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Grayling questioned over second extension of ORR chair’s post

The transport secretary has faced questions following the second extension of Professor Stephen Glaister’s post as chair of the Office of Road and Rail (ORR), it has been revealed.

Correspondence between Chris Grayling, Lilian Greenwood, transport committee chair, and Peter Riddell, commissioner for public appointments, has recently been published, revealing concerns that the appointment had not been properly scrutinised by the transport committee.

In a letter to Greenwood dated earlier this month, Riddell said that though he had no objections to the appointment, this must be the final extension of Glaister’s post without an official hearing being carried out.

Riddell’s letter stated that Glaister had been in post for three years without the committee being given an opportunity to exercise scrutiny.

Greenwood wrote to Grayling regarding the matter, expressing concerns that Glaister was not subject to the usual pre-appointment hearing before the committee.

“As Professor Glaister was initially appointed on an interim basis from the beginning of 2016 and his term has since been extended twice, neither this committee nor its predecessor has had the opportunity to conduct a pre-appointment hearing with him.”

She continued: “Given the importance of this role, it is regrettable that parliamentary scrutiny has been avoided in this way.”

Greenwood then asked the transport secretary to outline the steps that will be taken to ensure that the recruitment exercise planned for this year does not fail to identify a suitable candidate, as it did in 2017.

Grayling responded by highlighting the importance of the role and its impact on passengers, freight users, the rail industry and the government.

He explained: “It was therefore particularly important that the right person, with the skills and experience required at this important time, was appointed.

“While the recent recruitment campaign did not identify a suitable, permanent replacement, Professor Glaister’s extensive experience and expertise make him very well suited to continue to serve as ORR chair as these important decisions are taken, continuing the excellent work he has been doing.”

However, he agreed that lessons must be learned from the recent campaign to ensure that the next leads to the appointment of a suitable successor.

“To that end, my officials are currently conducting a focussed ‘lessons learned’ exercise to understand the reasons a suitable candidate was not identified.

“This will inform the next competition, which I expect to commence by early in the spring.”

Grayling also added that the successful candidate will then be available for transport committee scrutiny.

Top image: David Mirzoeff PA Wire

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