21/02/2018 00:06 GMT

MPs Tell Matt Hancock They 'Cannot Support' Tory Peer As Charity Watchdog Boss

The government wants Baroness Stowell to chair Charity Commission

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Culture secretary Matt Hancock

MPs have told culture secretary Matt Hancock they ‘cannot support’ the appointment of a Conservative Party peer as head of a charity watchdog.

Baroness Tina Stowell is the government’s preferred choice to become the new chair of the Charity Commission - but has been rejected by members of the culture, media and sport select committee after a vetting procedure.

The cross-party committee said they did not believe candidates had been drawn from a diverse enough talent pool and that the former House of Lords leader and BBC chief was lacking both the experience and neutrality needed for the role.

In a damning letter to the newly-appointed secretary of state, chair Damian Collins said opposing the recommendation was “not a decision taken lightly”, but that Baroness Stowell had “little more than six months of negligible charity sector experience, and a complete lack of experience of working for a regulatory body”.

The Charity Commission oversees and regulates all registered charities in England and Wales and several umbrella bodies wrote to the committee with concerns over Stowell’s suitability for the job.

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Baroness Stowell was leader of the House of Lords when David Cameron was PM

Collins added: “The candidate was a longstanding government minister less than two years ago.

“The fact that Baroness Stowell had a political career is not itself a bar, and the candidate has publicly committed to giving up the Conservative whip upon appointment.

“However, her political past is a source of concern for the Committee and those within the charity sector.”

The Folkestone MP said he had made repeated requests to Karen Bradley - the previous culture secretary - for the names of other candidates who were rejected after being considered for the role, but never received the information. 

His letter goes on: “On 19 December, the committee wrote to you explaining that we thought it regrettable that candidates for public roles of the kind we scrutinise apparently continue to be drawn from a narrow group of establishment figures.

“Baroness Stowell claimed to be a ‘veteran outsider’, and yet she has been leader of the House of Lords, head of corporate affairs at the BBC, and deputy chief of staff to the leader of the Conservative Party.

“This does not strike us as the CV of an “outsider.”

Stowell, a former civil servant of 10 years, previously said she was “delighted” to be chosen for the job.