PASC No.15

Session 2002-03

Press Notice No.15


PASC-the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee-today demands sweeping new powers for Parliament to scrutinise Ministers over appointments to major public jobs.

Under the plan, contained in a Report published today, (HC 165-I) Ministers would have to give Parliamentary select committees the chance to approve 'peak' appointments such as the chairmanship of the BBC and the major regulators. If they are dissatisfied with a candidate put forward by the Minister, Committees could force the competition to be reopened.

The Report, the first major Parliamentary assessment of the 'Nolan' system introduced in 1995 to clean up public bodies, accepts that there have been "considerable improvements" in recent years, with greater integrity and better independent scrutiny. But it voices concern that many people still have little confidence in the integrity of the system and identifies a continuing failure to attract substantial numbers of ethnic minority and female candidates to public appointments.

The Committee argues for a series of other reforms, including an independent Public Appointments Commission to take over from ministers the routine appointments of thousands of members of public bodies such as NHS Trusts and scientific advisory committees. It urges Government to do much more to encourage women, ethnic minority, and disabled people to apply to serve on these bodies, and calls for a concerted campaign to enlist people for service on public bodies.

Commenting today, PASC Chairman Tony Wright MP said:

"We believe it is time to look again at the way we make appointments to public bodies. The fact is that much of the business of governing Britain is done by appointees, and the public need to have confidence in this system. We also have to make sure that we are attracting a broader range of people to serve on public bodies."

"We think it is time for Parliament to have a role in looking at the key appointments proposed by Ministers. I very much hope that this proposal will not be resisted by the Government as it will do much to increase public confidence in the system."

"Just because 'Tony' rhymes with 'crony' the media feed public suspicion about public appointments, as though the Nolan rules had never been invented, but we think that we have devised a system that can finally lay such charges to rest. We also need to value the public service involved in serving on public bodies and open this up to many more people."