It is a matter of great concern that the Government, rather than the Public Appointments Commissioner, sets the Public Appointments Code, says the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) in its publication of the government response to its report on the Grimstone Review.
Government has failed to assure the Committee
The government has failed to assure the Committee that candidates will not be deliberately excluded from high profile public appointments on an arbitrary basis that is not transparent.
In March 2016 the Government produced "Better Public Appointments: A Review of the Public Appointments Process", written by Sir Gerry Grimstone. PACAC subsequently held a short inquiry into the Grimstone Review, which was published in July 2016.
The Committee has now received a Government response (four months late), as well as a letter from the Commissioner for Public Appointments, Peter Riddell, which sets out some changes which have been made in the interim.
Weaken the robustness and transparency of public appointments
PACAC had expressed serious concerns about the content of the Grimstone proposals. The Committee concluded that “without extensive amendment, the Grimstone proposals will not and cannot sustain public confidence”. However, the government continues to argue that the Grimstone proposals do indeed strengthen the public appointments process.
Chair of the Committee, Bernard Jenkin MP, says:
"We remain concerned that there seems to be an effort by Government to weaken the robustness and transparency of public appointments according to the principles established by the very first Committee on Standards on Public Life, under Lord Nolan, and we hope that the new Commissioner for Public Appointments will do all he can to defend the Nolan principles on public appointments."
Ensuring public appointments are made on merit
PACAC will support the new Commissioner for Public Appointments in his role, especially as it relates to defending the Nolan principles and ensuring that public appointments are made on merit, and will continue to seek updates from him on the way in which the Code and existing practice are developing. We ask him to draw to our attention any further developments which he feels we ought to be aware of, or to act on.