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Restart Charity Commission chair search to remove ‘political interests’, Labour urges

22 Nov 2021 News

The process of appointing the next chair of the Charity Commission should be redone, with a fresh interview panel, the Labour Party has said. 

Rachael Maskell, the Labour shadow civil society minister, brought up the issue in Parliament last week. 

She said the previous chair, Baroness Stowell, was an example of a “litany of political appointments”. 

“Her tenure was marked by political manipulation rather than independent governance,” Maskell added.  

Interviews took place this autumn but the government has not yet announced the name of its preferred candidate, who will then face a pre-appointment hearing with the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee before being confirmed in the role. 

Meanwhile, the Good Law Project is bringing legal proceedings against the government over the process. 

‘Remove all political interest’ 

Maskell also highlighted that one of the people on the recruitment panel, John Booth, has donated £200,000 to the Conservative Party. 

Booth is also a trustee of the Tate, chair of the Prince’s Trust and involved with several other charities. He is an ambassador for the homelessness charity Depaul International and a Deputy Lieutenant for West Sussex. 

Maskell said: “The current process for a replacement is being led by John Booth, who donated £200,000 to the Tory party. 

“Will the secretary of state recommence the appointment process, removing all political interests and ensuring full independence of the appointment panel, and then—” 

She was then stopped by the Speaker for taking up too much time. 

Nadine Dorries, culture secretary, said the process has been conducted fairly. 

“The process is fair. It is overseen by the Commissioner for Public Appointments and a code of governance,” she said. 

Dorries also pointed out that Vera Baird, the former Labour MP for Redcar, had become the Victims’ Commissioner.

Judicial review proceedings 

At the end of October The Good Law Project began judicial review proceedings to try to force the government to re-run the process. 

It is concerned that an op-ed by the former culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, compromised the process. 

A crowdfunding appeal has raised over £60,000 to support the campaign. 

Key attributes 

Last month NCVO, ACEVO and others set out key attributes for the new chair. 

This includes: 

  • A commitment to the charity sector’s independence
  • Reputation for personal integrity 
  • Independence from political parties 
  • Vision of becoming “accessible and engaging ambassador” for the charity sector 


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