MPs deny undermining Atkinson's reputation

MPs today rejected claims that they undermined the reputation of Maggie Atkinson by objecting to her appointment as Children's Commissioner for England.

But they did raise concerns about the point of select committee confirmation hearings if their recommendations are simply ignored by Government.



The Schools Select Committee refused to endorse Dr Atkinson, Schools Secretary Ed Balls' choice to take over from current Commissioner Sir Al Aynsley-Green, early this week after being unconvinced by her suitability at a pre-appointment hearing.



In the first negative result from the recently introduced hearings, the influential committee called on Mr Balls to restart the selection process.



Mr Balls rejected their calls announcing he was pressing ahead with the appointment.



At a Select Committee hearing this morning Committee chairman Barry Sheerman told Mr Balls: "I want to put it on record that there has been some discussion that this committee and the chairman in particular undermined her reputation.



"In all the deliberations we have had to date I have gone out of my way to say she is highly qualified and highly competent for many jobs."



He added that it was only for this particular role that he had reservations.



Mr Sheerman also questioned why Mr Balls had moved so quickly to reject the committee's recommendation.



Mr Balls told the cross-party group of MPs he had not wanted to allow time for Dr Atkinson and the post of Children's Commissioner to be subject to "partisan politics".



He said: "The judgment I had to make was did I wait some hours or days to respond and allow as we saw in the House of Commons those who are badly motivated play partisan politics."



In heated exchanges in the Commons on Monday Shadow Children's Secretary Michael Gove said Mr Balls had already appointed Dr Atkinson "to do his bidding" in three previous "patronage roles".



Mr Balls in turn accused Mr Gove of impugning Dr Atkinson's integrity, insisting she was the best candidate for the post.



Mr Balls again told MPs today that there were some people who wished to scrap the post of Children's Commissioner if elected.



Acknowledging that it was an acceptable role of the committee to raise their concerns about Dr Atkinson's appointment, he agreed they had recognised she had a great deal of professional experience.



But he said the select committee had not been given the powers to veto an appointment.



"What we don't have is a system where there's a veto," he said.



"It is my responsibility under the 2004 Act to make an appointment."



He again insisted that Dr Atkinson was the best person for the post and had been unanimously approved by a selection process.



Paul Holmes, Lib Dem member for Chesterfield, said: "What is the point of pre-appointment hearings if a candidate has already been selected and already handed in their notice as it is only in very, very exceptional circumstances for anything a select committee says to be listened to."



Mr Balls said that the pre-appointment hearings conducted by select committees were important and are taken into consideration when making appointments.



Dr Atkinson, currently director of children's services in Gateshead and a former president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, was picked from 40 applicants for the role by a "rigorous" selection process.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Investigo: Group Financial Controller

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Investigo: A growing group of top end restaurants l...

Ashdown Group: HR Generalist - 2 week contract - £200pd - Immediate start

£200 per day: Ashdown Group: Working within a business that has a high number ...

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Recruitment Genius: Business / Operations Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well-established and growi...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible