3 Governance and leadership|
Leadership of the Commission
RESIGNATIONS OF COMMISSIONERS
29. Six commissioners resigned, or announced their
intention to resign, from the EHRC board during 2009. Nicola Brewer,
who served as a commissioner by virtue of her position as chief
executive, is discussed below. The other commissioners were Baroness
Campbell, Professor Kay Hampton, Professor Francesca Klug,
Sir Bert Massie and Ben Summerskill. All contributed evidence
to our inquiry.
30. Kay Hampton resigned shortly after Dr Brewer
left. She said that she was "terribly unhappy" about
"governance, mainly conflicts of interest, the manner in
which the board was being run, the inability for board members
to participate fully in discussions" and perceptions of the
Chair's role in the engagement of former staff of the CRE who
had taken redundancy packages.
31. Baroness Campbell announced her resignation on
17 July. Her memorandum refers to "a divisive culture"
on the board; unease about the direction of travel; policy being
made by Trevor Phillips "on the hoof";
and potential conflicts of interest between Mr Phillips' private
work and his role as Chair. She said:
Having worked with Trevor Phillips for nearly
three years, I am convinced that he is a man of many talents,
able to engage with some people (namely politicians and the media)
in a way that few others can. However, I finally came to the conclusion
that these skills came at too high a price for the EHRC which
was being held back by a disempowered Board and a lack of cohesive
direction. Eventually I came to believe that Trevor Phillips'
conduct and approach towards governance was severely damaging
to the EHRC.
32. Sir Bert Massie wrote in the Guardian
in March 2009 that:
There is an anxiety that the Commission is not
performing as well as it might do. I am concerned that the work
has not been going as fast as it might do. There is a general
unease about the direction of the Commission and how it is going.
He resigned on 18 July 2009 and told us that "the
straw that broke the camel's back was the reappointment of the
Chairman". Corporate governance was his main concern, including
the relationship between the Chair and the chief executive and
the functioning of the board:
Our skills were not being used, our expertise
was not being used and we could not influence the agenda. 
33. Francesca Klug resigned on the same day as Sir
Bert but told us she had been considering her position since October
2008. Her concerns
also related to corporate governance:
The difficulty in having any substantial influence
on governance or strategy
lack of knowledge about crucial
policy decisions the Commission was taking until shortly before
they were publicly announced; problems in communicating with each
other on the board in an open and transparent way; the perceived
conflicts of interest concerning the Chairman's private equality
significant expenditure on external consultants
despite our extensive staff numbers.
She went on to say:
There was an atmosphere that I experienced of
intimidation sometimes in holding the Chair to account. There
would be those commissioners who would fiercely oppose you if
you raised your voice
to disagree with what the Chair had
said and that sense of being strongly reprimanded I think did
create some atmosphere of intimidation.
34. Finally, Ben Summerskill announced his intention
to resign on 23 July 2009. He told us that "as chairman of
the Commission's Audit Committee I simply felt unable to offer
appropriate assurance to the National Audit Office that the Commission
was being led with probity".
35. In addition to the evidence we received from
the former commissioners, some of the NGOs from whom we received
evidence also commented on the leadership of the Commission. The
European Network Against Racism referred to "closed, cliquey,
manipulative" leadership and Race on the Agenda expressed
concerns about the resignations of the former commissioners and
what it regarded as a lack of leadership in the wake of the organisation's
36. Other commissioners took issue with criticisms
of how the board operated. Jeannie Drake said "I certainly
never felt personally intimidated. I never felt I could not articulate
what I wanted to articulate".
Kay Carberry described the evidence from the former commissioners
as "very far from my own experience":
The impression that was somehow given of a cowed
bunch of individuals who were unable to express a view and were
unable to challenge the Chair, either because they were intimidated
or because they were part of some mysterious inner circle that
I have never come across, is
demeaning to a group of independent
and strong minded people.
She went on to say that "there was not perhaps
widespread dissatisfaction with the style of chairing" and
that lack of challenge of the Chair was "because we had confidence
in the way the Commission's business was being conducted".
37. Mr Phillips said that the picture painted by
the former commissioners of how the board operated was "not
one that I recognise" and he drew attention to the fact that
the majority of commissioners had not resigned or expressed similar
views. He described
board meetings as "pretty open":
there are arguments, there are passions but,
frankly, I think that is part of the role of the Commission.
In his view, the board operated by consensus:
The only point in the last three years on which
the board has divided formally on a vote was over an issue of
I happened to think that was one of the best debates
and the best moments for the board where we argued out a major
One side won. I happened not to be on the winning
38. Harriet Harman MP and Jonathan Rees were aware
of the difficulties between EHRC board members.
Ms Harman said that there were "a number of complex reasons"
for these problems which "[did] not necessarily fall within
the responsibility of any one individual".
She suggested that the difficulties were an inevitable consequence
of merging the previously independent equality commissions and
drew a comparison with trade union mergers:
There are always different cultures in different
organisations. When they are brought together there is difficulty
and the process takes time.
While there is no doubt that this is true, the Committee
did not seek evidence about the establishment of the EHRC and
the difficulty involved in bringing different strands of equality
work and three separate commissions together to form a single
human rights commission. Sir Bert Massie had made his concerns
about this risk clear before the Commission was created.
39. We did not fully consider the extent to which
tensions between previous organisations contributed to the EHRC's
problems of governance. Clearly the Commission Board did not become
a cohesive and effective whole. A contributing factor may have
been the complexity of bringing together legacy commissions, adding
new strands, and having an overarching responsibility for human
40. The EHRC commissioned Deloitte to review the
functioning of its board in 2008. The EHRC published the final
report of the review at our request:
we were also able to review a presentation to the board on "emerging
thinking" which has not been made public.
41. Deloitte identified the following "organisational
challenges" for the Board to address and made recommendations
in relation to each of them:
The Board does not operate against clear, consistently
understood roles and a common purposes.
The size of the Board makes it cumbersome and
the composition of the Board is not ideal.
There a number of cultural and behavioural barriers
weakening the Board's ability to perform.
The Board does not plan and prepare for Board
There is a lack of clarity as to how relationships
should work between the Board/SMT/staff.
We discuss later recommendations from this report
relating to the respective roles and responsibilities of the Chair
and chief executive as well as to the size and composition of
the board. Many of
the other recommendations related to best practice in running
board meetings. Mr Rees described the review as "sensible"
and said there was "clear evidence of significant improvement
in the way the board operates".
42. A set of recommendations relating to reviewing
and enhancing the role of the Chair and redefining the role of
the Deputy Chair as a "senior independent role, responsible
for assuring the effective working of the Board" has not
yet been implemented and is awaiting a "second phase of the
Board Effectiveness work programme".
The recommendations relating to Mr Phillips included "Chair
to provide effective leadership for the organisation" and
"ensure Chair leads by example and encourages everyone to
actively participate, listen attentively, pose questions
strive for consensus
encourage creative and challenging
discussions and respond with respect and courtesy".
Mr Phillips said he took these recommendations "very seriously".
43. Professor Hampton and Professor Klug both suggested
that the early findings of the Deloitte review had been critical
of Trevor Phillips and that the final report did not reflect these
findings but "moved into another kind of discussion, which
was process issues like the size [of the board]".
Mr Phillips disputed this:
The principal recommendations were about the
roles and responsibilities, and clarifying those, about the size
of the board, and some issues of process. There were many recommendations
which Deloittes themselves said were out of scope, which they
did not think were of the first order, and the board itself discussed
This is not a report which I wrote
it was a
report which was written independently and was discussed by the
board and the recommendations were agreed by the board.
44. The Deloitte report states that its suggested
design criteria and recommendations were assessed and refined
at a meeting in November involving "a subset of the Board,
Senior Management Team and the Commissioner's Office".
We asked for the minutes of this meeting so we could better understand
how the findings reported in the "emerging thinking"
paper presented to the board in October had developed into the
recommendations in the final report but were informed that no
45. There were clearly tensions and difficulties
between a significant minority of EHRC board members and the Chair
during 2008 and 2009, culminating in the resignations last year.
In his oral evidence, Mr Phillips gave the impression that the
resignations had come as a surprise: he did not recognise their
description of the board and instead described meetings in which
robust debate and effective, friendly challenge of the chair were
the norm. It is difficult to square these conflicting accounts
but a close reading of the Deloitte report provides some support
for the view that problems with the functioning of the Board stemmed
from Mr Phillips' leadership style. Deloitte made specific recommendations
about Mr Phillips's leadership which ended up in an appendix at
the back report, without any published plan for implementation.
Furthermore, Mr Phillips' suggestion that it was significant that
the majority of commissioners did not resign is not in itself
an answer to the criticisms made by those who resigned.
46. Ms Harman suggested that tensions were inevitable
during the EHRC's formative years because of cultural clashes
between the different equality strands. We do not doubt that merging
organisations to create a new body with a controversial remit
at the heart of political debate was a difficult task. Organisational
problems and tensions were inevitable but we are not persuaded
that the EHRC's implosion in 2009 was unavoidable.
47. When we asked Mr Phillips what, with hindsight,
he would have done differently, he said:
I think I would have sought more time to create
the Commission. That was something I should have thought more
That would have given me more time to work with Commissioners,
to get to know them better, to bring them together more.
Looking in from the outside, we concur with the view
that it would have been desirable for Mr Phillips to devote more
time to working with commissioners to help bring the best out
of them. The EHRC would undoubtedly have benefited if the talents
of those commissioners who resigned had been fully exploited.
48. We are not convinced, however, that the Commission's
difficulties would have been significantly less if the launch
date had been postponed, as Nicola Brewer suggested. In our
view, merging three equality bodies and developing a strong corporate
board for the new body, making use of the expertise and talents
of all commissioners, are challenging tasks and we conclude that
in the early years of the EHRC's existence this was not done successfully,
for which the Chair must bear responsibility.
The new EHRC board
49. The appointment of EHRC commissioners is governed
by Schedule 1 of the Equality Act 2006. No fewer than 10 and no
more than 15 commissioners may by appointed and, in addition,
the chief executive is a commissioner by virtue of his or her
position. The process
for appointing commissioners is led by the Government Equalities
Office and is based on open competition.
The appointment of eight new commissioners was formally announced
on 19 November 2009.
In addition to Trevor Phillips (see below) three existing commissioners
were reappointed and three more continued in post.
50. The size of the board was an issue identified
by the Deloitte review of the board's effectiveness, which reported
in December 2008.
It recommended that the number of board members should be reduced
to between 10 and 12, in order to help the board operate more
cohesively and consensually.
The board accepted this recommendation, although not unanimously.
Mr Phillips mentioned the reduction in the size of the board in
his Guardian article on 5 September 2009
but, in the event, the recommendation was not implemented. The
Minister said that there were good arguments to retain a larger
number of commissioners, suggesting that a larger number was necessary
to ensure that commissioners were as broadly representative as
possible. The announcement
of the membership of the new board explicitly commented on the
relevant experience of each appointee, for example in relation
to race, business, and human rights.
51. In one respect, however, the Commission remains
notably lacking in diversity. Eight Commissioners have links to
the Labour Party,
one is an active Liberal Democrat,
but none has links with the Conservative Party. Trevor Phillips
had previously told us that Commissioners were "too narrow
both culturally and politically" and the Deloitte report
concluded that board representation from across the political
spectrum would be desirable.
Ms Harman acknowledged that a political balance was necessary
in some organisations but "here there was a different brief,
namely a commitment to equality
and experience were needed and these were the people who fitted
Both the Minister and Mr Rees emphasised that none of those involved
in the selection process were made aware of the party affiliations
of candidates, although Mr Rees acknowledged that in some cases
these would have been obvious.
52. We have no strong view on the size of the
EHRC board and can see the advantages of a larger board, if it
can be led effectively. We are concerned, however, that the Minister
has not taken action to broaden the political background of commissioners,
in line with the Deloitte recommendation. The EHRC operates in
a political environment, dealing with issues which are often the
focus of national debate. Commissioners should include people
affiliated to all of the main parties, as well as those without
party affiliations. In our view, the Commission's credibility
across the political spectrum would be enhanced if it included
at least one commissioner with links to the Conservative Party.
Reappointment of Mr Phillips
53. Trevor Phillips was invited by Harriet Harman
MP, the Minister for Equalities, to "consider making himself
available to be reappointed to the post of Chair" in autumn
2008. Mr Phillips
received a "satisfactory appraisal" from Jonathan Rees,
Director-General of the Government Equalities Office, in November
2008, and Mr Phillips'
reappointment was formally announced on 15 July 2009. Mr Rees
described the reappointment procedure as "a perfectly normal
process" which was laid out in the guidance of the Office
of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.
54. In an article in the Guardian on 5 September
2009 which responded to the EHRC's internal difficulties, Trevor
Phillips noted that the EHRC board was in the process of being
reconstituted and said: "all our non-execs have to compete
with other talented people for reappointment by the minister for
equalities." The chair and deputy chair of the EHRC were
reappointed without there being an open competition. Ms Harman
said "I thought that it was important that the chair and
vice-chair should be reappointed for the sake of continuity",
particularly in view of the departure during the year of the chief
55. Continuity of leadership, which was cited by
the Minister as the reason for her decision to reappoint Mr Phillips
without an open competition, is an important consideration but
should have been outweighed by the need to demonstrate publicly
that the EHRC was being led by the most talented people available.
56. Our predecessors argued that the EHRC's governance
structure should model that of the National Audit Office and the
Electoral Commission, to enhance the organisation's independence
from Government. They recommended that the Chair of the Commission
should be defined in statute as an officer of Parliament and that
commissioners should be recommended for appointment by a statutory
committee which would include parliamentary representatives.
We agree with their view. Independence from Government is an important
aspect of the Paris Principles, to which national human rights
institutions must adhere.
In our view, the reappointment of the Chair and Deputy Chair
of the EHRC should on this occasion have been subject to open
competition, to help restore confidence in the organisation and
its leadership following the well-publicised difficulties the
EHRC faced in 2009.
57. The Minister's decision simply to reappoint
Mr Phillips without any parliamentary involvement could undermine
the perceived independence of the Commission and put its accreditation
as a national human rights institution at risk.
58. We were disappointed that Michael Wills MP,
the Human Rights Minister at the Ministry of Justice, had not
been involved in the reappointment of Mr Phillips or in the other
appointments and reappointments to the EHRC board.
Mr Rees acknowledged that "we did not specifically consult
him when it came to reappointment" but said that "all
departments were consulted about [Mr Phillips'] performance
we knew the departmental and ministerial views".
In relation to all of the appointments and reappointments, Ms
Harman said "a formal consultation process was not required
or undertaken with other ministers, but in addition to having
discussions with ministers in my department I had discussions
with ministers outside the department as well".
Although our strong preference remains for the appointment
of EHRC commissioners to be taken out of the hands of ministers,
we regret that the Human Rights Minister was not more closely
involved in the decision to reappoint the Chair on this occasion.
If Ministers are to decide who should Chair the EHRC, the Human
Rights Minister should be involved.
59. The post of EHRC chair was, at our request, added
to the list of posts subject to a select committee pre-appointment
hearings do not take place in relation to reappointments
and, as a result, Parliament was not involved in Mr Phillips'
reappointment nor given notification of the reappointment decision.
We recommend that the appropriate select committees should
be informed by the Government whenever the holder of a post subject
to pre-appointment hearings is reappointed.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS
60. The EHRC helpfully provided us with Mr Phillips'
letter of appointment in 2006, which set out his terms and conditions.
We understand that no such letter is available at the moment for
Mr Phillips' reappointment, but Mr Rees said he had been reappointed
for three years from 2009 and would continue to work for three
and a half days per week for an annual salary of £112,000.
61. Before October 2007, Mr Phillips worked full-time
for the EHRC but since then he has worked for three and a half
days per week.
We were sent correspondence between Government departments obtained
under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 by a journalist, Mira
Bar-Hillel, which suggested that Mr Phillips asked to work four
days per week.
A civil servant in the Cabinet Office's Propriety and Ethics division
wrote that it was:
not clear whether the current Chair is working
on a full-time basis. If this is the case, I think we would query
this. On average, non-exec Chairs (of large public bodies) probably
serve 2/3 days per week. This should be sufficient. More than
this risks creating conflict between the Chair and CEO as it can
encourage the Chair to become involved in the day-to-day management
of the body (which is, of course, the responsibility of the CEO).
Mr Phillips said that he had been asked by the Government
to work four days per week,
but Mr Rees denied this.
Mr Phillips has subsequently explained that:
In advance of my reappointment in July, I did
have discussions as to whether the requirements of the post would
entail my giving further time to commission work. In the event
Ministers asked me to continue on a 3½ day a week basis which
I was happy to do.
The position of chief executive
62. Nicola Brewer was appointed as chief executive
in March 2007, having previously been a senior civil servant at
the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She announced her resignation
on 20 March 2009 in order to take up the position of UK High Commissioner
in South Africa, leaving her post in May 2009.
63. Some of the former EHRC commissioners suggested
that there had been tensions between Dr Brewer and Mr Phillips.
Sir Bert Massie, for example, said that "it was known that
the Chairman and chief executive did not have the most cordial
Kay Hampton said:
I have been through two other occasions where
chief executives could not take the interference in the behaviour
of the Chairman and had resigned and I could see it happening
again in the Commission, so when this chief executive resigned
I decided that it was time for me to go.
64. Clarifying roles and responsibilities was a central
theme of the Deloitte review of the EHRC board. 
The Corporate Governance Code of Practice and Conduct, agreed
in May 2009, specifies eleven aspects of the role of Chair and
ten aspects of the role of Chief Executive.
This new arrangement has yet to be put to the test, however, because
the EHRC has operated without a chief executive since Dr Brewer's
departure. Neil Kinghan has served as interim director-general
on a temporary contract in her place. Initially appointed until
the end of January 2010 we now understand that he is under contract
until the end of September 2010.
Mr Kinghan is paid £1,000 per day and works four days per
65. Mr Rees told us that the post of chief executive
was advertised in summer 2009. No indication of salary was given
at that time, but he thought that candidates would expect to earn
a salary similar to that earned by Dr Brewer, around £185,000
per annum plus bonus. The recruitment competition reached a late
stage, with three potential candidates identified, when it was
suspended following the announcement in December's Pre-Budget
Report that most public sector salaries over £150,000 would
from now on require the approval of the Cabinet Secretary. A review
of senior salaries, to be undertaken by Professor Bill Cockburn,
was announced at the same time and is due to report at the time
of the 2010 Budget. Ms Harman said that a decision on the salary
to be offered to the chief executive of the EHRC would be taken
in the light of the outcome of the Cockburn review.
Ms Harman said that "the likely scenario is that the commission
will have a new chief executive at a considerably lower level
of pay than the old chief executive, which is cognisant of the
times and is the right approach to take".
66. The recruitment of Dr Brewer's successor appears
to have proceeded at a leisurely pace even before the Government's
late intervention to query the salary expectations of candidates
led to the competition being suspended, apparently until after
the next Budget. There is every possibility that the post will
have to be re-advertised and that the appointment of a new chief
executive will be further delayed. It is unacceptable for a body
of the size and significance of the EHRC to operate without a
permanent chief executive for as long as eight months and with
there seemingly being no prospect of an appointment being made
until much later in 2010, especially given the costly interim
Qualification of the EHRC's accounts
67. The Comptroller and Auditor General qualified
the EHRC accounts for the period from 18 April 2006 to 31 March
2008, issuing a short report on the reasons for his decision.
He drew attention to the employment as contractors by the EHRC
of seven staff who had received voluntary early severance and
voluntary early retirement payments from the former CRE on the
basis that they would not transfer to the new body. The engagement
of these staff by the EHRC required Treasury permission, which
was not forthcoming.
68. This issue was examined by the Committee of Public
Accounts in oral evidence with Messrs Phillips, Rees and Kinghan
on 2 December 2009. Trevor Phillips said:
When we had to open our doors on 1 October 2007,
we were desperately short of senior management. I think we were
starting with fewer than half of our director level staff. The
Chief Executive and I discussed how we would fill the skills gap,
and amongst the things she wanted to do was to bring back some
of the senior officers who had worked for the legacy commissions
and who had worked on the transition team into the new Commission.
This was not, as far as I knew, a novel arrangement
manner in which we did it, I regret to say, caused our accounts
to be qualified.
69. In her memorandum to us, Nicola Brewer said:
I did not re-hire the ex members of the CRE brought
into the transition team before my arrival, but, like other members
of that team, left them in place until 1 October 2007. I then
re-engaged the ex members of the CRE in the transition team for
a temporary period because there was no-one else to fill those
important jobs and the EHRC was still being 'built up'.
She went on to state that the Treasury's refusal
to agree to the re-engagement of the former CRE staff was "contrary
to previous expectation",
a point subsequently disputed by Jonathan Rees who suggested that
the difficulty lay in the rates of pay being offered to the re-engaged
staff. Dr Brewer
also said that she realised in May 2007 that the EHRC would not
be ready for a full launch in October 2007 and that she had discussed
delaying the launch date with Trevor Phillips. She wrote that
"it was concluded that 're-phasing' the programme - essentially,
continuing to build up the EHRC after its 'soft' launch in October
- was the better option".
Mr Phillips has since conceded that delaying the launch of the
EHRC might have been preferable.
70. The re-engagement of the former CRE staff was
raised with us by the former commissioners, particularly in memoranda
submitted by Professor Hampton.
She alleged that "at least 5 of the CRE staff concerned joined
the transition team after Trevor took over as chair" and
that we and the Committee of Public Accounts had been misled on
this issue. The
thrust of her argument was that Mr Phillips had ensured that certain
CRE staff to whom he was close had been moved to the transition
team and then the EHRC without due process being followed and
that this had led to the qualification of the organisation's accounts.
She also made several other allegations relating to the management
of the CRE and the setting up of the EHRC which, in her view,
established "a pattern of autocratic leadership style, poor
governance and questionable practices" on the part of Mr
Phillips. In addition, as we have previously noted, Ben Summerskill
announced his intention to resign as a commissioner because, as
Chair of the EHRC's Audit and Risk Committee, he did not think
the Commission was being led with probity.
71. Professor Hampton's allegations have been responded
to in detail by several of the people to whom they relate. We
have published the memoranda with this report, subject to limited
redaction where sensitive personal information is involved.
Mr Phillips said:
Staff were brought across in equal numbers from
each of the legacy commissions to work in the transition team,
on the basis of the needs of the (then) CEHR. Responsibility for
transferring staff to the transition team lay with the sponsoring
department [the Department for Communities and Local Government],
not the EHRC. However, it is misleading to suggest that staff
were brought into the transition team without due process; most
posts were filled through open internal recruitment processes,
a process which had not been in place prior to my appointment,
but which I insisted upon from the start.
There is a suggestion that staff who worked closely
with me at the CRE were brought into the new Commission at my
request. However, as Dr Brewer clearly states in her letter, these
appointments were made by her as Chief Executive, not by me. I
repeat the points I made in the oral evidence session, I did not
decide who should transfer to the new Commission.
precise circumstances in which the EHRC came to engage staff who
had benefited from severance and early retirement payments from
former commissions, on the basis that they would not work for
the EHRC, without Treasury permission, are set out in the National
Audit Office report and are currently the subject of an inquiry
by the Committee of Public Accounts. We await the report of our
sister committee with interest. At the very least, this episode
has demonstrated that appropriate procedures for controlling expenditure
were not in place in 2007 and we note that Mr Rees told us that
improvements have now been made.
The Equate consultancy
73. A further concern was that some of the former
CRE staff re-engaged by the EHRC were involved with Dignity Management
Consultants, an external consultancy with links to Equate, a consultancy
firm with which Mr Phillips was connected.
Mr Phillips explained that he had set up Equate when he had become
Chair of the EHRC but that it had done only one piece of work
and he had stood down as a director on 1 October 2008 and "subsequently
reduced my interest in it to something which I think is negligible
Dignity was one of several individuals and firms to which Equate
would sometimes refer work.
Mr Phillips said he had received advice from Dr Brewer, the EHRC's
lawyers and his own lawyers about the potential conflict of interest
between chairing the EHRC and his involvement with Equate and
that his decision to reduce his interest in Equate "was the
effect of my own consideration".
74. We also asked Mr Phillips about references on
his website to the Equate consultancy. He said
"I have to confess the website set up in
my name is not one I look at all. If it still has that connection
then I will look at it now".
75. Dr Brewer told us that "on several occasions
over the second half of 2008, my advice to the Chair was to stand
down from the company; periodically after that we continued to
discuss implementation of his decision as it affected the Equate
Mr Rees said that the "issue of Trevor's consultancy work
with Equate" arose in June 2008 and:
At that stage, I wrote to the chief executive
and chair of the Commission's audit and risk committee, Mr Summerskill,
to ensure that their processes were in hand
we all agreed
that the best way forward in this case was to refer it to the
Cabinet Office and the director of propriety and ethics. She had
a discussion with Mr Phillips and the conclusion was that in this
case the best way forward was for Mr Phillips to step down from
his controlling share in Equate. That has happened.
76. We welcome the fact that Mr Phillips has now
relinquished his controlling share in the Equate consultancy.
It would appear, however, that it took some time before Mr Phillips
was persuaded to take the action necessary to address the perception
of a conflict of interest caused by his involvement with Equate.
We regret that he did not terminate his involvement with Equate
when the issue was first raised by Dr Brewer.
77. We note that Mr Phillips' website (www.trevorphillips.eu)
begins by stating that "Trevor Phillips is the co-founder
of the Equate Organisation, the social change consultancy"
and includes a link to the Equate website, which is currently
closed for reconstruction. We again suggest to Mr Phillips
that his personal website should be amended to remove references
to the Equate consultancy.
78. Departmental responsibility for the EHRC rests
with the Government Equalities Office, a free-standing ministerial
department currently headed by Harriet Harman MP, which was set
up in 2007. Prior to that, during the establishment of the EHRC,
ministerial responsibility rested at different times with several
departments, including the Department for Communities and Local
Government. Trevor Phillips told us in 2008 that there had been
four different sponsor units for the EHRC, but "we are okay
where we are right now".
He went on to suggest that it would be more helpful if the Government
included a Minister for Equality and Human Rights, rather than
the current situation in which ministerial responsibility is split
between the GEO and the Ministry of Justice.
79. Ms Harman said the EHRC had been "itinerant"
but "we have a strong and self-confident Government Equalities
Office which puts a very high priority on liaising with the [EHRC]".
Although the GEO was small, it did "not
Mr Rees emphasised the extent to which the GEO worked closely
with other relevant departments, including the Ministry of Justice.
80. In our view, equality is a human right and the
division between Government departments in responsibility for
equality and human rights matters is illogical. We have already
noted an example of a key decision affecting human rights policy-making
in the UK - the reappointment of Mr Phillips - being made without
the involvement of the Human Rights Minister. Although the EHRC's
sponsoring department is one of the smallest, it has a wide reach
across Whitehall. Impact and reach are essential for the sponsoring
department. There are other potential candidate departments to
sponsor EHRC: Communities and Local Government which has responsibility
for race equality and community cohesion is one; Work and Pensions,
responsible for disability and older people, is another; Justice,
responsible for human rights, has a strong claim. However in the
first two of these departments, equality and human rights risk
being second order issues. The last poses the risk that human
rights are seen as the preserve of the law and restricted to legal
argument. The Government Equalities Office is at present best
placed to ensure that a human rights culture is embedded throughout
government and all public bodies and a Minister for Equality and
Human Rights should be located there.
81. However, we recognise the claims of other
departments and recommend that deciding which department has responsibility
for the EHRC should be a first order issue when machinery of government
changes are contemplated. It is not acceptable for human rights
to be an afterthought, as it sometimes appears to have been in
the past. We believe that the Minister for Human Rights and the
sponsoring department for the EHRC should be situated in the same
49 Professor Klug is a specialist adviser to the Committee
but has not undertaken any work for us since 2005-06. Back
Q1. And see paragraph 70. Back
Also see Qq 15-17, 98-106 and Ev 64. Back
Ev 69. Back
Guardian, 27 March 2009. Back
Also see Ev 87. Back
Q19. Also see Ev 70. Back
Ev 85 and Ev 94, paragraph 3.13. Back
Qq59, 90. Back
Qq208, 240. Back
Speech at Northampton University, 16 Oct 2006, www2.northampton.ac.uk/pls/portal/url/ITEM/202A1274135F0AF5E0440003BA7723F7. Back
Board Effectiveness Review: Recommendations Report, Deloitte
for EHRC, 18 December 2008, http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/uploaded_files/OurJob/annual_board_review_2009_new_redacted_2.pdf
(hereafter Deloitte report). Back
Ibid, p5. Back
See paragraphs 49-52 and 62-66. Back
Qq 239-40. Back
See Deloitte report, Appendix G, pp23-24. Back
Ibid, Appendix G, p23. Back
Qq 27, 36. Also see Sir Bert Massie, Ev 89, paragraph 10. Back
Deloitte report, Appendix G, p4. Back
Email from Ellie Rose, EHRC, to the Commons Clerk, 14 December
2009: "We would like to confirm that no notes or minutes
were taken by the Commission at the special working session on
the Deloitte recommendations on 17 November 2008. Deloitte will
have incorporated the outcomes of the discussions into their report". Back
In addition, the 2006 Act provided for the appointment of 3 transitional
commissioners, whose terms ended on 30 September 2009. Back
Ev 78-79. Back
Stephen Alambritis, Ann Beynon, Professor Geraldine Van Bueren,
Merel Hussein Ece, Jean Irvine, Angela Mason, Michael Smith and
Simon Woolley. Back
Kay Carberry, Baroness Greengross and Baroness Prosser were re-appointed.
The terms of Morag Alexander, Joel Edwards and Maeve Sherlock
have not yet expired and they continued as commissioners. Back
See paragraph 40. Back
Deloitte report, p9. Back
Qq169-70 and see Ev 70. Back
See paragraph 54. Back
"Harman: New EHRC Commissioners Appointed", GEO, 19
Nov 2009. Back
Stephen Alambritis, Ann Benyon, Kay Carberry, Angela Mason, Trevor
Phillips, Baroness Prosser and Michael Smith. Back
Meral Hussein Ece. Back
Second Report, Session 2007-08, The Work of the Committee in
2007-08 (hereafter Annual Report 2007-08) Q
(14.10.08) 7 and Deloitte report, p9. Back
EHRC board minutes. 18 Sep 08 (http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/uploaded_files/OurJob/17th_meeting_18-09-08.doc)and
Q216 and see www.publicappointmentscommissioner.org/web-resources/resources/29508538572.pdf.
Sixteenth Report, 2003-04, Commission for Equality and Human
Rights: The Government's White Paper, HL Paper 156, HC 998,
paragraph 50 and Equality Bill, paragraph 29. Back
See footnote 7. Back
Annual Report 2008-09, Qq (2.12.09) 30-34. Back
Liaison Committee, First Report, 2007-08, Pre-appointment hearings
by select committees, pp20-21. Back
Cabinet Office, Pre-Appointment Hearings by Select Committees:
Guidance for Departments, Aug 09, paragraph 2.3. Back
Ev 79-82. Back
Ev 82-85. Back
Ev 83. Back
Qq 236-37. Back
Ev 63. Back
Q1, also see Ev 88, paragraph 8. Back
Deloitte report, p7 and Appendix H. Back
Paragraphs 9.2 and 11.2 (http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/uploaded_files/OurJob/corporate_governance_code_of_practice_and_conduct.pdf). Back
Public Accounts Committee, oral evidence 2 Dec 09, HC124-i, (hereafter
PAC oral evidence) Q80 and email from Ellie Rose, EHRC,
to the Commons Clerk, 27 January 2010. Back
Q256 and PAC oral evidence Q67. Back
Qq 256-75. Back
C&AG report on the qualification of the Equality and Human
Rights Commission's accounts, 18 June 2008, available at http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/0809/ehrc_accounts.aspx. Back
PAC oral evidence, Q5. Back
Ev 67, paragraph 5. Back
Ibid, paragraph 12. Back
Ev 65 and see PAC oral evidence, Q9. Back
Ev 67, paragraph 10. Back
PAC oral evidence, Qq16, 49 also see Q13. Back
See also Sir Bert Massie, Ev 88, paragraph 7. Back
Ev 54. Back
See paragraph 34. Back
Ev 54-66. Back
Ev 64. Back
Qq147, 150. Back
Qq 140, 142, 144. Back
Qq 141, 143. Back
Ev 68, paragraph 14. Back
Annual Report 2007-08, Q (14.10.08) 28. Back
Ibid, Q (14.10.08) 30. Back
Qq222, 225. Back