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Children's Commissioner

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 19th October 2009.

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families 3:30 pm, 19th October 2009

The responsibility for this appointment is the Secretary of State's under the Children Act 2004, which established this post. I fully support the process of pre-appointment hearing and I have explained to the House the basis on which I reached my decision under the 2004 Act. The reason why I set out the issues in detail in my letter to the hon. Gentleman at 10.30 last night was that the Committee itself chose to publish its report at midnight last night, and I followed its lead.

On this particular point, it is a bit rich for me to be answering these questions from the hon. Gentleman, whose spokespeople have failed more than once in recent weeks, including last week, even to confirm that the Conservative party would keep the position of Children's Commissioner at all, let alone appoint an independent person to that position. I do not mind what the hon. Gentleman says about me. I do not mind what hon. Gentlemen in this House, and even some of my hon. Friends, say about me-that is politics. But I do mind the integrity and standing of an independent and highly respected person-Dr. Maggie Atkinson-being impugned in this way, especially when she cannot be here to answer for herself.

I have at no time sought to play party politics with this decision. Nor have I at any time used this process to try to undermine the standing of the Children's Commissioner in the way that is happening today in this House. I have accepted the unanimous recommendation from an independent selection process, which said that Dr. Atkinson would be the best champion for children and young people in our country-that is why I made my decision. I have to say that Dr. Atkinson will be no patsy at all.

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