Pre-appointment hearing for the Service Complaints Commissioner - Defence Committee Contents

3  The recruitment process and our scrutiny

Recruitment process

7. The MoD provided us with a memorandum on the recruitment process.[10] The post was advertised on 20 July 2014 and the closing date for applications was 8 September 2014. The recruitment campaign was conducted in line with Cabinet Office and the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA) guidance. GatenbySanderson were appointed by the MoD to administer the competition and carry out an executive search. Serving members of the Armed Forces were ineligible to apply and the candidate pack also stated that those with recent Armed Forces or Civil Service experience were also likely to be ineligible. The members of the selection panel were:

·  Margaret Scott, OCPA Public Appointments Assessor and Chair;

·  Air Chief Marshall Sir Stuart Peach KCB, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff;

·  Lieutenant-General Andrew Gregory CB, Chief Defence Personnel;

·  Gavin Barlow, Director Service Personnel Policy;

·  Elizabeth France, Chair of the Office for Legal Complaints.

Elizabeth France was the independent member of the panel.

8. There were 88 applications for the post with 12 candidates long-listed for preliminary interview by GatenbySanderson. Four candidates were shortlisted for final interviews and the panel decided that two candidates were appointable to the role. Anna Soubry MP, Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, MoD, met the candidates on 3 November and nominated Nicola Williams as her preferred candidate.

The Government's preferred candidate

9. Nicola Williams has held the post of the Complaints Commissioner for Cayman Islands since 2009 with a remit that covers 93 government bodies. Since 2009 she has also been a Crown Court Recorder sitting on the London and South Eastern Circuit. Previously, Ms Williams was a Commissioner at the Independent Police Complaints Commission with particular responsibility for Kent, Sussex, the Ministry of Defence Police and part of the Metropolitan Police. She has also been a board member at the Police Complaints Authority and from 1985 to 2001 she was a barrister in private practice specialising in criminal law.

10. A full CV is appended to this report.

Our scrutiny

11. We questioned Ms Williams on her professional background and what had attracted to the post, her past experience, including her prior professional or personal experience of the Armed Forces, and her independence.

12. Particular lines of questioning focused on:

·  maintaining the independence of the Commissioner;

·  the change of the post to one of an Ombudsman and how she would manage this transition;

·  how she would familiarise herself with the many aspects of Service life, the differences between each of the Services and the different challenges they face;

·  how she would engage with the various stakeholders in the complaints process such as complainants, the chain of command, Parliament, media and the public;

·  what challenges she foresaw for the complaints system over the next three years and her priorities in addressing them;

·  how she would ensure the fairness, effectiveness and efficiency of the Service complaints system; and

·  how she would measure the effectiveness of her tenure as Commissioner / Ombudsman.

10   Ministry of Defence (PRE0001) Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2014
Prepared 28 November 2014