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Pre-appointment hearing: Chair of the Social Mobility Commission

15 October 2021

The Women and Equalities Committee will hold a pre-appointment hearing on Wednesday 20 October with the Government's preferred candidate for the position of Chair of the Social Mobility Commission (SMC).

Background of the session

MPs will consider the professional competence and personal independence of candidate Katharine Birbalsingh CBE, currently Headmistress of Michaela Community School. 

Following the session, the committee will decide whether to endorse the appointment. If it agrees to endorse the appointment, it will publish a report confirming its decision.     

Witness

To appear on Wednesday 20 October at 2.15pm: 

  • Katharine Birbalsingh CBE

About the Social Mobility Commission

The Social Mobility Commission is an independent statutory body created in 2010. Its duties include assessing progress in improving social mobility in the UK, and promoting social mobility in England. It is expected to report annually each year and to advise Ministers on how to improve social mobility in England. In April 2021, Government sponsorship of the SMC passed from the Department of Education to the Equality Hub. The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, in her dual role as Minister for Women and Equalities, is responsible for the appointment of the SMC’s Chair.

About pre-appointment hearings

The Liaison Committee has set out four main purposes of select committee pre-appointment hearings:  

  • scrutiny of the quality of ministerial decision-making, which is a proper part of ministerial accountability to Parliament; 
  • providing public reassurance, in addition to the processes of the Office for the Commissioner of Public Appointments, that those appointed to key public offices have been selected on merit; 
  • providing public evidence of the independence of mind of the candidate; 
  • enhancing the appointee’s legitimacy in undertaking his or her function, including providing the public with an insight into the candidate’s views on the policy issues related to the role.

The Committee’s observations about the suitability of the Government’s preferred candidate “are, in most cases, not binding on ministers” but “it is expected that the appointing minister will consider any relevant observations made by a committee before deciding whether to proceed with an appointment.” 

Further information

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