Equality and Human Rights Commission - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Letter from Professor Kay Hampton to the Chair of the Committee, dated 11 November 2009

  First, I would like to express my personal gratitude to you for restoring my faith in democracy! The excellent way in which you chaired the above committee yesterday gave me confidence that at long last there are MPs and Peers committed enough to get to the bottom of this issue and to restore confidence in Human Rights and the EHRC. It is the first time, since these matters were raised, that I feel encouraged to share more.

  As you mentioned yesterday, this has been very difficult for my fellow colleagues and myself. This is not something we have done before and hopefully will never have to do again.

  Having listened to Trevor's evidence yesterday, I feel more determined than ever to assist your committee in any way I can so that he is held to account. I am especially concerned that he was less than economical with the truth in some instances and I hope that the material I am enclosing will shed some light on some key matters that he claimed to be unaware of.

  The Information may or may not assist you in your report preparation and you might wish to it share with the PAC-apart from that I feel this should be treated with confidence. The information I am sending you may be of value for two reasons: i) in establishing a pattern of autocratic leadership style, poor governance and questionable practices ii) in understanding the specific history relating to the reappointment of the named CRE staff who took redundancy payments and reapplied for consultancy work. They all left the CRE (either fulltime or part-time) with Trevor Phillips and before Nicola Brewer came into post.

  In effect there are several questions that still need to be asked, which in my view go beyond Trevor's leadership style to the more substantive issue of concern- much of which only came to my attention after he took up his post as Chair of EHRC and I as Chair of CRE.

  For the record, I shared all my concerns with senior officials at DCLG when I was Chair of the CRE. I was unfortunately unable to secure the co-operation or assistance of the senior official [****] who was frankly obstructive. I have reason to believe that many letters and emails I sent him did not reach Ministers.

  On my arrival at the CRE in January 2007 (three months after I was appointed as Trevor did not leave until December 2006) I met with Helen Judge, another senior official at the DCLG and she indicated that there were three outstanding matters that she wished me to resolve, ASAP, as one in particular was dragging on for a while (recommendations from an Audit report)

These were as follows:


  ****** [1]


  Both Trevor Phillips (although no longer Chair) and [*****] insisted that we appoint two Deputy chairs and a Chief Executive at substantial costs despite the fact that the normal work of the CRE was winding down by this time and the CRE was preparing for a merger. It should be understood that after the premature departure of two CEOs under Trevor's Chairmanship of the CRE, Trevor took on the role of chair and accounting officer for over two years and during that time resisted the appointment of a CEO. I sat on at least three panels in attempts to appoint CEOs and some high quality applicants were turned down because the chair "felt"he could not work with any of selected applicants. It was therefore surprising when the Chair suggested that we appoint Maxine Ayton (who was previously considered by the Chair inappropriate to appoint as CEO). We eventually appointed Maxine Ayton as CEO (now Director of Dignity-sister company to Equate) and two Deputies, one given a contract without open competition. [*****] in DCLG approved formally and Trevor Phillips fully supported.


  In addressing the budget, I became concerned about three key issues:

  First the mass "secondment" to the EHRC Transition Team of the entire Chair support team without any transparent employment process or risk assessment of the impact of their departure on CRE work. In fact, there were no vacancies advertised on the transition team, no open competition (as was required to allow staff from all three commissions to have a fair chance at applying) and no interviews, let alone job descriptions for the staff that left.

  A significant number of staff left with their IT equipment, furniture etc. This meant that we had to recruit an entirely new office team to support the Chair's office and Communication Directorate at the CRE. Any attempt to question this was brushed aside by the interim CEO (Maxine Ayton), Trevor Phillips, [*****] and the Director of Finance. I raised this matter with the Board and established a small group to investigate. Trevor intervened and stopped CRE Commissioners from investigating this matter any further and [*****] supported this intervention.

  Although the Financial Report attached indicates that some were seconded for up to three or four days, there was no evidence that these staff did other than work exclusively for the EHRC.

  Needless to say, I raised this concern with CRE commissioners and with staff several times, and also with the DCLG. In the end, I was wrongly accused of "interfering" in operational matters (I am well aware of the boundaries between executive and non-executive roles) and was instructed by [*****] to delegate oversight of Financial matters to a Deputy Chair (Julia Chain).

  I attach correspondence, which relates to these matters [not printed]. [*****] insisted that if the matter were exposed it would be damaging for ministers and the EHRC as Trevor had recently been appointed as Chair. Ultimately, I made the decision to focus on external matters and delegated non-executive, financial oversight to the newly appointed Vice Chair, Julia Chain, who then chaired the finance committee.

  I was later to discover that Trevor had previously given Julia Chain consultancy work for the CRE without any discussion at Board level. She was effectively paid £3,000 per day (private sector rates) to chair a CRE investigation panel. In any, given month she would work three days a week and often claimed £9,000 per month. When I questioned the CEO, the Legal Director and Julia, the latter indicated that Trevor had approved the work and this had nothing to do with me. Despite an obvious conflict of interest, there was yet again no transparent process in allocating the contract. While I was there I was not able to track any paperwork on this and we were told at a board meeting that proof of the contract was passed on to DCLG.

  My purpose in revealing this information is to illustrate that the leadership style, governance and probity issues we raised in evidence to your Committee, in breach of the Nolan Principles as we understand them, reflect a pattern of leadership which, in my experience, date back to the period when Trevor Phillips was Chair of the CRE. As you will note, despite my considerable experience as a non-executive, I was unable to resolve any of these issues due to the support given to Trevor from Officials at DCLG.

  It is difficult to understand how Trevor Phillips can deny any involvement in, or even knowledge of, the reappointment of the staff concerned when in fact they formed part of the team who literally "walked out" of the CRE with Trevor when he took up his post at the EHRC. Further in his evidence, Trevor denied that Faz Hakim was his special advisor. For the record, Trevor indicated to me the first time we met (before he even took up the appointment at CRE) that he intended to appoint Faz Hakim as his special advisor to work closely with him. It is true that she held the title of Special Advisor for some 18 months. After which, I clearly recall Trevor informing myself and the other deputy (Sarah Spencer) that he intended to make Faz a Director (of external affairs). There was no advertisement of the post, no interviews, just an announcement—strangely, despite the unhappiness amongst staff, no one actually questioned Trevor on the impropriety. In other cases we were told in advance of any interview process whom to expect to be appointed. Colleen Harris (the new Communication Director he appointed), for example, was paid a salary that far exceeded the top end of the Directors' Scale. I am not sure who in DCLG approved this and why.

  Finally, When Trevor arrived at the EHRC, he did not have a designated budget at the EHRC and the CRE subsequently subsidised his Travel expenses-for a period of time. We initially paid for his chauffer driven car (which he continued to use during my period at the EHRC) and staff who were "seconded" to the transition team continued to claim expenses from the CRE for a period. Again, any attempt to raise this was met with barriers at the DCLG. I have not seen, nor approved, the CRE final accounts but they must make interesting reading. In addition to the reappointment of staff who received redundancy pay, some £66,000 went unaccounted for from the CRE budget.

  With so may questions remaining unanswered and the other concerns raised in relation to Trevor's behaviour, I felt I had no choice but to leave when Nicola Brewer resigned as she was the only one, in my view, who was likely to have succeeded in preventing a repeat of the circumstances I witnessed at the CRE.

For Clarity:

  The DCLG went through several restructures and changes during this time and several ministerial changes, Ruth Kelly, MP appointed me as Chair, Meg Munn, MP, soon replaced her. I shared my concerns with Peter Housden, the then Director General, Equalities, and B Follett, MP (who was an Equality minister for a short time).

  More recently, after I heard of Trevor's reappointment, I shared information and concerns with Maria Eagle.

  I was also informally interviewed by staff within DCLG who, after my complaints to Maria Eagle, called me in for an "informal Chat". It turned out that one of them wrote the audit report concerning [*****] so understood well what I was referring to but indicated that they were unable to locate paper work relating to this period to verify my claims.

  I am attaching, also, my letter of resignation and an email exchange between Trevor and I, which reflects how he tried to persuade me to sign a version of a note, which he intended to send around to EHRC Commissioners [not printed]. He was very keen to ensure that my departure was not linked with Nicola Brewer and also to give the impression that he and I were on friendly terms when I left. I refused to sign it. I had told him on a number of occasions leading up to my departure of my unhappiness with the way the Board was led and Chaired. It was an open secret that relations between the Chief Executive and the Chair were very strained. It is hard to believe that any Board members were unaware of that, at least to some degree. Yet there was no agenda item at the Board to discuss her premature departure when she left. An attempt to discuss the reasons for this by one or two Commissioners was closed down by the Chair, seemingly to the discomfort of the Chief Executive. I am confident that my fellow Commissioners who resigned, and were present at that Board, will be able to corroborate this.

  I trust that you will come back to me should you require points of clarification.

  Thanks once again for your commitment to address this matter

November 2009

1   Redacted to protect privacy of an individual. Back

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