Dame Suzi to make G20 appearance

Charity Commission chair is drafted in at the last minute to give summit a 'human face'

Dame Suzi Leather
Dame Suzi Leather

Dame Suzi Leather, chair of the Charity Commission, has been drafted in at short notice to address the G20 meeting of world leaders tomorrow.

She will be giving a short speech on the role of charities as a safety net for those who are suffering most as a result of the credit crunch and the recession.

The surprise announcement came last night from Downing Street after ministers and officials concluded the G20 agenda needed rebalancing.

They considered that Leather would give a human face to a programme dominated by technical discussions about finance and the international banking system.

The last-minute change of plan is proving an extra security challenge for the Metropolitan Police as they struggle to deal with multiple demonstrations in the City of London.

Leather will be whisked by police speedboat from the commission's London headquarters near Blackfriars Bridge to the Excel centre in Docklands, where the G20 is taking place. Plans for her to make the trip by helicopter were dropped after security experts raised concerns about overcrowded skies across the capital.

One factor in the decision to bring in Dame Suzi was a desire to defuse the tension between the US and the UK and President Sarkozy of France, who has blamed the "les Anglo-Saxons" for the world's economic woes.

One official said: "It was thought that we needed to bring in some soft skills and alter the tone of the proceedings. The charm of Dame Suzi seemed to fit the bill."

There will also be an opportunity for her to meet her counterparts among regulators in other national delegations. These include Vervolg Leer of Holland, Klagen Leder of Germany and Demandar Cuero of Spain.

However, Leather will not be invited to take part in the official photo opportunity that precedes the summit. Despite arguments that this would add interest, it was deemed a breach of protocol.

Leather was unavailable for comment, but a commission spokeswoman said: "She is always prepared to step in and speak up for the vital role charities play in society."

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