MPs back appointment of Martin Thomas as next Charity Commission chair

It paves the way for the government's preferred candidate to take up the position on 26 December

Martin Thomas

MPs have backed the appointment of Martin Thomas as the next chair of the Charity Commission after a hearing yesterday.

Thomas, the government’s preferred candidate for the role, appeared before members of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee yesterday so they could assess his suitability for the position.

In a report published this morning, the committee says it approves Thomas for the position and says he will bring “considerable experience in, and knowledge of, the charity sector to the role”.

The report says: “We felt he demonstrated a sound awareness of the challenges facing the sector and the regulator’s role vis-à-vis its wide range of stakeholders.

“He gave detailed and measured responses, and was not quick to jump to conclusions, which speaks to his ability to withstand scrutiny.”

The report says it was regrettable that, in common with a number of recent public appointments by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, “the process for appointing the new chair of the Charity Commission has been drawn out and subject to allegations of political interference”.

It says: “Given this wider context, and our predecessor committee’s concerns about the independence of the former chair, we were encouraged by Mr Thomas’s comments about the importance of both the commission’s independence and the relationship between its chair and parliament, via this committee.

“We were also pleased that he acknowledged the importance of the role of pre-appointment scrutiny by select committees in building public trust, which we agree is vital to the commission’s work, and that he said he would consider not taking the post if we determined him unsuitable for the role.”

In 2018, the committee unanimously decided not to back Baroness Stowell’s appointment as chair of the Charity Commission after she gave what Julian Knight, the committee’s chair, said this week was “the worst interview I have seen in 30 years of professional life”.

But Matt Hancock, the culture secretary at the time, decided to give her the job anyway.

The select committee’s report says MPs welcomed Thomas’ commitment to improving the diversity of the Charity Commission board and of trustees in the wider sector.

But the committee criticised the government for not working hard enough to ensure a more diverse range of candidates applied for the role.

Thomas is due to take up the role on 26 December for a three-year term. He will be paid £62,500 a year for an expected two-and-a-half days a week.

Ian Karet has been interim chair of the commission since Stowell stepped down in February.

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