The Ministry of Justice hiked the salary of a quango chair by 44% after the existing terms failed to attract a suitable candidate, the Gazette can reveal.

In answer to a freedom of information request, the ministry said that new Judicial Appointments Commission chair Lord Kakkar receives £577 per day for his work.

The previous chair, Christopher Stephens, received a daily rate of £400, a figure that had remained the same since 2014. For the previous two years the daily rate was £375.

It is also understood that the MoJ has reduced the time commitment for the post from three to two days a week.

The MoJ admitted that when the post was first advertised it did not produce a ‘significantly strong long-list of candidates’, with feedback suggesting this was due to the pay.

It added: ‘The department reviewed the post and agreed that, due to its significance, it warranted an increased level of remuneration which was agreed at a daily rate of £577.

‘The post was then re-advertised indicating that remuneration will be commensurate with the position; with an understanding that remuneration could be up to £577 per day. We received a stronger pool of candidates of which several exceptional candidates were invited to interview.’

Kakkar, a cross-bench peer and professor of surgery at University College London, was appointed for an initial three-year term in October 2016.

Last July the Commons justice committee raised a query with lord chancellor Liz Truss about the terms of the chair’s appointment.

Committee chair Bob Neill told the Gazette that the revised salary was a ‘significant increase’ but that Kakkar came with an ‘impressive CV’.

He added: ‘I have a more immediate gripe with the fact that the costs of the recruitment consultants used are withheld as “commercially confidential”. It makes it almost impossible to judge if we get value for money.’

The JAC, formed in 2006, is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the MoJ.

Its chair meets regularly with the lord chancellor and senior judiciary and oversees the work of 15 commissioners who help to select candidates for the bench.

The lay role also involves working to promote diversity in the profession and working with foreign jurisdictions to share best practice.

In 2015/16, the last full year he served in the role, Stephens attended nine board meetings and 29 committee meetings.