The Department for International Trade has announced the appointment of four new non-executive board members to its top-level governance team, but one name has prompted concern from the Labour Party.
International development secretary Liam Fox unveiled Simon Walker, Julie Currie, Pippa Malmgren and Noel Harwerth as the non-executive members of his newly-formed department’s board, who will sit alongside the ministerial team and senior officers including pem sec Sir Martin Donnelly.
Walker is director general of the Institute of Directors; Currie is chief financial officer and reporting officer at the Lloyds Bank Foundation; Malmgren is founder of business consultancy DRPM and a former adviser to US President George W Bush; and Harwerth is outgoing chair of GE Capital Bank Europe.
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Fox said the new non-executive appointments, who will be led by Walker, would bring “further trade, business, financial and international policy expertise” to the DIT departmental board.
“I’m delighted to welcome our new non-executive board members, whose extensive business knowledge, experience of global trade and corporate governance experience will help us shape the department and forge the UK’s trade agenda,” he said.
“The competition was extremely strong and our successful candidates are absolutely outstanding.”
Fox added that the fact three of the four new non-executive board members were women was also a “milestone” for Whitehall.
However Barry Gardiner, Labour’s shadow international trade secretary, told The Times he had concerns about Malmgren’s appointment after the paper suggested she had been a strong supporter of Fox’s short-lived bid to become prime minister after the EU referendum. Malmgren tweeted in the wake of the Brexit vote that Fox "will emerge as a power player" in the UK's withdrawal from the bloc.
“This appointment raises awkward questions for Liam Fox,” Gardiner told the paper. “Every appointment to the board should . . . be seen to be on merit.”
DIT said the non-exec board appointments had been made after a “highly competitive process” that had seen 181 potential appointees shortlisted. As part of their role, non-executive board members are tasked with providing independent scrutiny for the department when asked, and advise on cross-government initiatives and policies.
Earlier this year Bernard Jenkin, who chairs parliament's Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said he believed departmental boards did not make enough use of their non-executive members and that non-execs should be given more “job security” to boost their ability to challenge ministers.