Sir Stephen Bubb writes to Sir Jeremy Heywood

Published: Saturday 31 January 2015 - 07:00

Full text of Sir Stephen Bubb's letter to the Cabinet Secretary about William Shawcross's reappointment as Chair of the Charity Commission

29 January 2015

Dear Jeremy,

I am writing to you to express my concern at the process behind today’s appointment of William Shawcross as Chair of the Charity Commission. I would like to seek your assurance that due process has been followed. 

As you know, the position was due for renewal in October 2015. Shawcross’ initial appointment followed a period of advertisement, shortlisting and a pre-appointment hearing from May 2012. I and many of my colleagues in the charity sector, our supporters, donors and beneficiaries are therefore surprised to learn that the appointment has been made already.

The fact that this appointment has taken place less than three months before a general election will serve only to raise those concerns in the mind of the public. They deserve and require assurance as to the absolute propriety of the processes that have been followed to make this appointment. As such I am writing to seek your assurances on the following points of information.

1.    Was recruitment conducted in accordance with the Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies? According to this code, reappointments can only be made once evidence of a satisfactory performance has been made. 

2.    Who was on the committee that made the appointment? The previous committee was chaired by Mark Addison, a Public Appointments Assessor representing the Commissioner for Public Appointments, who is independent of the Government. It also included Sue Gray, Head of Propriety and Ethics in the Cabinet Office. Given the public nature of this role a committee for reappointment would have been appropriate.

3.    Were other persons considered by the committee and did they meet the requirements stipulated by equalities legislation and in accordance with suitable non-discrimination policies appropriate to the position?

4.    What representations were sought from Cabinet Office’s Propriety and Ethics Team about the process and what notice was taken by the appointments committee of those representations?

5.    Given the crucial public nature of this role, how will the process behind the appointment and the fact of the appointment itself be disseminated and communicated to the charity sector and the wider public?

The charity sector is vital to the health and wealth of our nation. Charities must be independent and free to speak truth to power and to deliver in the public good. To do both they depend upon the trust and confidence of the public. Trust and confidence are fragile. While trust in charities remains high, it would be unacceptable for questions over the regulator to compromise trust and confidence in the charitable sector. 

I look forward to receiving your reply. In the interests of transparency I am placing this letter in the public domain. 

Yours ever,

Sir Stephen Bubb

For media comment please contact the ACEVO Press Office: george.bangham@acevo.org.uk or 07825894716

Commenting on the publication of the letter, Sir Stephen Bubb said:

“The public will have grave concerns that, six months before the appointment was due and three months before a general election, the Government has sought to make this appointment on the quiet.

“The Charity Commission is an important public body. It is not the cabinet office’s personal fiefdom. At a time when the Charity Commission has been under sustained and severe criticism, and they are trying to get their act together, this is not what they need. This will only add fuel to the fire of those who accuse the Charity Commission of being a plaything of government patronage, rather than a forceful, independent regulator. 

“I am writing to Sir Jeremy Heywood to seek his assurance that due process was followed. Charities cannot afford to let party politics get in the way of good governance.

“The case for reform is clear.”