Treasury savaged for failing to appoint woman to key Bank of England role

The Treasury has been forced to defend itself after coming under fire for failing to appoint a woman to the Bank of England's interest rate-setting committee, despite drawing up a female-dominated shortlist.

Labour MP Rachel Reeves described the decision to recruit economics professor Jonathan Haskel to the Monetary Policy Committee as "truly staggering".

The chairwoman of Parliament's powerful business committee added: "Eight of the nine-strong Monetary Policy Committee are currently men and it is truly staggering that the Treasury has failed to appoint a women to this role."

The Treasury received 27 applications for the position after contacting 87 potential candidates to inform them of the vacancy, 44 of who were women.

Five candidates were shortlisted for interview - four women and one man.

"The fact that four women were shortlisted shows that there are plenty of capable and well-qualified women but yet again the top jobs seem to be reserved for men," Ms Reeves said.

A Treasury spokesman insisted the appointment was based on merit.

He added: "We are committed to diversity and encouraging the broadest range of candidates.

"We actively contacted 44 women to apply for this role, 80% of those interviewed were women and the majority of those on the interview panel were women. The final appointment decision was based on merit."

Rachel Reeves
Rachel Reeves

The appointment comes as gender diversity in business and finance is in the spotlight.

On Wednesday, the Business Department released a list of "pitiful" excuses used by FTSE 350 firms when explaining why they have yet to appoint women to senior positions.

Businesswomen "don't fit in" at board level or "don't want the hassle" of top jobs, the Government's Hampton-Alexander Review was told.

Ms Reeves added: "On the day the Hampton-Alexander Review has revealed that firms are dragging their feet on diversity and making excuses for their own failures, this appointment demonstrates the true extent of the challenge that still exists in changing the face of our corporate and financial sectors."

Mr Haskel, a professor of economics at Imperial College Business School, will replace Ian McCafferty as an external MPC member for a three-year term from September 1.

Mr McCafferty, considered a "hawk", will come to the end of his second term on August 31.

Chancellor Philip Hammond, who oversaw the appointment, said: "I am delighted that Professor Haskel is joining the MPC.

"I am confident that his expertise in productivity and innovation will further sharpen the committee's understanding of the British economy."

Mr Haskel has also been head of the economics department at Queen Mary University of London, and is a non-executive director of the UK Statistics Authority.

He joins the committee during a period of turmoil, with the economy stuttering, Brexit clouds gathering and the path for interest rates uncertain.