Appointment of the Children's Commissioner for England - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents

1  Background to the pre-appointment hearing

1. The Governance of Britain Green Paper, published in July 2007, included a proposal that

the Government nominee for key positions … should be subject to a pre-appointment hearing with the relevant select committee … The hearings would cover issues such as the candidate's suitability for the role, his or her key priorities, and the process used in selection.[1]

2. The Government's proposal was welcomed by the Liaison Committee, which entered into discussions with the Cabinet Office on the framework for pre-appointment hearings and, in particular, which appointments should be subject to them. A final list of such posts was agreed between the Liaison Committee and the Government in May 2008.[2] Four posts were deemed suitable for pre-appointment hearings before the Children, Schools and Families Committee. These are:

—  Chair of the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency

—  Chair of Ofqual

—  Children's Commissioner for England

—  HM Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills

3. The Government made it clear that it would not regard any views expressed by committees on the suitability of any such appointment to be binding; but it undertook to take those views into consideration in deciding whether or not to proceed with the appointment.

4. The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families wrote to the Committee Chairman on 6 October 2009, to say that Maggie Atkinson, Director of Children's Services at Gateshead Council, had been identified as the Government's preferred candidate to take up the post of Children's Commissioner for England when the term of office of the incumbent, Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, comes to an end in February 2010. The Secretary of State's letter, the candidate's curriculum vitae and a memorandum by the Government setting out the requirements of the post and details of the recruitment process, are all printed with this Report.[3]

5. We accordingly invited Maggie Atkinson to attend a pre-appointment hearing on 12 October.

6. We welcome the opportunity afforded by the pre-appointment hearing process to increase scrutiny by Parliament, on behalf of the public, of key public appointments. However, our role is closely circumscribed, which limits the value of involving select committees in the process, particularly as we have no means of comparing the preferred candidate with other applicants.

1   Cm 7170, page 29 Back

2   The full list is set out in the First Special Report of the Liaison Committee, Session 2007-08, HC 594, Pre-appointment hearings by select committees: Government response to the Committee's First Report of Session 2007-08 Back

3   Memorandum from the Government to be published in Volume II of the Eighth Report of Session 2008-09 Appointment of the Children's Commissioner for England, HC 998-II Back

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Prepared 19 October 2009