Public Administration Select Committee

Session 2002-03

Press Notice No.6


The Commons Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) has decided to undertake an inquiry into the operation of prerogative powers by government in Britain, including an examination of the honours system.

Prerogative powers enable governments to take action on a range of fronts without statutory backing or parliamentary approval-from making appointments to going to war.  They are also the basis on which honours are conferred.

The inquiry, which will begin next month, will seek evidence from ministers and other politicians, civil servants and experts in the field.  A full programme for the inquiry will be announced in due course, and the  Committee aims to report later this year.

Tony Wright MP, the Chairman of PASC, said today:

"A review of the prerogative powers exercised by British governments is long overdue.  These are powers which have passed from monarchs to ministers without Parliament having a say in how they are exercised.  It is time to examine whether this arrangement is satisfactory.  There has been discussion and concern over the years about the exercise of prerogative powers, but there has not been a systematic review.  That is the purpose of this inquiry.

"As part of this general inquiry, we also want to have a particular look at the honours system and the role it plays in British government and public administration."

The Committee is currently completing its inquiries into public appointments, the "new centre" of government and public service targets. A number of other Committee inquiries will be announced soon.

 The current programme of evidence is set out below.

13 February

Public Appointments and Patronage Inquiry

10.00 a.m. Hamish Davidson, Chairman, Veredus

27 February 

The New Centre Inquiry (Morning)

10.30 a.m. Professor Michael Barber, Prime Minister's Delivery Unit, Cabinet Office and Mr Nicholas MacPherson, Managing Director, Public Services Directorate, HM Treasury

Public Appointments and Patronage Inquiry (Afternoon)

2.30 p.m. Dame Rennie Fritchie DBE, Commissioner for Public Appointments

6 March

Ombudsman Issues Inquiry

10.00 a.m. Ms Ann Abraham, Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration

13 March

Cabinet Office Annual Report

2.30 p.m. Sir Andrew Turnbull KCB CVO, Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service

The  sessions will  be held in the Grimond Room,
Portcullis House, London SW1.

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For further information please telephone Philip Aylett, Clerk of the Committee on 020 7219 3268

Tony Wright may be contacted for press inquiries on 020 7219 5583

Publications and evidence, including uncorrected evidence by Government Ministers, is also available on the Internet at 

(Publications appear under 'Select Committee on Public Administration Reports' with 'reports' listed last, after 'uncorrected evidence' and 'oral evidence')

For information regarding forthcoming meetings including venues and times please call the House of Commons Committee Information Line on 020 7219 2033 (updated daily).