Rooker approved by skin of teeth

Lord Rooker has been approved by the Health Select Committee (HSC) to become the new chair of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) by a narrow majority of just three to two.

The former Defra minister and Labour MP has been recommended by the HSC to be appointed as the new chair, replacing Dame Deirdre Hutton, following a hearing on Monday (6 June).

In a vote to recommend the appointment to health secretary Andy Burnham, three MPs were in support of the sentiment: Jim Dowd (Lab for Lewisham West, London), Dr Doug Naysmith (Lab for Bristol North West) and Robert Syms (Con for Poole, Dorset). Members not in favour for Rooker’s appointment included Peter Bone (Con for Wellingborough, Northamptonshire) and Dr Richard Taylor (Ind for Wyre Forest, Worcestershire).

In a letter written by the Health Secretary to the committee chair, Kevin Barron (Lab), Burnham wrote: “The appointment to the chair of the FSA is made jointly by the Secretary of State for Health with the Health Ministers in the Scottish Executive, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive, as the FSA is a UK-wide body.

“The selection panel for the appointment has recommended the Rt Hon Lord Rooker as their preferred candidate and the four Health Ministers have accepted their recommendation.”

The final decision will now lie with the Health Secretary, who wrote the letter recommending the appointment in the first place.

Public health minister Gillian Merron said in the House of Commons on 2 July: “The role was advertised in March 2009 for a period of four weeks. The application period closed on 14 April. The selection panel shortlisted the applications in May and interviewed candidates in June. Ministers considered the panel’s recommendations and agreed Lord Rooker as the preferred candidate.”

She added “The process, run by the Appointments Commission, is regulated by the Commissioner for Public Appointments and has been conducted in accordance with the Commissioner’s Code of Practice for Public Appointments, involving an independent assessor at all stages, including the shortlist and interview panel.”