Government confirms Charity Commission chair appointment following backing from MPs

The government has confirmed the appointment of Martin Thomas as the next chair of the Charity Commission.

He had been ministers' preferred candidate and has now been officially appointed after being backed by MPs, who were scrutinising his nomination this month.

His term runs from 27 December to 26 December 2024.

The recruitment process for a new chair had been marred in controversy and is subject to a legal challenge, after former Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden indicated in the summer that he wanted to appoint a chair to pursue an anti-woke agenda.

But during scrutiny of his appointment by MPs, Thomas assured members of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee that “woke or anti-woke terms have no place” in charity regulation.

He also said comments by Dowden, around whether charities should align to their mission, were “trite, because of course charities must stay aligned to their purposes”.

Following his appearance before MPs last week, committee members have announced their approval of his selection.

A report by MPs said they were “encouraged” by Thomas’ commitment to “the importance of both the Commission’s independence and the relationship between its chair and parliament”.

“It is evident that Mr Thomas will bring considerable experience in, and knowledge of, the charity sector to the role,” their report said.

“We felt he demonstrated a sound awareness of the challenges facing the sector and the regulator’s role vis-à-vis its wide range of stakeholders.

“He gave detailed and measured responses, and was not quick to jump to conclusions, which speaks to his ability to withstand scrutiny.”

Lack of diversity

However, MPs are concerned around a lack of diversity in the recruitment process around Thomas's appointment, adding “the government should have worked harder to ensure that applicants better represented diversity”.

MPs support for Thomas comes in marked contrast to their opinion of his predecessor, former Conservative minister Baroness Stowell, whose appointment had been rejected by the DCMS Committee.

DCMS Committee chair Julian Knight said Stowell “didn’t pass muster” and had given “the worst interview I’ve seen in 30 years of professional life” to MPs ahead of her appointment.

In announcing Thomas’s appointment Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “I would like to offer a very warm welcome to Martin Thomas, who brings both a broad range of regulatory and charity sector experience to the role of Charity Commission chair.”

Thomas, who is being paid £62,500 a year as chair of the regulator, added: “The Charity Commission is seen as independent, precise, clear, consistent, calm and just.

“It has true authority and expertise in the areas where it operates. I am very honoured and very proud to have a chance to help it hold fast to these attributes as it enters the next chapter of its history.”

Thomas has a background in the financial services sector, including roles at the Bank of England and the European Central Bank. He also holds a number of charitable roles, including chairing the board of NHS Resolution, which he will step down from.

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