Patten set to head BBC Trust

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The Independent Online

Former Hong Kong governor Lord Patten has been chosen as the Government's preferred candidate to succeed Sir Michael Lyons as chairman of the BBC Trust.

He will appear before the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee next month in a pre-appointment hearing.

A former Conservative MP and Cabinet minister, he lost his seat in the 1992 election.

Before that, he served as environment secretary in Margaret Thatcher's administration and was Tory chairman under John Major.

As the last governor of Hong Kong, he was tasked with overseeing the handover of the colony to Chinese rule.

He has held a succession of high-profile public jobs and wrote a report, at the request of then prime minister Tony Blair, on the reform of the then Royal Ulster Constabulary.

He also served as a member of the European Commission and has been chancellor of the University of Oxford since 2003.

Seen as being on the left of the Conservative Party, he has not played a frontline role in UK politics for some years.

His pro-European views put him at odds with many in his party but there is not expected to be any serious opposition to his appointment.

The BBC Trust operates as the voice of the licence fee-payer, setting BBC strategy and top-level budgets and appointing the director-general.

It plays no part in the day-to-day production of programmes, but oversees standards and hears appeals over complaints.

A key issue for the new chairman will be the ongoing row over senior salaries at the publicly-funded broadcaster.

Under the terms of the BBC charter the appointment is made by the Queen on the recommendation of Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Prior to the general election, there had been speculation the Conservatives would move to scrap the body and, as shadow culture spokesman, Mr Hunt had said he had "serious reservations" about the Trust.

Sir Michael announced he was standing down last year saying the growing workload for the part-time position made him "increasingly concerned" it was squeezing out other demands on his time.

His term ends on April 30.