Written evidence submitted by the Ministry of Defence

Letter from Johnny Mercer MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary and Minister for Defence People and Veterans

In line with the commitment made in our response to the Committee’s report, The Work of the Service Complaints Commissioner for the Armed Forces, it was agreed that we would engage with the Committee on the recruitment of any successors.  I wrote to you on 22 July 2020 to consult with the Committee on person and role specification, timeline for recruitment activity and the recruitment strategy for the position.

As you will be aware, the Committee is required to hold a pre-appointment hearing with the selected candidate, the hearing in this case is scheduled to take place on 1 December 2020. I now write to you to inform you that the candidate I have selected to be appointed as the next SCO and therefore appear before the Committee is Mariette Hughes.  I attach a copy of the candidate’s CV and information about the campaign for your reference.

Once the Committee has held the pre-appointment hearing and produced their subsequent report addressing the candidate’s suitability to conduct the role, the Palace will be approached for HM The Queen’s approval of the appointment.

13 November 2020


Mariette Hughes CV

Strategic, motivated and dynamic leader, with excellent analytical skills. Experienced in leading from the front from the front with high visibility and credibility. Proven track record in driving delivery and improvement at individual, team, department and organisational level. Confident leader, able to communicate effectively at all levels.

Professional experience

Legal Ombudsman

Interim Chief Ombudsman [September 2020 onwards]

Director of Operations (Interim) [July 2020 onwards]



Head of External Affairs, Service Policy & Impact [March 2018 – present]



Ombudsman [September 2016 – March 2018]



Investigator [September 2014 – September 2016]



Chubb Fire & Security

Engineer Support [July 2011 – September 2014]



Qualifications and training



2009 BA (Hons) Modern Languages, 2:1 - University of Durham

2004 A levels: French (A), Maths (B), German (B), General Studies (A), Latin (A – AS level) - King Edwards VI Camp Hill Girls Sixth Form



Keen American football player, representing Great Britain and Birmingham Lions (national champions).


References – Available on request.


Service Complaints Ombudsman – Declaration of Interests

Conflicts of Interests

Do you have any business or personal interests that might be relevant to the work of the body/bodies for which you have applied and which could lead to a real or perceived conflict of interests were you to be appointed? (Failure to disclose such information could result in an appointment being terminated.)


Yes:                                                                              No: 


If yes, please give details:


Political Activity

In the last five years, have you been employed by a political party, held a significant office in a party, stood as a candidate for a party in an election, publicly spoken on behalf of a political party, or made significant donations or loans to a party?


Yes:                                                                                  No: 


If yes, please give details:


Other Ministerial Appointments held

Do you currently hold any appointments made by or on behalf of Ministers?

Yes:                                                                              No:


If yes, please provide the information below:

Body, period of appointment, payments received, government dept




I confirm that to the best of my knowledge and belief, the information given in this form is complete and correct. I understand that if I am appointed and the information, I have provided is subsequently found to be untrue then my tenure of office may be terminated.

I understand that my application will be considered for membership of the NDPB, without commitment and agree to the NDPB and Ministry of Defence holding information about my application electronically, within the terms of the Data Protection Acts of 1984 and 1998.

I understand that if appointed, details of my membership of the NDPB will be published.



Signature:               Mariette Hughes           Date: 25 August 2020

Service Complaints Ombudsman Job Description and Criteria

The Service Complaints Ombudsman (SCO) provides independent and impartial oversight of the handling of the Service Complaints system for UK Armed Forces. The Ombudsman achieves this through three main functions:

The SCO is a statutory Crown appointment made on the recommendation of the Secretary of States for Defence.  It is one of the department’s most significant public appointments and is subject to pre-appointment hearing before the House of Commons’ Defence Select Committee (HCDC).

We are looking to appoint a confident and dynamic individual who has a real interest in supporting our Service Personnel through the effective oversight of their complaints system. 

The key responsibilities of the role are to:


Candidates must demonstrate all of the following essential criteria.

Essential criteria:

Desirable criteria:

The successful candidate must abide by the Seven Principles of Public Life and the Code of Conduct for Board Members.


The position of the SCO is independent of the Ministry of Defence.  The Armed Forces Act 2006 states that the incumbent cannot be a serving member of the regular or reserve Armed Forces or employed in the Civil Service (section 365B(3)). This means that those with recent Armed Forces or Civil Service experience are also unlikely to be eligible. If you have any questions about your eligibility, please contact Defence Business Services in the first instance.


The Office of the SCO is currently located in a non-MOD establishment in central London. This is under review due to end of the tenancy agreement in March 2021; but the office is very likely to be based in central London.


Recruitment will be conducted in accordance with Cabinet Office's 2016 Governance Code on Public Appointments and regulated by the Commissioner for Public Appointments.  The appointment will be for a term of five years which is non-renewable.

Time Commitment

The role is full time, equivalent to 5 days per week. The exact number of hours each week may vary according to caseload.


Remuneration will be at £130,000 per year. 



Travel expenses and subsistence will be paid when travel is required as part of the role in line with MOD guidance. 

Induction Programme

The successful candidate will be appointed as SCO with effect from 1 January 2021. They will need to be available from that date, with earlier availability for a meeting with Secretary of State for Defence (if elected by SofS) and the pre-appointment hearing by the HCDC which will take place on 3 November 2020. The induction programme will aim to familiarise the incumbent with the Armed Forces, the complaints process and the role of the SCO. It will consist of visits to units (within the UK) and introductions to key personnel.

Security Clearance

The successful candidate will be required to pass a Security Clearance and will further be subject to the provisions of the Official Secrets Act.  They will be required to exercise care in the use of official information acquired in the course of official duties and not to disclose information which is held in confidence

Due to the nature of the post it is not appropriate for the SCO to occupy paid party-political posts or hold sensitive, senior or prominent positions in any political organisation.

Pre-appointment Hearing by House of Commons Defence Select Committee

Pre-appointment hearings are in public and involve the HCDC taking evidence from the preferred candidate. Questions are likely to focus on professional competence and personal independence. The candidate will receive a briefing on what to expect from the session. Following the pre-appointment hearing, the Committee will normally publish a report setting out their views on the suitability of the candidate and submit to the Secretary of State for Defence. Whilst non-binding, Ministers will consider any relevant comments made by the Committee before deciding whether to proceed with the appointment. The report and candidate’s CV may be released into the public domain by the Committee.

Service Complaints Ombudsman Campaign Information

Campaign Launch date

4 August 2020

Campaign closing date

26 August 2020

Reasons for any delay in the timetable to that originally published

One interview of the shortlisted candidates took place on 7 October 2020 due to candidate availability.

The HCDC hearing is taking place later than initially intended due to requirement to seek the Prime Ministers approval of the appointment prior to the hearing.

Advertising strategy


Advertised online on the Centre for Public Appointments, Women on Boards and Non-Executive Directors websites.

Additional paid for online newspaper adverts were placed on The Times, The Guardian, The Independent and The Law Gazette websites.

Advisory Assessment Panel


Panel chair: Lt Gen James Swift, Chief of Defence People

Other panel member: Helen Helliwell, Director Armed Forces People Policy

SIPM: Cindy Butts, Independent Panel Member

Number of applicants


Number of candidates invited to interview


Number of candidates found appointable



Declared Diversity Data

Table A – Gender





Identify other way

Not declared







Table B – Ethnicity



Ethnic minority

Not declared







Table C – Disability




Not declared







* Diversity data for the shortlisted candidates has not be included due to the small number of candidates and the requirement to comply with ONS guidance on statistical disclosure control where candidates could be identified.

Recruitment of SCO – Recruitment Plan




22 July - 1 Sept - RECESS

27 Jul

Launch competition (4 weeks)

Advert for role launched. Advert also to be launched on:

Centre for Public Appointments, Women on Boards and Non-Executive Directors websites [plus national newspapers]

26 Aug

Advert closes

It is at this point where, dependent on the outcome of the recruitment campaign, the current recruitment process will be suspended and the recruitment without competition process will be invoked.

24 – 26 Aug


Longlist of candidates produced from those who submitted an application.

9 – 11 Sep

Short listing

AAP to identify candidates to shortlist for interview.

28 Sep – 2 Oct


AAP to interview shortlisted candidates

12 Nov


Minister write to the HCDC on the selected appointable candidate

12 Nov

HCDC info

Information for hearing to be sent to committee (see pre-appt scrutiny guidance for what it must include) and candidate prepared for the hearing (also covered in guidance)

1 Dec

HCDC pre-appointment hearing

HCDC to hold a pre-appointment hearing with the appointable candidate

3 Dec

HCDC issues report

The HCDC will provide its written report on its findings following pre-appointment hearing with the appointable candidate.

14 – 22 Dec

Announcement of appointment

Announcement of appointment made on and Cabinet Office Public Appointments' website.

31 Dec

Current incumbent ceases in post



1 Jan 2021

Appointment commences

New SCO takes up post


November 2020