The Good Law Project has asked the government to hand over communication connected to the appointment process for the chair of the Charity Commission.
Last month the Good Law Project threatened the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the department responsible, with legal action, claiming that an opinion article in the Telegraph by the then culture minister, Oliver Dowden, breached rules.
A response from the government’s lawyers, posted on the Good Law Project’s website, insisted that that process was being run correctly.
“Neither before or after the op-ed did the secretary of state alter the appointments process or issue any specific instructions on what constituted merit, over and above agreed job description and person specification,” the government’s lawyers said.
Good Law Project’s lawyers have written back to the government asking to see all communication between the culture secretary and the interview panel.
In a statement on its website the campaign added: “The case isn’t straightforward but the issues are important. If regulators aren’t neutral they can’t regulate – and this feels like the thin end of a very dangerous wedge.”
Interviews concluded last month
Candidates were interviewed in September and the next step is for the government to announce its preferred candidate.
This person will be required to attend a pre-appointment hearing with the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, although the minister can overrule the committee as Matt Hancock did when he appointed Baroness Stowell.
One of the panel members, John Booth, donated over £200,000 to the Conservative Party in 2017. He is also a trustee of the Tate, chair of the Prince’s Trust and involved with several other charities.
Petition hits 12,000
The Good Law Project has also started a petition calling on the government “to ensure the appointment process for a new Chair of the Charity Commission is not politicised”.
This was started with signatures from senior people in the charity sector, including:
- Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter
- Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission between 2004 and 2010
- Stephanie Draper, chief executive of Bond
- Adeela Warley, chief executive of CharityComms
- Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive of Directory of Social Change
So far 12,324 people have signed the petition.