Philosopher named as preferred candidate to chair UK Equality and Human Rights Commission

Onora O’Neill has been named as the Government’s preferred candidate to chair the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission:

Following a recruitment process, Cambridge academic, Baroness Onora O’Neill of Bengarve, has been selected as the Government’s preferred candidate for appointment to the role of Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Culture Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Maria Miller has written to Dr Hywel Francis MP, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The Committee will hold a pre-appointment scrutiny hearing with Baroness O’Neill on 16 October.

The Committee’s conclusions will be considered carefully before the final appointment is decided.

If her appointment is approved, she’ll have  a tough job. The Commission has been heavily criticised from all sides since it was formed in 2007 – several much-respected commissioners resigned in 2009 – and the coalition government has massively reduced its budget.

5 thoughts on “Philosopher named as preferred candidate to chair UK Equality and Human Rights Commission

  1. I know. I’d be happier if we had no honours system at all. On the other hand, Onora O’Neill has done really important work in the House of Lords since 1999. Given the current state of Parliament, it has to be a somewhat good thing to have people around who can distinguish a good argument from a bad one…?

    I’m actually not sure I can think of anyone who would be better as chair of the EHRC.

  2. am I misremembering: I thought she’s argued that the concept ‘human rights’ doesn’t make sense. ?

  3. I don’t think she’s argued that (though I’m totally not an expert on her work). As I understand it, her concerns about human rights are to do with (a) how (and, yes, whether) we can match them up with obligations, such that they aren’t merely aspirational, and (b) the potentially bad consequences of complex regimes of accountability.

    But to be honest, I’d be surprised if her detailed philosophical views about human rights were able to influence the Commission’s direction very much: its remit is tightly circumscribed, it’s now got a tiny budget, and the laws it’s meant to promote and enforce have already been passed by Parliament. The reason I’m pleased is that I think – I hope – she has sufficient integrity not to be particularly interested in the status or power (such as it is) of the role, which would make a pleasant change. Things have been *really* bad at the EHRC: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200809/jtselect/jtrights/uc1042-i/uc104202.htm

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