Lords spent £33,000 on headhunters before promoting Clerk

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The House of Lords was accused of wasting taxpayers’ money today after spending £ 33,000 on headhunters to find candidates for the new chief clerk – only to promote the deputy clerk.

The Big Bill was launched in search of a successor to Ed Ollard as Clerk of Parliaments – a £ 192,000 role of guiding peers on obscure proceedings at Westminster.

However, despite the costly search for external candidates, Deputy Clerk Simon Burton was duly appointed to the post.

It officially began on April 2, with the then Lord Fowler hailing him as “a recognized expert in parliamentary procedure”.

A spokesperson for Lords defended the spending – discovered by MailOnline using an Freedom of Information request – as the best way to identify the ‘strongest candidate’.

But critics said there was never any real prospect of an external appointment and suggested the process could have been a spectacle.

The Lords have a long history of hiring its most senior internal official, not least because of the extremely specialized knowledge the Clerk requires about House systems and conventions.

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In addition to being the senior procedural adviser and overseeing House affairs, the official is responsible for management and administration.

Mr Ollard himself was appointed Clerk of the Parliaments after serving as a Member of Parliament for Sir David Beamish.

Sir David was also Deputy Registrar before obtaining the senior post.

Tory MP Peter Bone told MailOnline: ‘The Clerk of the House, whether it’s the Commons or the Lords, has to climb the ranks to learn … I don’t know why you would need hunters to heads.

“ I hope they haven’t if they’ve already decided who they want, but just to show they’re open and inclusive they’ve appointed headhunters to pretend they’re looking for someone . ”

The Lords said Mr Burton’s appointment was made after an “open and external competition which attracted a wide range of high-caliber candidates”, with consultants Saxton Bampfylde “supporting” the process.

A House spokesperson said headhunters were also used in the appointment of Mr Ollard.

“Professional services have been engaged to ensure that the House of Lords finds the best candidates for such a high post, as we did in 2016,” the spokesperson said.

“This is a method used by many large organizations to fill senior vacancies.”

In response to a request for FOI, the Lords authorities said: “The amount spent on consultants related to the appointment of the new Clerk of Parliaments was £ 33,300.00 (including VAT).

“Please note that there will have been additional costs associated with the work performed by Keith Leslie, who was conducting an External Management Review at the time of recruitment, regarding the recruitment of the new Clerk of Parliaments.

“However, it is not possible to separate the costs associated with the recruiting process from the broader costs of Mr. Leslie’s work for the House of Lords on the External Management Review.”


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