1.This Report follows the pre-appointment hearing we held with the Secretary of State’s preferred candidate for the Chair of Homes England, one of four posts which are subject to pre-appointment scrutiny by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee.
2.Following the resignation of Sir Edward Lister as Chair of Homes England, the Secretary of State appointed Simon Dudley to the role of Interim Chair while the Department made plans to recruit a new permanent Chair. Mr Dudley was previously the Senior Independent Director on the Homes England Board. The recruitment process began with a new job description, updated to reflect that the role and remit of Homes England “changed significantly”.
3.The recruitment process was understandably delayed by the dissolution of Parliament and the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant interviews were not held until July 2020. The Secretary of State also reopened the competition for a short period from June to July 2020 after one of the candidates invited for interview withdrew from the process.
4.On 2 October, following the completion of the recruitment process, the Secretary of State wrote to the Committee to confirm he had selected Peter Freeman CBE as his preferred candidate for the role.
5.Homes England is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, with a variety of powers and functions within the housing market in England, including funding new affordable housing, unlocking public and private land, offering expert support, and delivering home ownership products such as Help to Buy.
6.The responsibilities of the Chair of Homes England are set out in full in the candidate information pack. They include the following essential criteria:
7.Peter Freeman CBE, the Government’s preferred candidate, founded the Argent Group in 1981, and is a current non-executive director at Argent. Mr Freeman has also been Chair of Mayfield Market Towns Ltd since 2012. He was Chair of the Steering Group and author of ‘Housing sprint - how to solve the housing crisis’, published in March 2020. Mr Freeman’s CV is appended to this report.
8.We held a pre-appointment hearing with Peter Freeman on 12 October 2020. In line with the guidance drawn up by the Liaison Committee on the conduct of pre-appointment hearings, our questioning sought to test Mr Freeman’s professional competence and personal independence. We explored the following areas:
9.We endorse Mr Freeman’s appointment as Chair of Homes England, subject to him resigning from the Board of Argent Services LLP and divesting his financial interests in Mayfield Market Towns if and when it receives an allocation, and with the assurance that neither the King’s Cross project nor Mayfield Market Towns—while he has a financial interest—will make any request for Homes England funding. We also wish to make sure he divests himself of any other pecuniary or non-pecuniary interests that might benefit from Homes England support in the future. We believe this is necessary to avoid any accusations of conflicts of interests, whether real or perceived.
1 For the full list, see Appendix 1
5 Appendix 4
6 Appendix 3
Published: 15 October 2020