Damian Hinds asked me to apply, says new social mobility tsar

Dame Martina Milburn, the new chair-designate of the Social Mobility Commission, was personally approached by the education secretary and asked to consider applying for the job, she has revealed.

Milburn was nominated for the job in May after a lengthy recruitment process, which followed the resignation of the commission’s entire board over a “lack of political leadership” in December.

Giving evidence to her confirmation hearing of the parliamentary education committee today, Milburn said she was approached by Damian Hinds around two months ago and asked to consider the role.

“So the secretary of state called me and asked me if I’d seen the ad, which I hadn’t, and if it would be something that I would consider.”

According to Milburn, Hinds was “very clear that there was an open process to go through and he was also very clear that he was calling other people”.

“So I said I’d go and think about it, I had a look at the ad, I spoke to a few people and thought I would put my hat in the ring.”

Asked when she received the call from Hinds, Milburn said: “I honestly can’t remember. Two months ago?”

Lucy Powell, the former shadow education secretary who now sits on the committee, questioned the timing, given the original closing date for the job was February 25.

Milburn confirmed the phone call “would have been in between” the original closing date and the new one, but could not say exactly when it took place.

“I honestly couldn’t tell you, sorry,” she said.