Sir Alan Parker, pictured, has resigned as chairman of Save the Children as a result of the charity’s handling of allegations of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by senior staff
The chairman of Save the Children International quit last night in the wake of its sex harassment scandal.
Sir Alan Parker resigned after ten years in the role following claims of a high-level cover-up of allegations against two executives at the charity’s UK arm.
It comes a week after the Charity Commission said it was carrying out a statutory inquiry into Save the Children over the claims.
The watchdog is looking at whether the charity adequately reported what it knew about allegations against former chief executive Justin Forsyth and policy director Brendan Cox.
Sir Alan, 62, intervened personally to address accusations against the two men, the Daily Mail has been told. A Save the Children source said that in both cases Sir Alan personally took control within 48 hours, overriding the charity’s human resources rules.
He also brought in his own lawyers to help with the cases instead of using the charity’s legal advisers.
As a result, formal investigations were abandoned and both men left discreetly.
Sir Alan has always denied a cover-up of the allegations.
The source said: ‘There were HR procedures that were in place to deal with Brendan and Justin. Lawyers were contacted … then Alan came in, in both cases within 48 hours, saw the advice of Save the Children’s lawyers, ignored that advice and quickly brought in new lawyers.
‘HR were totally across it and said we have to deal with this, but Alan wasn’t happy … they did not follow Save [the Children]’s HR protocol. After Brendan left, the investigation into what he did just stopped.
‘The original lawyers’ letters are in the safe at Save [the Children] and the Commission are going to see them.’
Sir Alan is founder and chairman of the PR firm Brunswick. Gordon Brown is godfather to his youngest son, and when David Cameron left No10 he lived briefly at Sir Alan’s London home.
Brendan Cox, pictured, was policy director with Save the Children until his resignation in 2015
A 2015 report found Sir Alan’s ‘very close’ relationship with former Save the Children boss Mr Forsyth may have affected how he responded to complaints. Three women employees accused Mr Forsyth of inappropriate behaviour, for which he said he had apologised. He allegedly sent inappropriate texts and commented on what young female staff were wearing. It was claimed if the women did not reply, he would continue to pester them. Allegations were also made against Mr Cox, the charity’s former director of policy. He stepped down after admitting he had ‘made mistakes’.
Sir Alan was chairman of trustees at Save the Children UK when Mr Forsyth and Mr Cox left in 2015. He then went on to chair the board of Save the Children International.
The leaked 2015 report found that Sir Alan was ‘less than supportive’ when harassment claims were made by women working for the charity.
It described how Save the Children’s head of HR alerted Sir Alan to the issues. He said Sir Alan had said: ‘Justin Forsyth is very important to the organisation; people behave very differently when they’re abroad; they would have been tired; they would have needed some mutual support; what were the complainants doing by agreeing to go to his hotel room in the first place.’
The report said the head of HR was ‘frustrated’ by Sir Alan’s response ‘which he feared was a result of Sir Alan Parker and Justin Forsyth being close’.
One complainant was quoted as saying: ‘It’s more about who Alan is, and having Alan and his best mate Justin sort of talking to each other about how best to handle these girls.’
Two months ago Mr Forsyth admitted ‘personal mistakes’ over the claims he sent young women a barrage of text messages. The former aide to Tony Blair, who went on to become deputy executive director at Unicef, said he had engaged in ‘unsuitable and thoughtless conversations’ which he accepts ‘caused offence and hurt’.
He faced three complaints between 2011 and 2015, the year he left the organisation. He later resigned from his job at Unicef.
Mr Forsyth also faced questions over whether he protected Mr Cox, the widower of murdered MP Jo Cox, after he was accused of inappropriate behaviour towards women.
Mr Cox admitted he had behaved in a way that caused women ‘hurt and offence’.
In 2016 alone, Save the Children investigated more than 200 complaints of misconduct against staff.
Last month, protesters from the Women’s Equality Party interrupted a Save the Children board meeting to call for Sir Alan’s resignation.
Alexia Pepper de Caires, a former employee of the charity, read out a statement saying men at Save the Children UK had ‘disempowered women, sexualised their presence in the workforce and minimised their experiences’.
Sir Alan was due to leave in December but ‘felt it right at this moment to bring forward his succession’, the charity said. Announcing his resignation, he wrote: ‘Given the complex mix of challenges the organisation and the sector is facing, it is my view that a change is needed.’
He added: ‘In Save the Children UK we dealt with some unacceptable workplace behaviour, involving harassment, in our head office in Farringdon in 2012 and 2015. These issues are now subject to further review by the Charity Commission.’
Pernille Lopez, on behalf of the Save the Children Association and its international board, said: ‘We would like to thank Alan for his immense contribution to Save the Children over the past ten years.’
Who is Sir Alan Parker? The multi-millionaire PR guru who goes on beach holidays with the Camerons
Sir Alan Parker is a remarkably well-connected PR mogul who can claim allegiances across the political divide.
The son of a former British Rail chairman, he is reputed to be worth £130 million thanks to the success of Brunswick, the UK’s biggest financial PR firm, which he founded in 1987.
Before turning his hand to public relations, Sir Alan worked on an oil rig and managed rock bands.
Sir Alan Parker, pictured here with Samantha Cameron, is a well-connected PR mogul
A rebellious teenager, his anti-Establishment attitude meant he was denied a place at Oxford despite an excellent academic record. His unconventional approach to business is said to persist in his tendency to kick off his shoes during meetings.
Sir Alan, 62, started Brunswick in his parents’ front room in 1987, but the firm now boasts many high-profile clients, including EMI, Pearson, Reuters and Time Warner. It is thought to have advised more than a quarter of FTSE 100 listed firms.
Said to be a natural Labour supporter, Sir Alan was involved in attempts to rebrand Gordon Brown’s public image during his ailing premiership. Mr Brown is godfather to Sir Alan’s son, William.
But the PR guru has also holidayed with David Cameron. He and the former Tory leader were pictured hitting the beach together in South Africa. Samantha Cameron is an ambassador for Save the Children.
Sir Alan later lent one of his properties – a £16.8 million seven-bedroom townhouse in Holland Park – to Mr Cameron and his family after they left Downing Street.
The PR mogul was among business leaders who accompanied Mr Cameron on a trade mission to China in 2013 before being knighted for services to business, charitable giving and philanthropy.
In 2001, Sir Alan’s 24-year marriage to Caroline, an artist, ended in divorce. In 2007, he married Jane Hardman, who had worked at Brunswick. Both Mr Cameron and Mr Brown were guests at the wedding.
One of Sir Alan’s siblings is Nathaniel Parker, the actor best known for playing Inspector Lynley in the BBC crime series. His other brother Oliver is a respected director.
He is said to have use of a chauffeured Bentley and collects art by Sir Henry Moore as well as rare books. A keen angler, he owns half a £1.8million salmon beat – a stretch of river with fishing rights – on the Tay in Scotland.