I can’t help but be amused by this ‘story’ by Rob Wilson MP, from Tory Home.
Along with a freelance journalist, Sunjay Kakar, I took a stroll back through Ms [Jacqui] Smith’s recent political past and found that she has “form” when it comes to dissembling. In November 2004, Ms Smith made a statement to the House of Commons that she had decided to appoint, Christine Channon, as a Director of the South West Development Agency. She confirmed that “decisions on the appointments have been made following open competition in accordance with the guidelines set down in the Commissioner for Public Appointments code of practice, and that the Appointments Code had been followed..”
It turned out that this was far from the truth. Subsequently the appointment of Christine Channon was shown to have been made at the expense of a much better qualified candidate, Malcolm Hanney. When pressed by Mr Hanney through an employment tribunal, the High Court of Justice Queens Bench Division compelled the Government to accept it was in contravention of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and it had to repay nearly £18,000 in costs to Mr Hannay. As she was the Minister for Equality and Women, wouldn’t Jacqui Smith have known that she was breaking the law by choosing an inferior candidate? She had assured the House the appointments were legitimate and that she had taken the proper advice. It is clear that she quite glibly gave a misleading impression to the House of Commons and may have contravened the Ministerial code of conduct.
Yes, Jacqui Smith did make the statement referenced here – this is it – however if you are going to try an allege that a minister may have mislead the House, you should try to get some of the basic facts rights.
At the time she made the statement in question, Smith was not the ‘Minister for Equality and Women’, her official title was ‘Minister of State (Industry and the Regions and Deputy Minister for Women), Department of Trade and Industry’.
The actual Minister for Women and Equality at the time was Patricia Hewitt, which is why, when this case went to court, it was Hewitt and not Smith who attended the case and who was shown to have been the Minister who took the decision on appointments to the South West of England Regional Development Agency – Smith was no more than the junior pushed out to give the statement on behalf of her boss.
Career sexism that stops women “achieving their full potential” is something that the former trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt fought hard against.
But it seems that her fight against sexism also includes discriminating positively towards women. Yesterday, it emerged she was found guilty of overlooking a strong male candidate for a job in favour of a weaker female applicant.
In a ground-breaking High Court case, the current Health Secretary admitted overlooking Malcolm Hanney, a respected international banker and “much the strongest candidate” for the role in favour of a lesser candidate ranked third in line for the job.
Mrs Hewitt and the DTI were found to have breached the Sex Discrimination Act and were ordered to pay £18,000 costs.
As to why this case got little or no attention in the Commons at the time, the answer lies in the date (12 September 2005) at which time Parliament was still in recess and would not return until almost a month later.
Considering that Rob Wilson is both Boris’s replacement as Shadow Higher Education Minister and has the help of a freelance journo, I can’t help but be a tad worried about the extent to which his ‘article’ is littered with very basic factual errors.