Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel – Vacancy (June 2020)


The Portman Group was established to promote social responsibility amongst alcohol producers and to demonstrate the industry’s commitment to acting responsibly. Across the last thirty years, it has consistently sought to raise standards within the sector and to showcase best practice. As the alcohol watchdog, it regulates the promotion and packaging of alcohol through a rigorous Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks and a Code of Practice on Sponsorship, both of which challenge drinks producers to market and promote their products responsibly.

Complaints made under the Code are considered by an Independent Complaints Panel.  This Panel operates separately from the Portman Group whose role is solely to provide a Secretariat function.

The Code was launched in 1996 and has been reviewed and strengthened and is currently in its sixth edition.  It is regarded as an effective and important system of self-regulation, which commands high levels of compliance and support amongst alcoholic drinks producers and retailers in the UK.

The Independent Complaints Panel is solely responsible for adjudicating on complaints made under the Code.  The Panel has nine members, including the Chair. Details of current membership and the Panel’s decisions are published on the Portman Group website,

The other members of the Panel are appointed by the Chair and the Panel is independently constituted.

Previous Chairs have included Laurence Shurman, the former Banking Ombudsman, Lord Condon, former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and Sir Richard Tilt, former Director General of the Prison Service.  Jenny Watson, former Chair of the Electoral Commission, is the current Chair and will step down in in September 2020.

Panel Chair – role specification

The Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel will:

  • Chair ICP meetings: the Panel is scheduled to meet nine times a year and meetings normally last no longer than two-three hours;
  • Liaise as appropriate with members of the secretariat, in particular to consider requests for informal resolution and to approve draft minutes of Panel meetings and decisions;
  • Be available as required to provide guidance to Secretariat on decisions of process and timing;
  • Attend hearings of oral representations if (as may happen very exceptionally) agreed by the Panel in individual cases;
  • Give public comments for Portman Group press releases about Panel decisions;
  • Attend and address occasional meetings to describe or promote the work of the Panel and the Code. Examples of such meetings could include the Code signatories’ forum and background briefings for government officials, journalists or relevant organisations with an interest in the workings of the Code;
  • Provide a short Chair’s report for the Annual Code Report.

Neither the Chair nor any other members of the Panel represent or speak on behalf of the Portman Group or its member companies in public or otherwise. It is the Portman Group’s role to publicise the Panel’s decisions to the media, industry and other audiences.

The Chair and all Panel members are fully indemnified, individually and collectively, against any action by drinks companies who may challenge the Panel’s decision in relation to their product.

Panel Chair – person specification

The successful candidate will:

  • Be a figure with a national reputation of standing and credibility in their field, though NOT in any way related to the alcoholic drinks industry;
  • Experienced at chairing meetings, drawing out differing views and guiding the discussion to an agreed conclusion;
  • Have an understanding of self-regulatory frameworks and demonstrate an understanding of the objectives of the Code of Practice;
  • Have a balanced approach to alcohol issues and be committed to promoting corporate social responsibility and responsible drinking by consumers
  • Have excellent communications and interpersonal skills;
  • Be able to demonstrate understanding of and compliance with the Nolan principles of public life, ie selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. (NB This is not a public appointment but the Portman Group is committed to following similar standards of openness and transparency in making this appointment).
Terms and conditions

The Chair will be appointed for a three-year term, renewable for a further three years by mutual agreement.

An honorarium, currently set at £16k per annum, is paid, as are reasonable travel and other out-of-pocket expenses. The Chair is personally responsible for any tax and other liabilities.

Recruitment process

Applications are to be sent to by 17.00 on Friday 10 July 2020.  Please submit a full CV, together with a covering letter explaining how your experience and qualities meet the role and person specification above.

Please include the names and full contact details of two referees, who must have known you in a professional capacity for at least three years. Referees will not be contacted without prior agreement.

The Portman Group is committed to equal opportunities; applications are welcome from all suitably qualified candidates who meet the stated criteria. The Chair will be appointed through an open and public recruitment process in full accordance with the Governance Code for Public Appointments.

June 2020