Justice Select Committee rebukes Gove for phoning potential HM Chief Inspectors to encourage them to apply
The Justice Select Committee has rebuked the Minister of Justice, Michael Gove, Education Secretary during most of the last Parliament, for contacting potential candidates for powerful posts ‘with the apparent purpose of encouraging them to apply for them’. Gove contacted Peter Clarke, former head of Scotland Yard’s Anti-Terrorism Branch, and Glenys Stacey, who will be leaving her job as Chief Regulator at Ofqual early next year, apparently to persuade them to apply for the vacant positions of HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and HM Chief Inspector of Probation respectively.
The Committee ruled this contact was ‘unwise’. Both positions required their holders to make ‘independent and evidence-based judgements’ about the performance of prison and probation services. There should be no perception, the Committee said, that the post holders were ‘beholden to the Minister with overall responsibility’ for these services.
During the last Government, the then Justice Select Committee, recommended the appointment of HM Chief Inspector of Prison should be by parliamentary rather than Ministerial recommendations. Similarly, the Public Accounts Committee during the Coalition had recommended a review of the ‘appointment, budget allocation and reporting arrangements of Chief Inspectors in the criminal justice system.’ These were were not accepted by the Government. However, the Committee said Gove’s behaviour ‘demonstrates, yet again, the sense of these recommendations’.
What has this to do with education?
Peter Clarke was asked by Gove to conduct an inquiry into the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham schools. His appointment caused controversy at the time and led to accusations that Gove had appointed Clarke to divert attention from Gove’s policies concerning school governance which could potentially embarrass the Government. In the end, Clarke’s report contained criticisms of the Department for Education (see faq above 'Trojan Horse – what action did Peter Clarke recommend for the Department for Education?). Clarke reminded the Committee of this when he gave evidence to them about his ability to withstand political pressure.
Glenys Stacey is head of Ofqual, the body which regulates exams, qualifications and assessment in England. Her report into the 2012 GCSE English fiasco caused derision among teachers. A TES survey found most teachers believed Ofqual had been ‘discredited’ by deciding to overrule the judgement of examiners. Among the descriptions of the watchdog given to TES were ‘underhand’, ‘incompetent’, ‘bullying and callous’, ‘disingenuous’, ‘inept’, ‘a joke … lacking a spine and integrity’ and ‘a Gove puppet’.
On 20 November, Gove announced his preferred candidates for the two posts: Peter Clarke and Glenys Stacey.