DfE heavily criticised over Young appointment

27 Feb 18

The Commissioner for Public Appointments Peter Riddell has slated the Department for Education over its controversial appointment of journalist Toby Young.

Riddell said in his report, published yesterday, that Young’s appointment as a non-executive director was strongly supported by then universities minister Jo Johnson and by advisers to prime minister Theresa May.

But he wrote: “My investigation uncovered a number of areas where important principles in the governance code were breached or compromised in the appointments to the board of the Office for Students,” Riddell said.

Due diligence checks were “inadequate, and not conducted in respect of all candidates on an equal basis, compromising the principle of fairness in the governance code,” he found.

Riddell also criticised the Department for Education’s tardy response in supplying his investigation with essential documents.

The DfE told Riddell that due diligence took place but “by its own admission it did not delve back extensively into social media so it was not aware of tweets by Mr Young”; even though social media posts were examined in detail for a candidate for the separate student representative post.

Riddell said he was “disappointed” by the DfE’s assertion that it had not been practical to trawl through large amounts of social media in Young’s case.

“The speed with which the media and others responded to Mr Young’s appointment by revealing some of his tweets suggest it was not very difficult to find the relevant evidence”, he said, adding that Johnson later described some of Young’s messages as offensive.

Young is a prominent supporter of free schools and other Conservative education policies.

He resigned within days of his appointment to the Office for Students board after his previous offensive tweets came to light.

Answering an urgent question in parliament today universities minister Sam Gyimah said: “We’ve accepted due diligence fell short of what was required [and] social media vetting was not as extensive as it could have been.”

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