LETTER:No nepotism at Social Security

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The Independent Online
From Sir Michael Partridge

Sir: Polly Toynbee ("Eminently qualified - for some other job", 30 August) in writing about Sir Thomas Boyd-Carpenter's appointment as chairman of the Social Security Advisory Committee implies that this was based on his family connections and suggested willingness to do the bidding of the Secretary of State for Social Security.

The selection process to find a replacement for Sir Michael Bett was undertaken through a fair and open competition. For the first time ever, the post of SSAC chairman was advertised nationally and an executive search company was employed to assist us.

There were 50 candidates for the job who were finally sifted down by myself and official colleagues, without ministerial involvement, to a very strong field of three for interview by the Secretary of State. We were looking for candidates who showed the ability to lead and to chair major advisory committees.

Neither of his immediate predecessors, including Sir Peter Barclay whom Polly Toynbee rightly praises, began their chairmanship as social security experts. I have every reason to believe that Sir Thomas will make the same success of his new post as they have done.

Rather than the "disgrace" which Polly Toynbee suggests, the appointment of the new SSAC chairman has been conducted in completely fair and open fashion. The appointment meets advertised criteria which are far from Polly Toynbee's allegations.

Yours sincerely,

M. J. A. Partridge

Permanent Secretary

Department of Social Security

London, SW1