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Downing Street plays down NCA appointment delay

Appointing a new head of the National Crime Agency is being held up by Whitehall wrangling.
Published - 23/05/2022 By - Chris Smith

A decision on the successor to Dame Lynne Owens is being delayed while the Home Office and Downing Street resolve the crucial appointment.

Candidates for the top job at the National Crime Agency have been told the vacancy is to be re-opened to applicants.

Both the Home Office and Number 10 were forced to go on the record at the weekend following media reports that former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Hogan-Howe was the Prime Minister’s preferred candidate to lead the NCA.

Lord Hogan-Howe who left the Met in 2016 and backed the PM’s leadership bid, had applied for the £223,000-a-year role.

However, national media reports claim he did not make it through to the final round of candidates – and Downing Street has rejected the two people who were interviewed by the Home Secretary.

Speculation has been rife that the role was set to go to Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu who is currently Director of the Strategic Command Course at the College of Policing.

It was heightened after his wife, Dr Nina Cope, moved from her role as a deputy to the director-general at the NCA to the Ministry of Defence.

Whitehall sources say a sticking point has been comments made by ACC Basu in a media interview criticising politicians including the Prime Minister for not working to 'bring society together' to combat extremism.

ACC Basu is also understood to have ruled himself out as a contender to be the new Met Commissioner.

Details about the problems surfaced last week at the Police Federation conference where concern was aired by delegates that if ACC Basu is sidelined policing could lose a significant talent at a time when the Service badly needs BAME people in top roles.

The delays mean Graeme Biggar, the interim director-general of the NCA, will carry on overseeing daily operations as he has since September.

He is also known to have been one of the final applicants.

A government spokesperson played down the media claims: “The PM has no formal role in the appointment process.”

The Home Office added: ''A fair and open recruitment campaign is under way.'

“Recent events have demonstrated how pivotal the NCA is in protecting the public from organised crime and national security threats. This process will ensure that we get the best possible candidate as the new Director General to provide the leadership and experience to take this work forward.”

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