10/06/2012 09:25 BST | Updated 10/08/2012 06:12 BST

May Was Not 'Picking A Fight' Choosing Tom Winsor For Chief Inspector of Constabulary for England and Wales

Theresa May has denied she is "picking a fight" by nominating Tom Winsor as the government's preferred candidate for the Chief Inspector of Constabulary for England and Wales, despite the controversial choice provoking anger amongst rank and file officers.

Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr Show she said Winsor's recommendation was not "plucked out of thin air" but came from a "proper process" and his performance during the final interviews for the role.

The government's choice for the inspectorate has been described as "risky if not reckless" by leading thinktank the Institute of Public Policy Research and as "simply beggaring belief" by the Police Federation, which represents officers.

Criticism has focussed on Winsor's lack of policing experience, with many pointing to his controversial review of police pay and conditions, which sparked a mass protest.

If the 54-year-old were appointed, he would be the first civilian to take up the role since the inspectorate was first established in 1856.

However, May told The Andrew Marr Show it was "important to have an independent inspectorate" who could "shine a light" on policing.

The cross-party Home Affairs Select Committee will hold a pre-appointment hearing for Winsor, who is Home Secretary Theresa May's first choice for the role, next week.

It's likely the committee will conclude he does not have the relevant experience for the role and will clash with May by asking her to reopen the selection process, the Telegraph reported.

Steve McCabe, a Labour member of the committee, said: "The committee has the power to say that in their judgment, he's not the ideal candidate.

"I think it's perfectly possible they may come to that conclusion because unless they're going to be presented with an entirely new job description, then he doesn't have the experience or the qualities or the characteristics to make him an ideal candidate.

Paul McKeever, the Police Federation's chairman said: "We look forward to hearing from the home secretary how the appointment of Tom Winsor provides the profound understanding of policing that is so important for public safety."

May was heckled, booed and jeered at the federation's annual conference in Bournemouth last month, just a week after some 30,000 officers marched through central London in protest over Winsor's proposed reforms, most of which have been accepted.

He called for the current police pay system, based on a 1920s model of rewarding years of service, to be overhauled and replaced with one that recognised hard work and merit instead.

Among the more controversial proposals in his two reports, Winsor recommended that police constables' starting salaries should be cut by up to £4,500 and that the retirement age should be raised to 60.

He also proposed scrapping a series of allowances and special payments intended to save £60 million a year overtime.

Officers on frontline duties would see their pay rise but 40% of officers who do not work unsocial hours face cuts of up to £4,000 a year.

Winsor also signalled the end of a job for life as he called for the ban on Chief Constables making officers redundant to be lifted in the face of budget cuts.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz said he was "looking forward" to hearing from Winsor, with whom he has clashed during previous hearings.

Bridget Phillipson, Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, said she was "stunned" by the decision, saying she could not even believe reports that Winsor had applied.

He has been put forward by the Home Office to replace Sir Denis O'Connor, who retires at the end of next month, overseeing the functioning and performance of police forces.