MPs criticise equalities watchdog chairman Trevor Phillips

Embattled equalities watchdog chairman Trevor Phillips was today criticised by an influential group of MPs and peers.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) voiced concerns over Mr Phillips' leadership and questioned Cabinet minister Harriet Harman's decision to push through his reappointment.

The findings follow the resignation of six commissioners from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) last year in protest at Mr Phillips' chairmanship.

They had complained that the body's board was dysfunctional, with members feeling intimidated by Mr Phillips and warned that his links to a consultancy firm were a potential conflict of interest.

In its report, the JCHR conceded that establishing the commission by merging other watchdogs in 2007 and developing a "strong corporate board" had been a challenging task, but added: "We conclude that in the early years of the EHRC's existence this was not done successfully, for which the chair must bear responsibility."

The committee also took issue with the way Ms Harman, the equalities minister, reappointed Mr Phillips to his £112,000 post for another three years.

"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 report welcomed the fact that Mr Phillips had now given up his involvement with media consultancy firm Equate.

"It would appear, however, that it took some time before Mr Phillips was persuaded to take the action necessary to address the perception of a conflict of interest caused by his involvement with Equate," it added.

The committee also repeated a call for Mr Phillips to remove references to Equate from his personal website.

And it voiced concerns about the neutrality of the EHRC, saying the body's "credibility across the political spectrum would be enhanced if it included at least one commissioner with links to the Conservative Party".

Mr Phillips is being investigated by Commons Standards Commissioner John Lyon over allegations that he tried to influence committee members writing the report.

JCHR chairman Andrew Dismore said: "Major questions remain over the leadership of the EHRC. We regret that the reappointment of the chair was not subject to open competition.

"We were disappointed to hear about perceived conflicts between Mr Phillips and a number of commissioners, well respected in their fields, who resigned.

"The lack of a cohesive board has undoubtedly impacted on the EHRC's work."

An EHRC spokesman said many of the issues raised by the MPs and peers had been addressed.

"We have a new, stronger board working positively together. We also have significant human rights achievements to our name - for example the protection of people in care homes and the legal case we took to ensure that our military personnel were given adequate protection when serving oversees," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Government Equalities Office said: "Following the departure of the chief executive, it was important to have continuity of leadership for the Commission over this critical period, with the Equality Bill before Parliament."

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
i100
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim footballer acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Arts and Entertainment
A shared vision: Cerys Matthews has been familiarising herself with Dylan Thomas’s material, for a revealing radio programme
arts + entsA singer, her uncle and a special relationship with Dylan Thomas
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster