Select Committee on Public Administration Fourth Report

Conclusions and recommendations

1.  We recommend that the Cabinet Office undertake a new fundamental review of all public bodies attached to central government and 'map' them. If necessary, the definition of non-departmental public bodies should be revised according to precise, comprehensive and transparent criteria to encompass as far as practicable all relevant public bodies. This comprehensive review should be repeated at regular intervals. (Paragraph 38)

2.  We recommend that all public bodies, whether executive or advisory, statutory 'other' or 'private', 'ad-hoc' or 'ongoing', within the remit of central government, should be placed on the public record in Public Bodies and departmental websites, with information on their roles, accountability and appointment arrangements. (Paragraph 39)

3.  We recommend that Crown appointments to public bodies should not be excluded from regulation by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in the absence of specific justification for their exclusion. (Paragraph 40)

4.  We recommend that the review of public bodies, recommended above, should consider on a case-by-case basis whether public bodies not now subject to OCPA regulation should come under the OCPA remit. (Paragraph 41)

5.  We recommend that the Commissioner for Public Appointments should report to Parliament the list of public bodies that she considers should come within her remit; and that there should be an opportunity for Parliamentary scrutiny and approval of the list, possibly through a select committee. (Paragraph 42)

6.  We recommend that any variation from OCPA regulation should be placed on the public record with reasons given. (Paragraph 43)

7.  We recommend that the Government should consult with local authorities to determine the most effective and proportionate means of achieving public oversight of the boards of local public bodies and partnerships. (Paragraph 50)

8.  We recommend that the new independent Judicial Appointments Commission should assume responsibility for tribunal appointments currently made by ministers. (Paragraph 53)

9.  We recommend that independent assessors should be involved in every stage of the appointments process, with full opportunity to ensure that submissions to ministers accurately reflect the views of appointment panels; and that the OCPA Code of Practice should be revised to make this reform mandatory. (Paragraph 76)

10.  We recommend that all civil servants who play a role in making public appointments should receive appropriate professional training in equal opportunities and appointments procedures. (Paragraph 78)

11.  We recommend that, as soon as is practicable, the Commissioner for Public Appointments should be made solely responsible for appointing and supporting all independent assessors. (Paragraph 82)

12.  We recommend that in the meantime the Commissioner should assume responsibility for the recruitment and training of all newly appointed independent assessors; and that all existing assessors should undergo OCPA training. (Paragraph 83)

13.  We recommend that the Commissioner should include in her annual reports an account of the processes by which she recruits and trains independent assessors. (Paragraph 84)

14.  We recommend that prior to a trained OCPA cadre of assessors being introduced, such assessors should be involved alongside consultants in any stages of the appointments process in which they are involved. (Paragraph 89)

15.  We recommend that departments should satisfy themselves fully about the expertise and qualities of recruitment consultants who will be involved in any stage of the appointment process; that they should at the outset establish the aims and purposes of the body involved; and that they should then thoroughly brief the consultants on their requirements, the Nolan principles and the OCPA Code. Steps should be taken by the Government to increase the accountability of recruitment consultants and the transparency of the processes by which they are appointed. (Paragraph 91)

16.  We also recommend that the Government should undertake research to determine whether the employment of recruitment consultants adds value to the process of public appointments. (Paragraph 92)

17.  We recommend that the Commissioner for Public Appointments should be given formal whistle-blowing powers to report material non-compliance with the Code of Practice by any department, minister or official. It is for discussion whether the Commissioner should report such breaches to the First Civil Service Commissioner or to another body, such as a Parliamentary committee. (Paragraph 96)

18.  We recommend that the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments should be funded through the Parliamentary Vote with the Commissioner approved by Parliament and reporting to it, and that the Office should be housed and staffed separately from the executive. (Paragraph 101)

19.  We recommend that there should be a review of the staffing needs of OCPA in the light of the Office's current and future responsibilities and of action on other proposals that we make in this report. (Paragraph 102)

20.  We recommend that ministers should agree a list of key appointments with relevant select committees and notify them of the names of proposed appointees for these posts as they arise. Committees could decide, if they chose to do so, to hold a meeting with proposed appointees, and would be able to enter a Letter of Reservation as a result of such a hearing in any case where there was a decision to do so. In such circumstances the competition for the post would be re-opened. (Paragraph 110)

21.  We recommend that the Government build upon the report of the ministerial Short Life working group on diversity in public appointments to develop a high-profile national strategy to involve the public in a concerted drive to increase diversity and strengthen lay representation on public bodies. (Paragraph 134)

22.  We recommend that the Government should reconsider the existing assumptions for measuring merit in the interests of competency-based recruitment and diversity as part of a wider review of the role of non-executive board members on public bodies. (Paragraph 143)

23.  We recommend that, as part of the national strategy, the Government review of public bodies should carefully monitor applications and appointments to public bodies with a view to promoting diversity. (Paragraph 147)

24.  We further recommend that Government should consider the requirements of public bodies for various types of expertise and experience and the variety of roles non-executive board members can play in order to gauge the prospects of increasing diversity and lay representation on such bodies. (Paragraph 148)

25.  We recommend that the Government should introduce a single equality act that would lay a duty on all public authorities to promote equality and tackle discrimination. (Paragraph 152)

26.  We recommend that the Government should develop a more consistent approach towards paid and voluntary service on public bodies with an emphasis on developing competence-based lay representation and diversity in appointments. (Paragraph 163)

27.  We recommend that the Cabinet Office should consult the Commissioner for Public Appointments over guidance to departments, aimed at improving facilities and payments for the care of dependants and meeting other reasonable costs; and making meeting times and frequency of meetings more family and employer friendly. (Paragraph 168)

28.  We recommend that the Government undertake an urgent review of the rules on incapacity and income-related disability benefits to ensure that they do not discourage people with disabilities from applying for public appointments. (Paragraph 170)

29.  We recommend that the Government should organise and publicise a pilot scheme for public appointments involving an element of random selection by lot, with the final selection still made on the basis of merit. (Paragraph 174)

30.  We recommend that sponsoring departments should be required to assess the scope for introducing elections to the boards of public bodies to leaven the appointed membership with appropriate representation. These assessments should be made every five years, beginning in 2004. (Paragraph 180)

31.  We recommend that the Government should examine the scope for extending elections, both direct and indirect, for local bodies, giving special attention to the development of hybrid bodies (part-elected, part-appointed); and should report to Parliament on its findings. (Paragraph 187)

32.  We agree that there should be no general conflict between merit and diversity, but we believe that study of quotas for gender balance in other European nations may enable us to learn from their experience, and we also accept that it could be appropriate in some circumstances to dilute merit tests in the cause of a wider range of experience and background on certain boards. (Paragraph 190)

33.  197. We recommend that the Government should introduce apprenticeship, mentoring and shadowing schemes for public bodies to increase access and support, as part of a package of measures to increase the participation of under-represented groups. (Paragraph 0)

34.  198. We recommend that the Cabinet Office should conduct research into the drop-out rates from the boards of public bodies. (Paragraph 0)

35.  Therefore we recommend that the Government, in the interest of independent, professional and transparent processes of public appointment, should consult on the establishment of a single Public Appointments Commission to take over public appointments to NDPBs, public corporations and other public bodies from government departments. (Paragraph 206)

36.  We recommend that the Government consult widely on the constitutional and administrative arrangements for a Public Appointments Commission, with a view to making the Commission fully accountable to Parliament for its establishment, operation and reporting. (Paragraph 211)

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