Theresa May dealt unprecedented slapdown as MPs reject her choice for head of the charities watchdog

MPs reject charity watchdog chief appointed by Theresa May over neutrality fears

MPs have blackballed the appointment of a former Tory minister as chair of the Charity Commission over fears around both her political past and experience in the sector.

The Prime Minister wants to parachute in Tory crony Baroness Tina Stowell, the party’s Lords leader from 2014 to 2016, as chairwoman of the Charity Commission.

She was subject to a pre-appointment hearing yesterday at the Commons Culture Committee – which refused to support her.

Mrs May will now come under huge pressure to launch a climb down and choose a less controversial candidate.

Tory MP Damian Collins said: “This is the first time that this Committee has not supported the Government’s candidate, and it is not a decision that we have taken lightly.”

He delivered a damning verdict on Baroness Stowell’s performance, saying she was “unable to withstand scrutiny”.

In a brutal letter to Culture Secretary Matt Hancock, he wrote: “Members asked fair questions that gave the candidate the opportunity to demonstrate her knowledge, skills and experience.

“Indeed, several Members made proactive efforts to tease out relevant examples of her interest in, and vision for, the sector, and were disappointed to receive answers that were often lacking in detail or relevance.”

She was also “unable to demonstrate to the Committee any real insight, knowledge or vision for the charities sector”.

The letter says: “Baroness Stowell has little more than six months of negligible charity sector experience, and a complete lack of experience of working for a regulatory body.”

It also questioned her political neutrality, pointing out she was a “longstanding Government Minister less than two years ago”.

The letter goes on: “Her political past is a source of concern for the Committee and those within the charity sector.”

MPs also blasted the “protracted” process for lacking transparency.

Mr Hancock was told: “We thought it regrettable that candidates for public roles of the kind we scrutinise apparently continue to be drawn from a narrow group of establishment figures.

“Baroness Stowell claimed to be a ‘veteran outsider’ and yet she has been Leader of the House of Lords, Head of Corporate Affairs at the BBC, and Deputy Chief of Staff to the Leader of the Conservative Party.

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