Cabinet Office urged to address 'lack of visible diversity' on standards watchdog

‘Due weight’ must be given to diversity in appointments, chair says
Photo: Security Service/OGL v1.0

The chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life has written to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove raising concerns about the group’s lack of visible diversity.

Jonathan Evans wrote to Gove at the end of last month urging him to ensure “due weight” is given to diversity when appointing future committee members. His letter came after Gillian Peele, emeritus associate professor at the University of Oxford, and Ewen Fergusson, former head of the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills’ finance division, were named as the two newest members of the group. 

Fergusson's appointment sparked some controversy when it emerged he had been a member of the Bullingdon Club alongside the prime minister, Boris Johnson, as well as ex-PM David Cameron. A government spokesperson said at the time that the appointment was the result of an “open and fair competition”.

Lord Evans said that while he looked forward to the two new members taking up their places – which happened on 1 August – “members of the committee have, however, expressed concerns about our lack of visible diversity now as a group”.

“With a remit across public life, the committee needs to be representative of the people we serve,” he said.

All of the sitting committee members are white and none have visible disabilities.

Peele and Fergusson joined Labour MP Dame Margaret Beckett; former local government ombudsman Jane Martin; Liberal Democrat peer Lord Andrew Stunell; Conservative MP and former attorney general Jeremy Wright; and Dame Shirley Pearce, a clinical psychologist and chair of court and council at LSE.

In his letter, Evans noted that there will be an opportunity to make the committee more representative when Martin’s term ends in January.

“We hope this diversity point can be given due weight by the Cabinet Office in the recruitment of future committee members,” he told Gove.

The letter, which was published today, was copied to Darren Tierney, director general of the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team.

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