2 Non-Executive Chair of the EHRC |
The role and function of the Equality
and Human Rights Commission
2. The EHRC was established in 2007. It replaced
and took over the work of the Equal Opportunities Commission,
the Commission for Racial Equality and the Disability Rights Commission.
It was also given responsibility for promoting equality and tackling
discrimination in respect of age, sexual orientation and religion
or belief, promoting good relations between groups and providing
institutional support for human rights. The Commission is accredited
by the United Nation as a category 'A' status National Human Rights
Institution (NHRI), responsible for monitoring the human rights
situation in Britain, including compliance with international
human rights commitments.
3. The post of non-executive Chair of the EHRC
is a statutory appointment. Appointment is by open competition.
The EHRC is currently funded by the Government Equalities Office
(GEO) which until recently was answerable to the Home Office.
It was thus the Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, and
the then Minister for Equalities also at the Home Office, Lynne
Featherstone MP, who were responsible for the position of non-executive
Chair and for the EHRC. Since the repositioning of departmental
responsibilities in September 2012, the GEO is now answerable
to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Its Secretary
of State, the Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, has been involved in the
last stages of the selection process for the non-executive Chair.
4. Trevor Phillips OBE has led the EHRC since
it was established in 2007, and he stood down in September 2012
after two terms of office. We wish him well in his future career.
Reform of the EHRC
5. The EHRC is currently in the midst of a period
of significant reform, following on from the plans announced by
the Government in 2010 and the consultation paper it launched
in 2011. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill currently before
Parliament contains statutory provisions which will reform the
legislative basis for the EHRC in line with the Government's plans
announced following the 2011 consultation. This will remove some
of the duties and activities of the Commission. The reform is
accompanied by both head-count and budget reductions which also
incorporate the impact of the general financial stringency affecting
all public bodies.
6. As part of the process of reform the remuneration
for the position of non-executive Chair has been set at £130,000
per annum, pro rata for up to two days a week (which
equates to up to £56,000 a year), down from the previous
salary of £185,000 per annum, pro rata for
three-and-a-half days a week (which equated to £112,000 a
The post of non-executive Chair
7. According to the information for applicants
published by the Home Office, the role of the non-executive Chair
- to lead in formulating a clear
strategic direction for the EHRC, focusing on its core roles as
a strategic enforcer of the law and national expert;
- to provide leadership in all aspects of its roleimproving
efficiency, value for money, and performance;
- to be an effective advocate and ambassador for
- to build and develop an effective Board; and
- to hold the Chief Executive to account for the
EHRC's effective delivery against its three-year strategic plan
and annual business plan.
The responsibilities of the post (which are set out
in more detail in the information for applicants) build upon this
role and emphasise the need for visible leadership and public
presence, leadership and assistance in good governance, and clarity
in the planning and delivery of the Commission's objectives.
8. Lynne Featherstone MP, the then Minster for
Equalities, wrote in April 2012 to Sir Alan Beith MP, the Chair
of the House of Commons Liaison Committee, putting the post forward
for the pre-appointment process. This letter is attached as Appendix
A. The advertisement for the post is published as Appendix B.
The closing date for applications was 18 June 2012.
9. The Secretary of State informed us on 1 October
that the preferred candidate for the position of non-executive
Chair of the EHRC was Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve. This letter
is attached as Appendix C. Her curriculum vitae is published
as Appendix D. All those applying for the position were required
to supply a detailed supporting statement of no more than two
pages. Baroness O'Neill's supporting statement is published as
10. We held a pre-appointment hearing with Baroness
O'Neill on 16 October.
Lines of questioning
11. In line with the guidance drawn up by the
House of Commons Liaison Committee on the conduct of pre-appointment
hearings, our questioning sought to test the professional competence
and personal independence of the candidate. The Liaison Committee
also observes that a candidate will need to be able to withstand
parliamentary and public scrutiny should they take up the post,
and that questioning may therefore be robust.
12. In the evidence session we explored the following
areas with Baroness O'Neill:
- Her general suitability for
the post, including her independence and relevant experience;
- Her leadership ability and organisational expertise;
- Her view on the reform of the EHRC and the challenges
the Commission will face going forward; and
- Retention of category 'A' status for the Commission
as a National Human Rights Institution.
A transcript of the oral evidence is available on
our Committee website.
The Committee's views on the suitability
of the candidate
13. We consider that Baroness O'Neill has demonstrated
her suitability for the post of non-executive Chair of the Equality
and Human Rights Commission. We are grateful to the Government
for giving us the opportunity to hold this hearing and we endorse
its choice of candidate.
1 The position had been full-time until it was reduced
to three-and-a-half days at the request of the incumbent in 2009. Back