New checks on appointing outside ministers needed

11 March 2010

The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) today publishes its report on 'goats and tsars' and other appointments made from outside Parliament

The report concludes that the practice of appointing ministers from outside Parliament via the House of Lords should be exceptional and subject to more checks and balances. Any further moves in this direction would require a wider review of the constitutional issues.

PASC argues that introducing a wider range of experience into ministerial teams can some times make government more effective. However, it points out that government could also achieve this by making greater use of the range of talent on their own backbenches.

More scrutiny required

The Committee argues for more scrutiny of outside appointments when they are made. The Prime Minister would be required to explain to the House of Commons why an appointment had been made, under what terms and what was expected of the minister during their time in government. The prospective appointee could be required to attend a pre-appointment select committee hearing.

PASC identifies a strong argument of principle that ministers in an unelected House of Lords should be accountable to all Members of the House of Commons. The report states that people who have been appointed to the Lords to be ministers should not automatically receive a title and place in the legislature for life. It may be preferable to have a limited number of ministers who are members of neither House but accountable to both.

The Committee also examined the role of so-called 'tsars'. It concluded that there should be much more transparency about such appointments, with greater clarity about their roles and responsibilities and a public statement of what they have achieved in their posts.

The Chair of the Committee, Dr Tony Wright MP, said:

"The appointment of ministers from outside Parliament has brought some very successful ministers into government. However, the increasing numbers of such appointments cannot be considered in isolation from the wider constitutional position.

"Appointments from outside Parliament should be exceptional, subject to proper scrutiny by the elected House of Commons, and a short period as a minister should not lead to a title and seat in the legislature for life."

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