Pre-appointment hearing for Chair of the Charity Commission

This is a House of Commons Committee report.

Sixth Report of Session 2021–22

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Contents

Background to today’s session

Introduction

1. On 2 December 2021, the Government informed this Committee that its preferred candidate for the role of Chair of the Charity Commission was Martin Thomas.1 The post of Chair of the Charity Commission is one of those listed as subject to the agreed pre-appointment hearing process.2 We held a pre-appointment hearing for Mr Thomas on 9 December 2021. We thank him for his evidence, which is published on our website.

2. The previous Chair, the Rt Hon Baroness Stowell of Beeston MBE, was appointed by the Government despite the Committee not considering her a suitable candidate for the role.

Baroness Stowell has failed to meet the most fundamental of requirements for this role. Baroness Stowell does not have experience in the charity or regulatory sectors, and she failed to provide any convincing explanation to us in its absence of how she met the skills and experience criteria of the Government’s Code on Public Appointments. Baroness Stowell may well turn out to have the necessary skills—she has simply found no way to demonstrate them so far and failed to convince us that lack of experience was compensated for by clarity of vision and a clear sense of how she was going to transfer the skills and experience she has gained to a novel area of employment. To be a convincing candidate for the role she needs to be able to demonstrate more relevant experience. The Government must explain on what basis and on what evidence it believes Baroness Stowell’s limited to non-existent experience in any comparable role is sufficient to carry out the role of Chair of the Charity Commission. It must also provide evidence that no other appointable candidates could be identified who had greater relevant experience in either the regulatory or charitable sectors.3

The Charity Commission

3. The Charity Commission is the independent registrar and regulator of charities in England and Wales. Its role is to register and regulate the charities in England and Wales, and to ensure that the public can support charities with confidence. It regulates over 168,000 registered charities and £81.2 billion of charitable income. A non-Ministerial Department, it is based across four sites, employing approximately 420 staff and in 2019/20 had a budget of £29.3 million.

4. The Commission’s statutory objectives, as set out in the Charities Act 2011, are to:

  • Increase public trust and confidence in charities
  • Promote awareness and understanding of the operation of the public benefit requirement
  • Promote compliance by charity trustees with their legal obligations in exercising control and management of the administration of their charities
  • Promote the effective use of charitable resources
  • Enhance the accountability of charities to donors, beneficiaries and the general public

The Commission’s Statement of Strategic Intent for 2018–2023 sets out its core purpose: to ensure charity can thrive and inspire trust so that people can improve lives and strengthen society.

The role

5. Although the Charity Commission’s Board is ultimately responsible for all it does, day-to-day and operational management is delegated to the Chief Executive (Helen Stephenson CBE, in post since 2017).

6. The Chair is responsible for leading the Board in:

  • ensuring the Commission:
    • effectively fulfils its statutory objectives, general functions and duties and appropriately exercises its legal powers
    • is accountable to Parliament, the courts, and the general public
    • delivers its services within its funding agreement
  • setting the Commission’s strategic priorities and direction of policy over the next three years;
  • supporting the Commission in securing the resources it needs to effectively and efficiently discharge its functions and duties;
  • regulating independently, proportionately and impartially and acting in good faith and in the corporate interest;
  • maintaining and developing strong relationships with government, Parliament, sector bodies and other major stakeholders and key influencers;
  • supporting and managing the Chief Executive, including agreeing objectives and undertaking an annual appraisal;
  • along with the Chief Executive, communicating the Commission’s role to stakeholders including the public, charities and their users, the Government and Commission staff;
  • ensuring that the Board and its members observe the highest standards of propriety and operate in accordance with the Commission’s Governance Framework and the Nolan principles of standards in public life.

7. Ian Karet was appointed Interim Chair of the Charity Commission in February 2021 after the previous Chair, Baroness Stowell, announced that she would not seek a second term at the end of her three-year appointment.

Recruitment process

8. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport launched the competition to appoint her replacement in March 2021. Although the appointments process was due to conclude in the summer, the Interim Chair’s term was subsequently extended until 26 December 2021. Appointments to the Board of the Charity Commission are made under the Charities Act 2011. This provides that there shall be a person appointed by the Secretary of State to Chair the Commission.

9. This appointments campaign was administered directly by the Public Appointments team at DCMS. The interview process was undertaken in accordance with the Governance Code and with the Principles of Public Appointments.

Person specification

10. The new Chair’s pay and working hours will remain the same as they were for Baroness Stowell, requiring two-and-a-half days a week and remunerated at £62,500 a year. No pension is payable for the appointment. The appointment is for three years.

11. The person specification states that the successful candidate must be able to demonstrate the majority of the following essential criteria:

  • the ability to be an accessible and engaging ambassador for the organisation, and have the ability to influence high level stakeholders within government and Parliament, the media, the charity sector and the business world;
  • the ability and skills to lead a board and make strategic decisions within a high profile organisation operating within a complex external landscape;
  • a commitment to the charity sector’s effective, independent, proportionate, and impartial regulation;
  • a strong commitment to ensuring charities remain focused on delivering their core charitable purposes and ensuring that trustees understand their legal duties, including on campaigning and political activity;
  • the ability to, and past experience of, providing a high quality service and delivering value for money for the taxpayer and/or shareholders;
  • an understanding of and interest in the charity sector, including an awareness of the multifaceted challenges it faces resulting from changing social and economic circumstances;
  • the ability to build and recruit a high-performing Board and support the organisation through a period of significant change;
  • a strong commitment to diversity, inclusion and providing opportunities for all.

Applicants

12. There were a total of 37 applicants for the role, of which 36 completed the diversity monitoring form. From the 36 who completed the form:

  • 9/36 (25%) applicants identified as female;
  • 6/36 (17%) applicants identified as BAME; and,
  • 1/36 (3%) applicant declared a disability.

13. Eight applicants were selected for interview, including one female candidate (12.5%), one candidate from a declared BAME background (12.5%) and none who declared a disability (0%). (N.B. One candidate withdrew their application prior to interview and therefore only seven candidates were interviewed). Aggregated diversity data was shared with the Advisory Assessment Panel but, as is standard practice across appointments, diversity data for individual candidates was not made available to the panel.

14. DCMS Ministers expressed disappointment about the lack of diversity of the shortlist (female, BAME and disability); however, the panel were content that the shortlist included a number of individuals with a broad range of relevant experience and expertise (i.e. strong in diversity of skills).

15. The role was advertised on the Cabinet Office Centre for Public Appointments website, DCMS’s LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, Evenbreak (an accessible disability job board), Women on Boards and NED on Board. The role was shared and promoted via a variety of additional channels with a focus on diversity including Women in Banking and Finance, the Black Business Association, and the Association of Third Sector Chairs.

Interviews

16. The interviews were held remotely on Monday 13 and Friday 24 September and the Advisory Assessment Panel comprised:

  • Ruth Hannant (Chair, 13 September interviews) and Polly Payne (Chair, 24 September interviews);
  • Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle (Senior Independent Panel Member);
  • John Booth (Independent Panel Member); and,
  • Mike Ashley (Other Panel Member).

17. Following the interviews, the panel assessed that all seven candidates interviewed were appointable to this role.

The candidate

Biographical information

18. Martin Thomas is the Government’s preferred candidate for the Chair of the Charity Commission. He has over 20 years’ experience in the insurance and financial services sectors including roles at the Bank of England, the European Commission and the European Central Bank.

19. Mr Thomas currently holds a number of charitable roles and is the Chair of NHS Resolution. He is Chair of the trustees of Downside Up a charity which provides support and advice for families raising children with Down syndrome in Russia. He is also Chair of the Trustees of Forward Arts Foundation, which is a charity committed to widening poetry’s audience, honouring achievement and supporting talent, through National Poetry Day, the Forward Prizes for Poetry and the Forward Book of Poetry, an indispensable annual anthology of the year’s best poems.

20. He was previously Chair of Trustees for Women for Women International UK which helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives.

Our evidence

21. In oral evidence, we asked Martin Thomas about the following specific matters:

  • The pre-appointment process
  • The need for political independence
  • His priorities for the Charity Commission
  • The role of the Commission in holding charities to account

Conclusion

22. It is regrettable that, like 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. 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.

23. It is evident that Mr Thomas will bring considerable experience in, and knowledge of, the charity sector to the role. 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.

24. On the basis of the evidence presented, we approve Martin Thomas’s appointment as Chair of the Charity Commission, and wish him well in the role. We welcome his commitment to improving the diversity of the Charity Commission Board and of trustees in the wider sector. However, Government should have worked harder to ensure a more diverse pool of candidates applied for the role. We look forward to speaking to Mr Thomas over the rest of this Parliament as we continue our scrutiny of the Commission’s work and follow up on his plans to improve the Commission’s dealings with stakeholders, including MPs.

Appendix: CV and accompanying papers

Martin Thomas CV

Career

2021–Present

NHS Resolution

Chair

NHS Resolution is an Arm’s Length Body of the Department of Health and Social Care. We provide expertise to the NHS on resolving concerns and disputes fairly, sharing learning for improvement and preserving resources for patient care.

2016–2020

MEDICAL PROTECTION SOCIETY

Vice-chairman

MPS is a mutual. It is the world’s leading protection organisation for more than 300,000 medical, dental and healthcare professionals. I was also a member of the board’s Asset and Liability Committee, Management Oversight Committee, and Remuneration Committee.

2012–2018

SYNCONA LIMITED

Non-executive director

Syncona builds companies in innovative areas of healthcare, mostly those that contribute to the fight against cancer. I was a board member, and chair of BACIT(UK) Limited, its investment manager.

2008–2016

ALTIMA PARTNERS LLP

Partner, Board Member and Head of Unlisted Investments

Altima was an asset management business based in London.

2006–2016

LANCASHIRE HOLDINGS

Chairman

Lancashire Holdings is a FTSE 250 insurer, established in 2005. I also chaired the FCA-regulated subsidiary, Lancashire Insurance Company (UK) Limited.

2004–2006

EUROPEAN COMMISSION, BRUSSELS

Financial Services Policy and Financial Markets Directorate, DG Internal Market

I was sent on secondment to the Commission to work on a law reform project about owning and trading securities.

2002–2004

BANK OF ENGLAND

Secretary, Financial Markets Law Committee

The Financial Markets Law Committee was an independent function hosted by the Bank of England, with a remit to identify and resolve issues of legal uncertainty affecting the international wholesale financial markets.

1999–2002

FINANCIAL LAW PANEL

Deputy Chief Executive

The Financial Law Panel was an independent City institution dedicated to solving legal uncertainties that affect the financial markets both in the UK and internationally.

1997–1999

EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK/EUROPEAN MONETARY INSTITUTE

Senior Legal Counsel

1988–1997

SOLICITOR

Travers Smith, then Clifford Chance

Current roles as charity chair

Forward Arts Foundation – UK’s campaign for poetry, sponsor of National Poetry Day (since 2013)

Down’s Syndrome Diamond Foundation – grant-making for Down’s Syndrome (since 2010)

Gwithian Chapel – maintaining a Methodist chapel in Cornwall (since 2006)

Downside Up – improving the lives of Russian children with Downs Syndrome (since 1995)

Former charity trusteeships

As chair

Women for Women International – helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives

Syncona Foundation – grants based around fighting cancer

Richard Beeston Bursary Trust – better foreign correspondents in the Middle East

Keo Foundation – environmental and community food issues

Hemam Foundation – arranging for Palestinians in Lebanon to go to universities

As trustee

Lancashire Foundation – connected to Lancashire Holdings insurance company

Guidestar International – forerunner search engine about charities

Balance Foundation – to allow stockbrokers to donate dormant monies held on client account

Crossflow – promoting women’s health in Nepal

Education and personal

Educated in Cornwall and at a public school. Exhibitioner at Oxford reading classics 1982–86. Lives in Wiltshire; married; 5 children.

Questionnaire for pre-appointment committee hearing

1)What motivated you to apply for this role, and what specific experiences would you bring to it?

Motivation. I have had dealings with the Charity Commission for more than 25 years and over that period have come to admire it. I believe I am well suited to help it continue to succeed. I would combine my knowledge of law and regulation, and of the charitable sector, and of the operation of public sector agencies, and my skills and experience as a chair in the public, private and NGO sectors, and my desire to contribute to the future of the country.

Specific experiences. I have a wide range of experience in chairing, governance, leadership and strategic thinking in private, public and NGO sectors, both national and international. I will give more detail divided into chairship; of a regulator; in the charity sector.

Chairship. I have chaired boards in the private, public and charity sectors, most notably: NHS Resolution (a DHSC ALB); Lancashire Holdings, a FTSE 250 listed insurer; BACIT (UK), a regulated investment manager; the Legal Certainty Group at the EU Commission; 10 charities. The external landscapes of these encompass the listed stock market, the health system, the FSA’s regulatory regime, the infrastructure of the international financial markets, and the institutions of the EU. I was also vice-chair of the Medical Protection Society, a mutual.

In leading boards my guiding principle has always been to interrogate, understand, and then focus on delivering the organisation’s core purpose.

The boards I have served on have overseen many areas of significant change, including: opening new business in UK; and overseas; coming within UK regulatory regimes (Charity Commission; PRA; FSA insurance; FSA asset management); litigation; management restructures; governance restructures; IT projects; myriad responses to the evolution of workforce.

I created one of the first UK listed insurance boards with over 30% women members. As a result I joined the 30% Club and sat for a while on the Equalities and Human Rights Commission Forum on Women on Boards. I have appointed several young trustees to charity boards and I am a member of the Young Trustees Movement. I am on the NHS Diversity and Inclusion Board Network. I have led the establishment of People Committees at four boards, in each case to ensure the board engages with far wider people issues than mere remuneration.

Regulator. I have worked at several entities subject to financial services regulation. I have worked at three entities which have regulatory powers. I have worked in a regulated profession. The charities I have served on as trustee have all been regulated by the Charity Commission.

Charity Sector. I have been a charity trustee 14 times, 9 times as chair. 3 of these charities have been grant-making; 10 grant-seeking. I set out a full list at the end of this questionnaire.

As a result I have been involved in the full range of actions and decisions that charitable trustees are called upon to make.

I have also been involved in a range of initiatives relevant to the charitable sector. These include:

Dormant assets: I co-founded The Balance Foundation in 2003. We successfully identified a way for the financial regulator (FSA, now FCA) to change its rules to allow dormant assets held on client accounts to be released to charities. This may be seen as a forerunner of and contributor to the movement to release dormant assets more generally. Transparency: I was a trustee of Guidestar; in 2010, in liaison with the Charity Commission, we launched what became the country’s leading search engine about charities (until the Commission successfully revamped its website to allow the Register to be searchable). Financial engineering and social investment: I was, with others, a co-founder of Syncona in 2012, at the time called BACIT, which dedicated a slice of its wealth (1% AUM, some £5m) per year to charities fighting cancer, and successfully encouraged them to treat the grants as an annuity, which allowed them to leverage the income to secure loans. New charitable vehicles: I have, with others, set up a Community Benefit Society under the 2014 Act, and it has successfully launched a community-owned electric mobile refill shop. Changes in the workforce: there is a greater need than ever before to take pastoral care over one’s workforce. Old-style Remuneration Committees are no longer enough. I have established four People Committees to reflect this. Digital: I have co-led the transfer of Downside Up’s services from physical to online (started before COVID, accelerated by it).

2)If appointed, are there specific areas within your new responsibilities where you will need to acquire new skills or knowledge?

I will need to make sure that I understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Charity Commission’s culture in order to support and manage the Chief Executive. I will need to establish good working relationships with the current board members. I will need to develop strong relationships with government, Parliament, sector bodies and other major stakeholders and key influencers.

I have come into contact with the legal framework for charities and the Charity Commission but I have not immersed myself in it. This is also perhaps an area to flag.

I am aware in particular that I have some gaps in my knowledge of the sector, as the charities I have been involved in cover only parts of the range. I am especially inexperienced in understanding issues within the UK relating to regionalism and localism. I will need to focus on this.

3)How were you recruited? Were you encouraged to apply, and if so, by whom?

I saw the news in October 2020 that the previous chair was to stand down. I followed the Public Appointments news alerts, and I applied when it was listed.

I was then recruited as per the process as set out by DCMS and the Commissioner for Public Appointments in the Role Specification and associated documents. This involved a preliminary conversation with a member of the DCMS public appointments team (about conflicts of interest), then the submission of a CV and covering letter. I then undertook a media test. I then had an interview in front of the advertised Advisory Assessment Panel. I then had a conversation with the Secretary of State.

No one encouraged me to apply.

Personal Background

4)Do you currently or potentially have any business, financial or other non- pecuniary interests or commitments, that might give rise to the perception of a conflict of interest if you are appointed? How do you intend to resolve any potential conflicts of interests if you are appointed?

I am chair of NHS Resolution. Both its sponsoring department, DHSC, and DCMS and the board of NHS Resolution are happy for me to take up the role. There are of course charities active in the health and care sectors. The work of NHS Resolution relates to resolving disputes and claims arising in those sectors. If it were to happen that any such matter involved a regulated charity, I would expect to take no part in any related discussion or decision at either the NHSR or the Charity Commission boards.

If appointed, I will resign from all current trusteeships. I will also recuse myself from any discussion about a charity I have served on in the past. And I will take care to disclose where relevant my current memberships of the Association of Charity Chairs and of the Young Trustees Movement, from both of which I will of course also resign.

5)If appointed, what professional or voluntary work commitments will you continue to undertake, or do you intend to take on, alongside your new role? How will you reconcile these with your new role?

None, save for a short period of continuing engagement in a non-decision-making capacity as I will aim to agree with the Charity Commission to allow for orderly handovers.

6)Have you ever held any post or undertaken any activity that might cast doubt on your political impartiality? If so, how will you demonstrate your political impartiality in the role if appointed?

None

7)Do you intend to serve your full term of office?

Yes

The Charity Commission

8)If appointed, what will be your main priorities on taking up the role?

As per the published role specification, I will aim to be an accessible and engaging ambassador for the organisation, and have the ability to influence high level stakeholders within government and Parliament, the media, the charity sector and the business world. I will aim to lead the board in making the right strategic decisions within a complex internal and external landscape. I will have a strong commitment to ensuring charities remain focused on delivering their core charitable purposes and ensuring that trustees understand their legal duties, including on campaigning and political activity. I will be committed to diversity, inclusion and providing opportunities for all.

If appointed, I would expect to have an extended briefing period concerning the major challenges which the Charity Commission faces. Having had that briefing, I would then seek to understand and develop the priorities of the board. In 2022–23 the Charity Commission is entering the fourth year of its current strategy, so will aim to review the strategy in this coming year. That will be an ideal time to be involved in leading the board to start to set the new strategy.

I anticipate two immediate such priorities will be to ensure the Charity Commission responds to the continuing consequences of the COVID pandemic, and to ensure that it is doing everything it can to meet its objectives, not least the objective to increase public trust and confidence in charities.

9)What criteria should the Committee use to judge the Charity Commission’s performance over your term of office?

The Charity Commission is subject to significant evaluation processes. And it is accountable to Parliament via this Committee and the Public Accounts Committee.

Currently, the Charity Commission uses two sets of measures for evaluation.

One is Operational Performance Standards. These standards have been set and designed for the services the Commission provides to the public and trustees, those who rely on them as a regulator and on whom they depend, so that they can hold the Charity Commission to account. The key purpose of working to, and reporting performance against, these standards is to provide a clear and simple picture of the timeliness, quality and effectiveness of the Charity Commission’s operational work, to support good governance in charities and protect beneficiaries. Reporting on these standards each year also offers more information so that the public can see how, each year, the Charity Commission is fulfilling its obligations. Both the standards and an assessment of performance against them is published in the annual report.

The other is Strategic Impact Measures. Here, the Charity Commission monitors a set of strategic impact measures to assess the effectiveness of our strategy. These are: trustees’ understanding of what public expectations are and the extent to which they take these seriously; overall levels of public trust and confidence in charities; the assurance the public thinks it can draw from registered status and the importance it attaches to that assurance; trustees’ confidence in the risk-based regulatory model; awareness of the Charity Commission and familiarity with its work.

The Charity Commission is considering in addition a set of regulatory impact measures. This might help the Committee and the Charity Commission understand the impact of the Commission’s regulation, thus bridging the gap between the Commission’s strategic impact and operational performance, and thereby providing a complete picture of the Charity Commission’s impact and effectiveness. I look forward to learning more about this.

10)How will you protect and enhance your personal independence and the institutional independence of the Charity Commission from the Government/ministers?

Whilst I believe in courteous engagement with relevant stakeholders, including parliament and government, it is my intention to conform to the independence requirements as laid down in the Charities Act 2011 and elsewhere, for example those that derive from the Nolan principles.

I have experience in my career of working at several institutions, most notably two central banks, where both personal and institutional independence is treated as a matter of the highest importance.

11)How do you assess the public profile and reputation of the Charity Commission?

The Charity Commission is widely recognised as being independent, both from the sector it regulates and from the authorities that give it regulatory responsibility and make appointments to its board; precise and clear in its guidance; just, consistent and calm in its quasi-judicial and investigative roles. It has true authority and expertise in the areas where it operates, all of which have been laid down by Parliament.

The best contribution it can make to the quality of life in this country is by holding fast to those attributes. That requires that it should be a reliable, stable, thoughtful actor in the charity sector, neither avoiding its rightful role in the issues of the day nor reducing itself to a mere participant in public debate.

12)What risks do you think the Charity Commission will face over your term of office? How do you intend to manage them?

There are a number of risks and challenges currently facing the Charity Commission.

One immediate challenge relates to the progress of the sector as we emerge from the pandemic. In particular, there is a healthy tension between the desire of the sector to participate fully in supporting recovery from the pandemic, versus the need for those who have depleted their financial reserves during the pandemic to aim to restore them. It may be worth looking at emphasising an expectation that trustees should not only have a reserves policy, but also report on how it is being executed.

I identify two further shifts afoot in our society that have particular relevance and resonance for the Charity Commission.

One is new ways of working and communicating: the Commission’s challenge, and therefore also risk, is how to address those for whom the regulatory relationship is best framed as more of a conversation than a lecture, and more wholly online than ever before. The pdf of the Charity Commission paper, “The essential trustee: what you need to know, what you need to do” is 40 pages long—too long to be a one size fits all offering. The Commission should take great credit for supplementing this perhaps increasingly old-fashioned way of communicating with its recent 5-minute guides. I think that more should be done in this direction, not only so as to cater to all learning tastes, but also increase the accessibility of trusteeship across society.

The other is an ever greater social conscience: more and more people are prioritising ethical and philanthropic behaviour in their everyday lives—how we respond to inequalities, how we respond to climate change, for example. See for example the laudable rise of social impact capitalism and ESG investing. So the regulated charity sector is only part—perhaps the central part—of a wider movement towards good behaviour and action. The Charity Commission has a role to play in bolstering the regulated sector’s role by ensuring its position in the larger part is correctly seen and correctly respected.

Current charity trusteeships as chair

Forward Arts Foundation – UK’s campaign for poetry, sponsor of National Poetry Day;

Down’s Syndrome Diamond Foundation – grant-making for Down’s Syndrome;

Gwithian Chapel – maintaining a Methodist chapel in Cornwall;

Downside Up – improving the lives of Russian children with Downs Syndrome.

Former charity trusteeships as chair

Women for Women International – helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives;

Keo Foundation – environmental and community food issues;

Syncona Foundation – grants based around fighting cancer;

Hemam Foundation – arranging for Palestinians in Lebanon to go to university;

Crossflow – promoting women’s health in Nepal.

Other former charity trusteeships

Richard Beeston Bursary Trust – better foreign correspondents in the Middle East;

Lancashire Foundation – grants supported by Lancashire Holdings insurance company;

Guidestar International – forerunner search engine about charities;

Balance Foundation – to allow stockbrokers to donate dormant monies held on client account.

Bethany Homes – alms houses in Cornwall

Background

Providing information to select committees

Information about the preferred candidate

  • Name of the preferred candidate

MARTIN THOMAS

  • Their current CV (redacted for publication)
  • Declaration of relevant interests made by the candidate:

Mr Thomas declared on his returned ‘Declaration of conflict of interest form’ at point of application: I am currently chair of trustees of 5 charities and 1 Community Benefit Society, and a member of the Association of Charity Chairs, from all of which I would of course resign if appointed.

  • Declaration of relevant political activity made by the candidate required under paragraph 9.2 of the Governance Code on Public Appointments:

As per the paragraph 9.2 of the Governance Code, political activity should not affect any judgement of merit nor be a bar to appointment. Any reportable donations are publicly available on the Electoral Commission website.

Martin has not declared any political activity or made any donations in the last 5 years.

  • Proposed terms of appointment and remuneration (if any)

The remuneration for this role is £62,500 per annum, for a time commitment of up to two and a half days per week.

Further information on the Charity Commission, the role, the process and the candidate can be found below. Also attached at Annex B is the CO’s proforma.

Background: the Charity Commission and the role of the Chair

Overview

The Charity Commission is the independent registrar and regulator of charities in England and Wales. Its role is to register and regulate the charities in England and Wales, and to ensure that the public can support charities with confidence. It regulates over 168,000 registered charities and £81.2 billion of charitable income. A non-Ministerial Department, it is based across four sites, employing approximately 420 staff and in 2019/20 had a budget of £29.3 Million. Its current Strategic Plan comes to an end in 2023.

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport wishes to appoint a new Chair to the Charity Commission for England and Wales. This is a public appointment and will be conducted in compliance with the Cabinet Office’s Governance Code on Public Appointments and under the principles of merit, fairness and openness.

The successful candidate will be required to attend a pre-appointment hearing before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. The proposed date for a pre- appointment hearing for this role will be confirmed as soon as possible after the launch of this campaign.

The role

The appointment is for a term of up to three years. The role is for two and a half days per week, remunerated at £62,500 per annum. No pension is payable for the appointment.

Most of the Chair’s work will be based at the Charity Commission’s London office (remotely at present). The successful candidate will be expected to undertake some travel in connection with the role, for which reasonable expenses will be paid (in line with the Charity Commission’s policies).

Role specification

The Charity Commission’s Board is ultimately responsible for all that the Commission does. In order for the Commission to discharge its responsibilities appropriately and effectively, day-to-day and operational management is delegated to the Chief Executive.

The Chair of the Board is responsible for leading the board in:

  • ensuring the Commission:
    • effectively fulfils its statutory objectives, general functions and duties and appropriately exercises its legal powers
    • is accountable to Parliament, the courts, and the general public
    • delivers its services within its funding agreement
  • setting the Commission’s strategic priorities and direction of policy over the next three years;
  • supporting the Commission in securing the resources it needs to effectively and efficiently discharge its functions and duties;
  • regulating independently, proportionately and impartially and acting in good faith and in the corporate interest;
  • maintaining and developing strong relationships with government, Parliament, sector bodies and other major stakeholders and key influencers;
  • supporting and managing the Chief Executive, including agreeing objectives and undertaking an annual appraisal;
  • along with the Chief Executive, communicating the Commission’s role to stakeholders including the public, charities and their users, the Government and Commission staff;
  • ensuring that the Board and its members observe the highest standards of propriety and operate in accordance with the Commission’s Governance Framework and the Nolan principles of standards in public life.

The Commission’s Governance Framework sets out in detail the respective roles and responsibilities of the Commission, Board, Chair and the Executive.

Person Specification

The successful candidate must be able to demonstrate the majority of the following essential criteria:

  • the ability to be an accessible and engaging ambassador for the organisation, and have the ability to influence high level stakeholders within government and Parliament, the media, the charity sector and the business world;
  • the ability and skills to lead a board and make strategic decisions within a high profile organisation operating within a complex external landscape;
  • a commitment to the charity sector’s effective, independent, proportionate, and impartial regulation;
  • a strong commitment to ensuring charities remain focused on delivering their core charitable purposes and ensuring that trustees understand their legal duties, including on campaigning and political activity;
  • the ability to, and past experience of, providing a high quality service and delivering value for money for the taxpayer and/or shareholders;
  • an understanding of and interest in the charity sector, including an awareness of the multifaceted challenges it faces resulting from changing social and economic circumstances;
  • the ability to build and recruit a high-performing Board and support the organisation through a period of significant change;
  • A strong commitment to diversity, inclusion and providing opportunities for all.

About the recruitment process

  • There were a total of 37 applicants for the role, of which 36 completed the diversity monitoring form. From the 36 who completed the form:
    • 9/36 (25%) applicants identified as female;
    • 6/36 (17%) applicants identified as BAME; and,
    • 1/36 (3%) applicant declared a disability.
  • The field of eight applicants selected for interview includes one female candidate (12.5%). There is one candidate from a declared BAME background (12.5%) and none who declared a disability (0%). To note, one candidate withdrew their application prior to interview and therefore only seven candidates were interviewed. Aggregated diversity data was shared with the Panel but, as is standard practice across appointments, diversity data for individual candidates was not made available to the Advisory Assessment Panel.
  • DCMS Ministers expressed disappointment about the lack of diversity of the shortlist (female, BAME and disability); however, the Panel were content that the shortlist included a number of individuals with a broad range of relevant experience and expertise (i.e. strong in diversity of skills).
  • The Advisory Assessment Panel (AAP) comprised
    • Ruth Hannant (Chair, 13th September interviews) and Polly Payne (Chair, 24th September interviews);
    • Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle (Senior Independent Panel Member);
    • John Booth (Independent Panel Member); and,
    • Mike Ashley (Other Panel Member).
  • The interviews were held over Google Meet on Monday 13th and Friday 24th September. Following the interviews, the panel assessed that all seven candidates interviewed were appointable to this role.
  • The interview process was undertaken in accordance with the Governance Code and with the Principles of Public Appointments.
  • Appointments to the Board of the Charity Commission are made under the Charities Act 2011. This provides that there shall be a person appointed by the Secretary of State to Chair the Commission.
  • This appointments campaign was administered directly by the Public Appointments team at DCMS. The interview process was undertaken in accordance with the Governance Code and with the Principles of Public Appointments.

About the candidate

  • Martin Thomas

Martin Thomas has over 20 years’ experience in the insurance and financial services sectors including roles at the Bank of England, the European Commission and the European Central Bank. Martin currently holds a number of charitable roles and is the Chair of NHS Resolution. He is Chair of the trustees of Downside Up a charity which provides support and advice for families raising children with Down syndrome in Russia. Martin is Chair of the Trustees of Forward Arts Foundation, which is a charity committed to widening poetry’s audience, honouring achievement and supporting talent, through National Poetry Day, the Forward Prizes for Poetry and the Forward Book of Poetry, an indispensable annual anthology of the year’s best poems.

He was previously Chair of Trustees for Women for Women International UK which helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives.

Proforma for departments to provide campaign information to select committees

Campaign Launch Date

9th March 2021

Campaign Closing Date

16th April 2021

Reason for any changes in timetable to that originally published

There were changes to the published interview dates, which were moved back to post recess. Candidates were kept informed throughout.

Advertising strategy

The Public Appointments team advertised the role on the Cabinet Office Centre for Public Appointments website, DCMS’s LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, Evenbreak (an accessible disability job board), Women on Boards and NED on Board. The role was shared and promoted via a variety of additional channels with a focus on diversity including Women in Banking and Finance, the Black Business Association, and the Association of Third Sector Chairs.

Advisory Assessment Panel

  • Polly Payne and Ruth Hannant (DCMS Panel Chair)
  • Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle (Senior Independent Panel Member)
  • John Booth (Independent Panel Member)
  • Mike Ashley (Other Panel Member)

Number of applicants

There were a total of 37 applicants for the role

Number of candidates invited to interview

Eight candidates were invited to interview but one withdrew just ahead of interview.

Number of candidates found appointable

Seven candidates were found appointable.

Formal minutes

Thursday 9 December 2021

Members present:

Julian Knight, in the Chair

Kevin Brennan

Clive Efford

Rt Hon Damian Green

John Nicolson

Jane Stevenson

Draft Report (Pre-appointment hearing for Chair of the Charity Commission), proposed by the Chair, brought up and read.

Ordered, That the draft Report be read a second time, paragraph by paragraph.

Paragraphs 1 to 24 read and agreed to.

The Candidate’s CV and supporting documents were appended to the Report as Appendix 1.

Resolved, That the Report be the Sixth Report of the Committee to the House.

Ordered, That the Chair make the Report to the House.

Ordered, That embargoed copies of the Report be made available, in accordance with the provisions of Standing Order No.134.

Adjournment

Adjourned till Tuesday 14 December 2021 at 9.30 am.


Witnesses

The following witnesses gave evidence. Transcripts can be viewed on the inquiry publications page of the Committee’s website.

Thursday 9 December 2021

Martin Thomas, Government’s preferred candidate for Chair of the Charity CommissionQ1–64


List of Reports from the Committee during the current Parliament

All publications from the Committee are available on the publications page of the Committee’s website.

Session 2021–22

Number

Title

Reference

1st

The future of UK music festivals

HC 49

2nd

Pre-appointment hearing for Information Commissioner

HC 260

3rd

Concussion in sport

HC 46

4th

Sport in our communities

HC 45

5th

Pre-appointment hearing for Information Commissioner

HC 260

1st Special

The future of public service broadcasting: Government Response to Committee’s Sixth Report of Session 2019–21

HC 273

2nd Special

Economics of music streaming: Government and Competition and Markets Authority Responses to Committee’s Second Report

HC 719

3rd Special

Sport in our communities: Government Response to Committee’s Fourth Report

HC 761

Session 2019–21

Number

Title

Reference

1st

The Covid-19 crisis and charities

HC 281

2nd

Misinformation in the COVID-19 Infodemic

HC 234

3rd

Impact of COVID-19 on DCMS sectors: First Report

HC 291

4th

Broadband and the road to 5G

HC 153

5th

Pre-appointment hearing for Chair of the BBC

HC 1119

6th

The future of public service broadcasting

HC 156

1st Special Report

BBC Annual Report and Accounts 2018–19: TV licences for over 75s Government and the BBC’s Responses to the Committee’s Sixteenth Report of Session 2017–19

HC 98

2nd Special Report

The Covid-19 crisis and charities: Government Response to the Committee’s First Report of Session 2019–21

HC 438

3rd Special Report

Impact of Covid-19 on DCMS sectors: First Report: Government Response to Committee’s Third Report of Session 2019–21

HC 885

4th Special Report

Misinformation in the COVID-19 Infodemic: Government Response to the Committee’s Second Report

HC 894


Footnotes

1Government announces preferred candidate for Charity Commission Chair”, DCMS Press release, 2 December 2021. Further details about the recruitment process are included in Chapter 2.

2 Refer to CPA website for list: https://publicappointmentscommissioner.independent.gov.uk/

3 Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Third Report of Session 2017–19, Appointment of the Chair of the Charity Commission, HC 509, para 15