Charity Commission board member was headhunted by Michael Gove

Peter Clarke says the justice secretary phoned him to draw his attention to the upcoming vacancy of chief inspector of prisons

Michael Gove
Michael Gove

Peter Clarke, the Charity Commission board member who is set to leave the regulator to become chief inspector of prisons, has said that Michael Gove, the justice secretary, phoned him to draw his attention to the vacancy before it was advertised.

In a pre-appointment scrutiny hearing with the House of Commons Justice Committee in parliament yesterday, Clarke was asked by the committee if  Gove had phoned him before he applied to take up the role.

"Yes, he did," said Clarke. "He phoned me, clearly some time after the general election, and said that sometime in the forthcoming weeks and months there would be an advertisement placed for this particular role.

"He didn’t know whether I would be interested or not and I said I didn’t know whether I would be interested or not because obviously it would be a big change in my life and for my family," he said.

Clarke said that Gove made the point "very clearly that this was a public appointment and therefore an open competition".

Clarke was being questioned by MPs on the committee alongside Glenys Stacey, chief regulator at the qualifications regulator Ofqual, who was being examined before her expected appointment as chief inspector of probation.

Stacey had earlier admitted during the hearing that Gove had contacted her and drawn her attention to the upcoming prison and probation vacancies, and told her which recruitment agency would be handling the applications.

She told MPs on the committee that Gove had phoned her on her mobile one evening to congratulate her on the job she had done at Ofqual.

Gove, in his previous role as education secretary, had appointed Clarke as schools commissioner for Birmingham to lead the investigation into the alleged "Trojan Horse" plot by Islamic extremists to infiltrate local schools.

Before he retired in 2008, Clarke had worked in the Metropolitan Police for more than 30 years, and served as assistant commissioner and head of the anti-terrorist branch.

William Shawcross, chair of the commission, said earlier this week that Clarke’s appointment was "good news for the country but bad news for the commission". 

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