LETTER FROM THE COMMISSIONER FOR PUBLIC
APPOINTMENTS TO THE CHAIRMAN ON PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION
Thank you for the Committee's invitation to
comment further on the section addressing ministerial appointments
in the Ministerial Code. I express my views recognising that approximately
only a third of these appointments do fall within my remit.
This part of the Ministerial Code requires some
general updating. It needs to acknowledge that the remit was broadened
in October 1998 from appointments to executive non-departmental
bodies and the NHS Trusts/Health Authorities to incorporate: nationalised
industries, public corporations, advisory non-departmental bodies,
and the utility regulators. However, I also believe that it would
benefit by reflecting more closely the principles within my code.
Whether formally applicable to an appointment or not, these principles
represent what is acceptable as good practice when making any
appointment and therefore should be clearly stated and explained
in full at the start.
I raise this point as I am concerned that a
large part of this section does not touch on the majority of appointments
but on those that are subject to the additional involvement at
the final stages of the PAU and the Prime Minister. This emphasis
gives me cause for concern for a number of reasons.
In order for the public to have confidence in
the appointment system, there must be an open and transparent
system. I have long believed that there should be a map, rather
like a tube map, clearly showing the public each stage of an appointment
process and how long each stage is expected to take. I doubt that
many members of the public appreciate that the PAU and the Prime
Minister have a role in some appointments and if they do, do they
really understand what the role and purpose is of this involvement?
I suspect not.
Therefore there is a great need, in my view,
to openly acknowledge this additional layer within the appointment
process and to clarify the purpose of it. Additionally, Ministers
should make sure that this additional requirement is made explicit
in the information sent out to applicants. Only by doing this
can the perception of secrecy be overcome.
Reading this section of the Ministerial Code
has made me reflect on whether as Commissioner, I can be confident
that at this late stage of the process there is no possibility
of my principles, especially merit, being breached. To date, this
part of the process has not been regulated. It may bear future
Finally, many of the criticisms that are openly
voiced about the long delays within the appointment process may
stem from the time this part of the process can add to the overall
time span. I would suggest that those most vocal may be the very
people who apply for these particular posts.
I recognise that any section in this Code is
going to be succinct and therefore it may be that my concerns
are best addressed through separate and more detailed procedural
guidance for Ministers. I was pleased to receive recently such
a document, drawn up by a Minister at the Department of Environment,
Transport and the Regions for use by her colleagues.
If the public's confidence in the process is
to improve, then everyone involved must apply the principles fully
and with enthusiasm.
Dame Rennie Fritchie DBE
13 July 2000