§ Mr. Spearing
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish the texts of any correspondence which he has had relating to the appointment of a new Director of the Sports Council which he believes should be public knowledge; and what information he has regarding the date of the meetings of that Council which received the resignation of the present Director, approved the form and manner of the advertisement for his successor, and approved the recommendation of its selection committee.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
I understand that at a meeting of the Sports Council on 10th October a member raised under any other business the question whether the post of Director of the Sports Council was likely to become vacant, and was 841W informed that the present Director is due to retire at the end of March and arrangements were in hand to appoint his successor in time for the Council to be informed at its meeting on 19th December. There was discussion of the procedure for the appointment, and it was agreed that a job description should be sent to members, and also that in due course, in confidence, members would receive a short list of applicants, who would be interviewed by a selection board; and that subsequently the recommendation of the board would be put to the Council for approval.
The Council also agreed that a senior official of the Department of the Environment should be invited to be present at the interviews conducted by the selection board. The Chairman of the Sports Council discussed the matter with officials of the Department and it was agreed that the Department's representative would attend as an assessor and in a professional capacity, as it would have been undesirable for the selection board to have included a member representing the Minister's views. The Department was not consulted about the composition of the short list of eight candidates who were interviewed on Friday 16th December.
At a meeting of the Council on Monday 19th December, at which I was present, the Chairman reported the recommendation of the selection board. Concern was expressed by a number of members about the selection process, and in particular that details of the short-listed candidates had not been circulated in advance as previously agreed. At that meeting I had to point out that under the provisions of the Royal Charter establishing the Sports Council this appointment required the approval of the Secretary of State which would need time for consideration since Ministers had not so far been consulted.
In carrying out the functions required of him by the Royal Charter the Secretary of State must be satisfied that the Director of the Sports Council is competent to be accounting officer for the Council's public expenditure; is qualified in matters of sport and physical recreation; and can be expected to hold the 842W confidence of the Council and those with whom it works in the promotion of sport.
After careful consideration I was unable to endorse the recommendation of the selection board. I believe it to be quite intolerable to discuss in public the merits of individual applicants for public posts and I have resolutely refused to do so. Since the recommendation became public knowledge which I very much regret, I have received a large number of representations overwhelmingly supporting the decision I have taken.
The Chairman of the Sports Council had a lengthy discussion with me on 21st December, and I gave him a full explanation of my thinking, the conclusions of which were formally confirmed by letter on the following day. He then wrote on 23rd December asking me for further information that he could give the Council by way of comment or advice, and I replied on 5th January setting out fully the considerations I had in mind, saying he was quite free to convey the contents of my letter to the Council, though of course in confidence, together with my willingness to speak to the Council in person if desired.
The Sports Council met on 10th January, and I understand that it adopted two resolutions, the first of which was conveyed to me. The Chairman and two Vice-Chairmen came to see me that day to ask me to reconsider the original recommendation. I told them that after further consideration I was still unable to endorse the recommendation.
I understand, therefore, that the Sports Council will be re-advertising the post in accordance with its second resolution.