex-Charity Commission chair is PM’s choice for top role at public appointments regulator

19 Jul 2021 News

William Shawcross, chair, Charity Commission

Fergus Burnett

William Shawcross has been named as the government’s preferred candidate to be the next Commissioner for Public Appointments. 

Shawcross was chair of the Charity Commission between 2012 and 2018 and is currently carrying out a review of the government’s anti-terrorism programme Prevent.

Before the role is confirmed Shawcross will need to appear before the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) for a pre-appointment hearing. PACAC will publish a report with its recommendations, although the government can overrule the committee.  

As the Commissioner for Public Appointments Shawcross will be in charge of the body which oversees and regulates how people are recruited to the boards of a public body, government department or advisory committee. 

He would be responsible for monitoring the public appointments process and ensuring that the government’s rules are followed, but not directly appointing anyone. He would produce an annual report based on his regulatory work, including information about non-compliance and an account of any inquiry into the public appointment procedures and practices of appointing authorities.

In April, the prime minister extended the term of the Peter Riddell as Commissioner for Public Appointments until 30 September 2021. Shawcross is due to deliver his report on Prevent in September, meaning that he will be able to start the new job on 1 October. 

Michael Gove, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said: “I am delighted to confirm William Shawcross as the government’s preferred candidate for the office of Commissioner for Public Appointments. William has all the attributes and experience needed for this important regulatory role that is vital to ensuring confidence in the public appointments made by both the UK and Welsh governments.

“I would like to thank Peter Riddell for his service as Commissioner for Public Appointments and, once again, for agreeing to extend his tenure for a short period.” 

Previous concerns 

Shawcross is journalist and author and often described his role at the Charity Commission as his first proper job.  

In 2016 senior leaders raised concerns about the regulator’s own governance and close ties to right-wing think tanks. 

Until his appointment as the chair of the charity regulator, Shawcross was on the advisory council of the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), a right-wing charitable think tank with a focus on security and defence issues.

During his time as chair of the Charity Commission he was accused of unfairly targeting Muslim charities, something he always denied, and some charities have refused to engage with his current review of Prevent. 

Earlier this year, Amnesty International, Liberty and the Runneymede Trust were among 17 organisations which said they will boycott a review of the government’s anti-terror Prevent scheme, and conduct their own parallel review.  

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