Trevor Phillips leadership of EHRC questioned by influential MPs’ committee

The chief of the equalities watchdog has had his leadership and reappointment questioned by a parliamentary committee.

A Joint Committee on Human Rights has expressed concern about Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Rights Commission (ECHR), questioning decisions that led to his reappointment.

Phillips faces a parliamentary inquiry over allegations that he tried to influence the findings of the committee.

But the EHRC said it had “addressed many of the concerns about its governance”.

Phillips was reappointed for a second three-year term last July, despite the resignation of six commissioners in protest at his leadership.

The committee questioned Cabinet minister Harriet Harman’s decision to push through his reappointment, saying that it undermined the EHRC’s perceived independence, the BBC reported.

Its report said: “In our view, the reappointment of the chair and deputy chair of the EHRC should, on this occasion, have been subject to open competition, to help restore confidence in the organisation and its leadership following the well-publicised difficulties the EHRC faced in 2009.

“The minister’s decision simply to reappoint Mr Phillips without any parliamentary involvement could undermine the perceived independence of the commission and put its accreditation as a national human rights institution at risk.”

The committee added that the human rights strategy published in November 2009 was “too vague” and a more detailed version should be published later this year following public consultation.

The commission, it said, was not yet fulfilling the human rights mandate set out in the Equality Act.

Committee chairman, Andrew Dismore, said: “We are concerned that the EHRC has not done enough, well enough, on human rights issues. The vague human rights strategy published by the EHRC was a disappointment.”

He added> “Major questions remain over the leadership of the EHRC.”

An EHRC spokesman said: “It is disappointing that the committee has allowed itself to be distracted by events dating back to 2006-7 rather than focusing on our record over the last year, and by the comments of a small number of unhappy ex-board members which were rejected by other board members who gave evidence.”

He said the commission had “addressed many of the concerns about its governance and management since then and they are no longer relevant”.

Earlier in the month the Public Accounts Committee found that the set-up of the EHRC was “flawed and inefficient” and had cost the taxpayer £39m.

This report led to the resignation of Tracy Allison, the commission’s director of finance, on Wednesday last week.

Comments are closed.