Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Industrial Policy

Matt Hancock breached equality law over Dido Harding appointment, court rules

The U.K.’s former health secretary failed to comply with equality duties in appointing Dido Harding, a Conservative party peer, to a senior position during the pandemic, the High Court ruled Tuesday.

Matt Hancock breached public sector equality duty in appointing Harding as interim executive chair of the National Institute for Health Protection and in appointing Mike Coupe as director of testing at NHS Test and Trace.

The judicial review was brought by Runnymede Trust, an independent race equality think tank and the Good Law Project, a not-for-profit legal campaign group.

While the court ruled that the Good Law Project did not have standing to bring the case, it found that Runnymede did on one out of three counts.

The court ruled that the appointment decisions themselves were not amenable to a judicial review and therefore Runnymede had no standing to challenge them, but that Runnymede could challenge the process leading up to the two decisions.

On this count, the court found Hancock breached the public sector equality duty, legislation designed to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity. While the ruling does not foresee any penalties, it amounts to a call for the government to tighten up its hiring policies for senior posts, the Good Law Project said.

The court accepted the arguments made by Runnymede that the recruitment process “ignored the need to eliminate discrimination against the country’s disabled and ethnic minority communities, and to ensure they have equality of opportunity,” the Good Law Project said.

“This judgment sends a strong message to the government that it needs to take its obligations to reduce inequality far more seriously,” wrote Halima Begum, Runnymede chief executive and Clive Jones, chair of Runnymede’s board of trustees, in a statement.

“It also serves as an unequivocal reminder that all future public appointments must give due consideration to equalities legislation.”

Harding, a former chief executive of the telecom group TalkTalk, was head of the NHS Test and Trace until April 2021. She is married to Tory MP John Penrose.

A spokesperson for Hancock said: “Claims of ‘apparent bias’ and ‘indirect discrimination’ have been quashed and thrown out by the High Court,” and added that the judgment noted “the claim brought by Good Law Project fails in its entirety.”

“The court judgment also states that ‘the evidence provides no support … at all’ for the allegation that Dido Harding secured senior positions on the basis of ‘personal or political connections’ in the government,” the spokesperson said. He underlined that the court accepted these “were urgent recruitment processes.”

Want more analysis from POLITICO? POLITICO Pro is our premium intelligence service for professionals. From financial services to trade, technology, cybersecurity and more, Pro delivers real time intelligence, deep insight and breaking scoops you need to keep one step ahead. Email [email protected] to request a complimentary trial.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You May Also Like

Foreign Policy

Press play to listen to this article LONDON — Six years after the Brexit vote, the U.K. is inching closer to the rest of Europe....

Europe

Towns have the greatest potential to unlock economic growth. Towns where hard-working local enterprises are delivering consistently for communities and incubating new ideas. In...

Energy

Press play to listen to this article Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s blinkered focus on German rather than EU priorities in the energy crisis is blowing...

Foreign Policy

Mujtaba Rahman is the head of Eurasia Group’s Europe practice and the author of POLITICO’s Beyond the Bubble column. He tweets at @Mij_Europe. While...

Europe

At least one person likes Liz Truss’ tax-cutting agenda. Unfortunately for her, it’s Donald Trump. The controversial former U.S. president weighed into the debate...

Europe

LONDON — A member of the U.K. government took a sideswipe at Liz Truss after the prime minister saw her first weeks in the...

Europe

Lee Cain is a founding partner at strategic advisory firm Charlebye and a former No. 10 director of communications. “With public sentiment, nothing can...

Europe

Press play to listen to this article Tom Keatinge is the founding director of the Center for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the...