Appointment of Richard Sharp as Chair of the BBC: Government Response to the Committee’s Eighth Report

This is a House of Commons Committee Special Report

Tenth Special Report of Session 2022–23

Author: Culture, Media and Sport Committee

Related inquiry: Appointment of Richard Sharp as Chair of the BBC

Date Published: 29 June 2023

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Tenth Special Report

The Culture Media and Sport Committee published its Eighth Report of Session 2022–23, Appointment of Richard Sharp as Chair of the BBC (HC 1147), on 12 February 2023. The Government response was received on 21 June 2023 and is appended to this report.

Appendix: Government Response

The Government thanks the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee for its recent report in relation to the appointment of Mr Richard Sharp as Chair of the BBC Board. Following the publication of Mr Heppinstall KC’s report (at which time Mr Sharp also resigned as Chair of the BBC Board) we are now able to respond to the Committee’s report and outline the Government’s intentions with regard to this matter.

The Government notes the Committee’s conclusions in relation to Mr Sharp. The Governance Code for Public Appointments and the Code of Conduct for Board Members of Public Bodies clearly set out the obligations on candidates and appointees to public office in relation to the declaration and management of potential, perceived or actual conflicts of interest. These expectations were set out in the advert for the role and Mr Heppinstall KC reiterated them in paragraph 84 of his report.

Mr Heppinstall KC’s report outlines at paragraph 2 that Mr Sharp failed to disclose potential perceived conflicts of interest to the Panel which interviewed the candidates. Mr Sharp has now resigned as Chair of the BBC Board. The Board proposed that Mr Sharp stay in post until the next Board meeting on 27 June 2023, whilst an Acting Chair is appointed in line with the BBC Royal Charter, which has now taken place. This will provide certainty and stability. Planning for a process to appoint a permanent new Chair is also underway.

The question of what to declare is not necessarily straightforward. It is for this reason that both the codes and the application process are deliberately expansive in their explanation of what should be considered. The Government is grateful to Mr Heppinstall KC for his consideration of these matters and for the recommendations set out in his report (paragraphs 7.1 – 7.3). The Government is currently considering these recommendations, which include proposals about the public appointments process in general. The Government will respond further in due course.

The Committee asked the Government to clear up the confusion surrounding advice given to Mr Boris Johnson, the former Prime Minister, in relation to Mr Sharp. The report by Mr Heppinstall KC sets out the details of the interactions between the Cabinet Secretary and Mr Sharp, and notes at paragraph 59 that this advice was commissioned by the Cabinet Secretary – to come from the Propriety and Ethics team (PET) – on 22 December 2020 and given to the then Prime Minister on the same day. The report makes clear that the advice was neither “commissioned nor obtained until after the appointment process was almost over.” Mr Heppinstall KC also notes at paragraph 59 that the reason for this advice was not to avoid any conflict of interest in the appointment process, but instead to prevent the former Prime Minister discussing private financial matters once Mr Sharp was appointed to Chair the BBC Board.

Once again, the Government thanks the Committee for its report.