Annex 3: An Evaluation of Pre-Appointment
Preface and credits
This document is the outcome of a research project
commissioned by the Cabinet Office and the Liaison Committee of
the House of Commons from the Constitution Unit of University
College London, in the autumn of 2009.
The report has been written by Peter Waller, a former
senior civil servant and Honorary Senior Research Associate and
Mark Chalmers, a research assistant at the Unit.
Our report has been largely driven by over 60 interviews
with people who have participated in the pre-appointment hearings
covered by this report. All of them gave their time generously
and we would like to thank them for doing so.
We would also like to thank Sue Gray and Rob Wall
of the Cabinet Office and Robert Wilson and Steven Mark, Clerks
of the Liaison and Public Administration Committee respectively,
all of whom helped us structure our research and guided us on
our way. Professor Robert Hazell, the director of the Constitution
Unit was also an invaluable source of guidance and comment.
But the end result is very much our own work and
we are happy to take full responsibility for anything contained
within. It is for others, of course, to decide what to do next
with the issues covered by our report and we wish them well in
Peter Waller & Mark Chalmers
Constitution Unit, UCL
1. This report has been commissioned from the Constitution
Unit at University College London by the Cabinet Office and the
House of Commons Liaison Committee.
2. It is a research-based report into the effectiveness
of pre-appointment scrutiny hearings, which were introduced in
2008 for just over 60 high-profile public appointments. The broad
intention was that the Government would identify a "preferred
candidate" for those roles, in many cases under the supervision
of the Commissioner for Public Appointments; and would then invite
the relevant House of Commons Select Committee to carry out a
pre-appointment hearing in public with the preferred candidate.
The Committee would then report back on that hearing to the Secretary
of State concerned who would then decide whether to confirm the
appointment. In short, the Committees' report were to be advisory
in nature. This new regime was introduced on a pilot basis - hence
this evaluation report.
3. Chapter 1 gives a brief overview of the background
to the system of pre-appointment hearings; and the discussions
between the Cabinet office and Parliament which led to its introduction.
4. Chapter 2 gives a factual account of experience
to date. It shows that by the end of 2009, there had been 18 hearings
covering 19 appointments; and records the issues discussed in
those hearings. It also records that to date there has been one
instance in which a select committee did not endorse the appointment,
with a positive endorsement of the candidate in the other 18.
In two of those cases, however, the Committee divided before issuing
a positive report on the candidate concerned. In the one case
where a select committee did not endorse the appointment, namely
the Children's Commissioner for England, the Secretary of State
concerned decided to confirm the appointment of the preferred
candidate, identified by an independent recruitment process. That
case is discussed throughout this report but examined more fully
in Annex A.
5. Chapter 3 covers the heart of our research, namely
over 60 interviews with i) Committee Chairs, members and clerks;
ii) preferred candidates, iii) Departmental officials and iv)
search consultants. We had an excellent response to our request
for interviews and have conducted at least three interviews relating
to each case - in many cases more than three. (Many interviews
covered more than one appointment.)
- Chapter 3 records the results of those interviews,
grouped around i) Parliamentarians ii) candidates iii) Departmental
officials and iv) search consultants. The interviews were carried
out on a confidential basis, so we have given views by category
rather than named individuals. We have used quotes extensively
to give the range of views received but sought to disguise individual
cases. In broad overview, our research from interviews shows;
- Parliamentarians have found the new approach
frustrating and were overall the most disappointed with the new
approach. They have no real confidence that the Government will
take a negative recommendation seriously. Many, though not all,
would like to go further in having a wider range of candidates
to consider and/or having a power of veto over the preferred candidate;
- the majority of preferred candidates have
supported the hearings and felt that they were beneficial to them,
as well as justified on "democratic grounds". The remainder
have been neutral rather than opposed to the hearings. A majority
of candidates have also told us that in the event of a negative
report, they would have probably decided not take up the appointment
even if the Department had wanted them to do so;
- Departmental officials
were broadly neutral about the hearings, being largely focussed
on the mechanics of the additional processes involved and the
lengthening of the timetable for appointments, while acknowledging
these were usually not substantive concerns. They did not feel,
however, that there was much value-added in the new approach;
- search consultants
were mildly negative. Their initial concerns that the new system
would be a significant deterrent to candidates had not been realised,
but there were some residual concerns as to the longer term deterrent
6. Chapter 4 supplements this interview-based approach
with an analysis of media coverage of the new system. It concludes
that there has been consistent but modest reporting of most of
the appointments and strong reporting of a couple of cases.
- Chapter 5 gives our conclusions on some of the
key issues raised by the new approach. Our principal conclusions
as discussed in that Chapter are;
- there has been a positive benefit from the new
approach in terms of democracy and transparency in relation to
these appointments - though it has been a modest step not a giant
- there has been no significant deterrent effect
to good quality candidates arising from the hearings. Those who
might object to them in principal are unlikely to be strong candidates
for this sort of role in the first place;
- the new system does, however, tend to favour
candidates who have previous experience of sector committees,
whether through previous experience on public boards or other
engagement in public life. There are, however, strong pressures
favouring such candidates already, especially for roles of such
- it is wrong to assume that negative reports will
never have any impact, based solely on the fact that in the one
case to date, the candidate concerned had their appointment confirmed.
A majority of the candidates we interviewed told us they would
have chosen not to take up the post following a negative report,
even if the Department wished them to do so. We also believe that
departments will take negative reports seriously, even if they
will have a starting inclination to confirm the candidate;
- there is an inherent tension between the formality
of the public appointment recruitment processes - which place
a high priority on consistent procedures - and the informality
of Committee hearings which tend not to be constrained in the
same way; and
- there is scope for further consideration as to
which posts should be covered by hearings.
7. Chapter 6 contains our thoughts on possible ways
forward for the Cabinet Office and Parliament to consider. We
discuss various options, notably;
- the case for greater involvement of Committees
in the process, as many Parliamentarians would wish;
- the case for continuing the current approach,
with modest changes and improvements;
- the case for a step back, effectively making
hearings "post" rather than pre appointment, thus removing
some of the tensions referred to above; and
- the possibility that Parliament could have greater
involvement in a smaller subset of the current list of appointments
subject to hearings.
Chapter 1: A Brief History of and background to
the introduction of PAS
1.1.1 In the July 2007 Governance of Britain
Green Paper the Government announced plans to involve Parliament
in the appointment process to key public offices.
The move was part of a broad package of reforms designed to submit
the powers of the executive to greater scrutiny while enhancing
the role of Parliament. Specifically on this subject it proposed
that Select Committees should hold pre-appointment scrutiny hearings
for certain positions in which Parliament had a "particularly
strong interest". For certain "market-sensitive"
positions, such as members of the Monetary Policy Committee, it
proposed that the hearings would take place after the appointment
had been confirmed but prior to the appointee taking up the position.
1.1.2 The hearings were to be conducted by the
relevant Select Committee and focus on "issues such as the
candidate's suitability for the role, his or her key priorities,
and the process used in selection". Most importantly, the
Green Paper stated that "the hearing would be non-binding,
but in light of the report from the committee, Ministers would
decide whether to proceed". Thus, pre-appointment hearings
were not intended to conflict with the principle of ministerial
responsibility for the appointments concerned, a responsibility
which was enshrined in legislation for many of the appointments
1.1.3 Following the Government's proposals, the
Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) published the report
Parliament and Public Appointments: Pre-appointment hearings
by select committees in January 2008.
PASC welcomed the introduction of pre-appointment scrutiny hearings,
noting that the proper role of Select Committees in the appointments
process should be informing the "final ministerial decision,
not in influencing the impartial process that precedes the decision".
The Committee identified certain "obvious candidates"
for pre-appointment scrutiny hearings: major auditors, ombudsmen,
regulators and inspectors, as well as those responsible for the
appointments system itself.
Moreover, PASC stated that the hearings should only apply to those
appointments made by politicians.
1.1.4 In January 2008 the then Cabinet Office
Minister (Ed Miliband) wrote to the chairman of the Liaison Committee
with a list of posts which the Government believed were suitable
to be subject to pre-appointment scrutiny hearings.
The letter noted that the hearings would be targeted at posts
which exercised statutory or other powers in relation to protecting
the public's rights and interests, as well as those that played
an important role in the regulation and administration of the
public appointments process. The Government's initial list consisted
of 29 posts, including, inter alia, the Chair of OFCOM,
Chair of the Statistics Board, the Commissioner for Public Appointments,
and the Information Commissioner. The Government stated that Committee
hearings would focus on the "professional competence"
of the appointee and should be conducted so as to ensure that
the appointments process was 'proportionate and continued to attract
high quality candidates.'
1.1.5 The Liaison Committee, which also welcomed
the proposal, issued its response to the letter from Ed Miliband
in March 2008.
Based on a consultation with individual Select Committees, the
Liaison Committee published a list of additional posts that the
considered should be subject to pre-appointment scrutiny hearings.
The list consisted of 41 appointments, most of which fell into
the various categories of suitable posts suggested by PASC (i.e.
inspectors, regulators, auditors, and complaint investigators).
The Liaison Committee also agreed to a draft set of guidelines
for the conduct of pre-appointment hearings.
1.1.6 The Liaison Committee guidelines on pre-appointment
hearings are in the box below:
|Preparing for the session|
The Committee should aim to give the witness at least a week's notice of the session. Standard briefing should be available to the candidate on what to expect from the session. The candidate should also be informed how long the session is likely to last.
During the session
The Chairman should ensure that Members are aware their questions must remain relevant to the professional competence and personal independence of the candidate. Questions eliciting background information about the candidate's past career and about the selection process for the post are normally acceptable.
The candidate will need to be able to withstand parliamentary and public scrutiny should they take up the post, and the purpose of the session is to test this. Questioning may therefore be robust, and it may cover some areas that might not be appropriate at interview, such as party political activity. The Chairman should intervene, however, if questions are irrelevant, unduly personal, or discriminatory.
After the session
Immediately after the evidence session, the Committee should meet in private to agree a report to the House containing its views on the suitability of the candidate. This will ensure both that the evidence is fresh in Members' minds and that Members who were not present at the evidence do not influence the content of the report. It will also avoid unnecessarily prolonged speculation about the candidate's fate. The Committee may also wish to instruct the Chairman to write to the relevant Minister with any opinions that it prefers to express privately, to supplement the published report.
The Committee's report should be published as soon as possible after the evidence session. Reports should be subject to a 24 hour embargo to allow the candidate and the Minister to prepare a response to any negative comments. They should be provided under embargo only to the candidate and the Minister.
1.1.7 Also in March 2008, the Government published
a White Paper on Constitutional Renewal along with the
Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill.
The White Paper outlined the progress made on appointment hearings
and emphasised the commitment of the Government to work with the
Liaison Committee in order to agree to a final list of posts suitable
for pre-appointment hearings.
This was followed in June 2008 by the Government's response to
the Liaison Committee's March 2008 report.
It stated that,
the Government believes that the introduction of
pre-appointment hearings will help ensure that the Executive is
properly accountable to Parliament and will provide greater public
reassurance that those appointed to key public offices are appointed
1.1.8 Furthermore, the report reiterates Ed Miliband's
earlier promise that the Government will work with Parliament
to evaluate the success of pre-appointment hearings. While emphasising
that it would not be practical to hold pre-appointment hearings
for all public appointments, the report states that they should
apply to "posts in which Parliament and the public have a
particularly strong interest".
Accordingly, the Government produced a revised list of 60 key
public appointments which should be subject to pre-appointment
hearings (the list is reproduced at Annex B).
1.2.1 The Governance of Britain Green
Paper identified the Chair of the new UK Statistics Authority
as suitable for a pre-appointment hearing and a vote in the House
of Commons. Due
to the need to ensure public confidence in official statistics,
the Government felt the appointment was of sufficient importance
to require a confirmation vote by the House. On 18 July, the Treasury
Select committee held an evidence session with the Government's
preferred candidate Sir Michael Scholar and published its report
on 23 July recommending in favour of his appointment to the House.
On 25 July, following a debate, the House endorsed Sir Michael's
nomination. In addition to the Chair of the Statistics Authority,
the appointments of the Comptroller and Auditor General and members
of the Electoral Commission are also subject to approval by the
House of Commons.
But these latter appointments are made by Parliament, not by the
1.2.2 Since 1998, the Treasury Select Committee
has also held hearings to scrutinise each new appointee to the
Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England.
The hearings were not specified in the Bank of England Act 1998,
so were on a non-statutory basis. The aim of the hearings is to
ensure that those nominated possess "demonstrable professional
competence and personal independence of the Government".
Because appointments to the MPC raise issues of market sensitivity,
they take place after the appointment has been made but prior
to the appointee formally taking up the position.
1.2.3 Separately, it is a policy of the Foreign
Affairs Committee to hold hearings for any major diplomatic or
consular appointment of a person from outside the diplomatic service.
The Committee has argued that where an appointee is a politician
or a person with "close links to the governing party,"
it is essential for there to be parliamentary scrutiny to ensure
they are based on merit rather than patronage. For its part, the
Government does not accept that these types of appointments should
be subject to pre-appointment scrutiny hearings. Consequently,
this category of appointments was not included in the list of
posts identified as suitable for pre-appointment hearings.
1.2.4 To date, the Foreign Affairs Committee
has held two "pre-commencement hearings". In both cases,
the Committee endorsed the appointment but expressed frustration
with the Government's insistence that they should not be subject
to pre-appointment hearings.
1.3.1 The Government's proposals for greater
parliamentary involvement in public appointments were not without
their critics. In particular, the Commissioner for Public Appointments,
Janet Gaymer, while welcoming some type of select committee hearing
as a "democratic check," has expressed some concerns
about introduction of pre-appointment (as opposed to post-appointment)
The Commissioner's concerns can be summarised as
ii. Pre-appointment hearings may dissuade candidates
from applying due to the perception of potential reputational
risk to the candidate or his/her employer, the effect on the candidate's
current position, or the potential for regulatory or share dealing
consequences. The Commissioner fears that public hearings may
damage efforts to widen the pool of candidates which, in turn,
would be detrimental to the overall diversity of the candidates.
iii. The introduction of pre-appointments hearings
may be seen by the public as politicising the appointments process.
iv. The Commissioner is concerned that the Select
Committee members might ask inappropriate questions of the appointee
which will erode the public's confidence in the entire appointments
v. The time taken to complete a public appointments
process may be unreasonably extended if, for example, the appointment
process falls during periods when the House is not sitting or
logistical difficulties are encountered in arranging the hearing.
vi. There is a risk that if a Minister disagreed
with the recommendation of a Select Committee, and if such disagreements
become a regular feature of the process, the system will be brought
vii. The Commissioner has also raised concerns
regarding the effect which pre-appointment hearings will have
on appointments already regulated by her Office. As she stated
in evidence to PASC in December 2007, "If there has been
a properly regulated selection process, then I have to ask
is the point of the pre-appointment hearing".
1.4.1 Compared to other "Westminster-style"
parliaments, the current system of pre-appointment hearings in
the United Kingdom is unique. For example, in New Zealand, the
House's recommendation of the appointment of Officers of Parliament
is a statutory requirement. In these cases a committee of members
effectively makes the appointment itself. However, no public hearings
are held. There are a small number of appointments to statutory
offices which require the House's recommendation or endorsement,
but even in these cases there has been no practice of holding
pre-appointment committee hearings.
1.4.2 In Canada, the Standing Orders of the House
of Commons for Order in Council (prerogative) appointments allow
for committees to question appointees after they have been appointed. It
is not mandatory and, in practice, few Order in Council appointments
are scrutinized by House committees. There are various possible
explanations for this, including time constraints, or a feeling
among Members that the present procedure is not worthwhile or
useful. All such appointments continue to be tabled in the
House of Commons.
1.4.3 The system of congressional confirmation
hearings used in the United States is a useful point of contrast
with the UK. Many public officials and Parliamentarians in the
UK have at least some familiarity with the American system. That
familiarity shapes views on and expectations of the UK system
of pre-appointment hearings.
1.4.4 Article II Section 2 of the US Constitution
provides that the president "shall nominate, and by and with
the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors,
other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court
During each two-year session of Congress, roughly 4,000 civilian
and 65,000 military nominations are submitted to the Senate.
Since 1931, over 97% of presidential appointments have been approved
by the Senate.
1.4.5 The American confirmation system is however
fundamentally different from pre-appointment hearings. In the
UK, Select Committees can only make a recommendation regarding
the appointees' suitability for the post. The ultimate decision
to appoint or not remains with the relevant secretary of state.
In the US, the Senate can formally approve of or veto an appointment
as well as delay it. Furthermore, the US system has a reputation
of being "abusive to appointees".
Some are subjected to questioning which is highly intrusive, embarrassing
and often irrelevant. In contrast, pre-appointment hearings in
the UK cannot, on any reasonable interpretation, be described
as "abusive to appointees".
1.4.6 Perhaps the most salient difference is
that Ministers in the US are not members of, and therefore accountable
to, the legislature as they are in the UK. Appointments in the
US are overtly political, and the appointees are not subjected
to a rigorous and impartial selection process as is used in the
UK and overseen by OCPA using agreed processes and procedures.
Chapter 2: the hearings to date: an overview
2.1.1 By the end of 2009, there had been 19 pre-appointment
scrutiny hearings covering 20 public appointments (see Annex C).
Two pre-appointment hearings took place before the Government's
expanded list of appointments was published in June 2008. The
first, Sir Michael Scholar, was appointed as Chair of the Statistics
Authority in July 2007; and this was followed by Baroness Barbara
Young who was appointed Chair of the Care Quality Commission in
May 2008. Since the Government's Response to the Liaison Committee
there have been an additional 17 pre-appointment hearings.
2.1.2 The Innovation, Universities, Science and
Skills Committee (now Science and Technology) and the Communities
and Local Government Committee (CLG) have each held three hearings.
The CLG's covered both preferred candidates for Deputy Chairs
of the Infrastructure Planning Commission at a single hearing.
The Public Administration, Justice and Health Committees have
each held two hearings, while the Transport, Children Schools
& Families, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, and Home
Affairs Committees have each held one hearing. The Business and
Enterprise Committee (now BIS) and Culture, Media and Sport held
a joint hearing for the appointment of the Chair of Ofcom. The
Treasury Committee has held one pre-appointment hearing; however
the final decision in that case was with the House of Commons.
2.1.3 In terms of the appointees to date 13 (65
per cent) are male with 7 appointments (35 per cent) going to
2.1.4 Under the current system, reappointments
are not subject to a scrutiny hearing. Paragraph 2.3 of the Cabinet
Office publication, Pre-Appointment Hearings by Select Committees:
Guidance for Departments, states that,
Departments should note that pre-appointment hearings
only apply to appointments of new candidates - and not to extensions
or re-appointments. Select committees already take evidence from
serving post-holders as part of their on-going scrutiny of public
bodies and public appointments.
2.1.5 The issue of whether there should be scrutiny
hearings for reappointments has generated some discussion. For
example, the TaxPayers' Alliance has argued that the reappointment
of Dame Suzi Leather as Chair of the Charity Commission should
have been subject to a scrutiny hearing because of the changes
she has introduced in relation to the charitable status of many
2.2.1 Questioning during the hearings held to
date has generally focused on five broad issues. The first is
the appointee's overall suitability for the role and the recruitment
process. Committee Members have asked the appointee how his or
her skills, professional and/or educational background match the
requirements of the post. For example, the preferred candidate
for Chair of the Office of Rail Regulation was asked whether her
lack of experience in the rail industry was a weakness.
Appointees have also been asked to discuss aspects of the recruitment
process, such as how they were made aware of the position.
It should be noted that, although the Committees have had access
to the formal criteria used for the departmental recruitment process,
they have not generally focused on those criteria in their questioning.
2.2.2 The second area of questioning focuses
on whether the candidate has the requisite personal integrity
and independence for the position. These questions probe any potential
conflicts of interest as well as the appointee's previous political
activities or affiliations. During his pre-appointment hearing,
for example, Sir Michael Scholar was asked whether his son, who
was chief of staff at No 10 at the time, was aware that he was
in contention for the post.
Questions concerning his past as a Labour Cabinet Minister arose
in the hearing of Lord Rooker as Chair of the Food Standards Agency.
2.2.3 The third area of questioning is the candidate's
priorities once in office and his or her vision for and interpretation
of the post. This issue featured prominently in the appointment
hearing of the preferred candidate for the Children's Commissioner
which will be discussed further below. For certain posts, especially
those which potentially involve the post holder in public criticism
of the Government, Committees have been particularly concerned
to test the preferred candidate on their independence of mind.
Appointees have not, however, generally been able to answer very
specific questions regarding the operational details of a particular
agency, given they have not at the time of the hearing been in
post. For example, Sir Michael Scholar was asked whether the estimated
cost of the Census sounded correct. He explained that he was unable
to respond to this detailed question as he lacked the necessary
knowledge which could only be acquired after assuming the post.
2.2.4 The availability of the candidate and how
much time he or she planned to devote to the post is the fourth
common area of questioning. During the hearing for the Chair of
Ofcom, for example, Dr Colette Bowe was asked whether she would
have sufficient time to carry out her duties given her other professional
commitments. Dr Bowe stated that she intended to devote 60% of
her time to the post. In its report, the Committee noted that
it would hold her to that promise of 60%.
2.2.5 Finally, for certain posts Committee Members
have asked whether the candidate feels the remuneration is fair
in light of the amount of time and nature of the work required.
For example, Dr Bowe was asked whether she felt that the £200,000
per year salary was excessive for a public service appointment
of three days a week.
During the hearing for the appointment of the Chair of the Office
for Legal Complaints, for example, the Committee Chairman asked
the appointee, "What is the justification for paying you
more than an MP is paid to work 80 days a year?"
However, during her pre-appointment hearing for the
Chair of the Care Quality Commission, Baroness Young was asked
whether she felt the pay was too low "for such an important
post of national significance".
2.3.1 In general, Committee reports on pre-appointment
hearings have followed a consistent approach, in line with standard
practice for most Committee reports. There has been a good degree
of background material, usually including a memorandum from the
Department responsible for the appointment which has set out the
criteria which were used in assessing candidate's suitability
for the appointment, together with an account of the recruitment
process at a level of detail which would not previously have been
routinely disclosed by Departments. The candidate's CV has also
usually been published; as have the minutes of the hearing itself.
The "core" of the Report has, however, been short, often
a single paragraph, usually concluding that the Committee is content
with the appointment of the preferred candidate though with varying
degrees of positive endorsement. (It should be noted, however,
that the reports are invariably published very quickly after the
hearing, limiting the scope for longer discussion about the candidate's
2.3.2 On a number of occasions, however, Committees
have gone beyond simply expressing a view as to the suitability
of a particular candidate and used their reports to communicate
concerns as well as their own vision for a particular post. The
Justice Committee, for example, used its report on the appointment
of the Information Commissioner to signal to the Government its
belief that the Office of the Information Commissioner was lacking
Even in such cases, however, the comments have been short - single
sentences rather than full discussion of the issues.
2.3.3 In the case of the Children's Commissioner
for England, the Children, Schools and Families Committee commented
that its role in the appointments process was "closely circumscribed",
and that they should have the ability to examine other candidates.
2.3.4 The Home Affairs Committee's recommendation for HM Inspector
of Constabulary was, uniquely, communicated by the Chairman in
a letter sent directly to the Secretary of State, rather than
via a Committee report.
2.4.1 Attendance of Committee Members for pre-appointment
hearings, as indicated in the formal minutes, seems to be around
the average for committee hearings generally. For most hearings,
approximately half of Select Committee Members were in attendance.
The hearing for the preferred candidate for HM Inspector of Constabulary
had the highest attendance rate, with 12 of 14 members of the
Home Affairs Committee listed as present. In contrast, the hearing
for the Chair of the Science and Technology Facilities Council
was attended by only four members of the Innovation, Universities,
Science and Skills Committee.
2.4.2 It should however be noted that recording
attendance at select committees by using the formal minutes can
be problematic. As the Liaison Committee stated in its report,
Shifting the Balance: Select Committees and the Executive,
"it is strange that that the House's convention of recording
should mark a Member as present if, for example,
he or she were in the committee room for only the first minute
For that reason, the report concludes that "the formal record
of a Member's attendance may thus be wholly misleading".
2.5.1 Almost all pre-appointment hearings have
resulted in unanimous committee reports endorsing the appointees'
2.5.2 There is only one case where a select committee
did not endorse a proposed candidate. In its report on the appointment
of the Children's Commission, the Children, Schools and Families
Committee concluded that, despite being convinced of Dr Atkinson's
professional competence, "we feel unable to endorse her appointment,
as we would like to have seen more sign of determination to assert
the independence of the role, to challenge the status quo on children's
behalf, and to stretch the remit of the post
This particular case - in which the candidate was subsequently
appointed by the relevant Secretary of State, as recommended by
the independent appointment panel, is discussed at various places
in this report and particularly at Annex A, which also gives the
factual background to that case.
2.5.3 In two other cases, the Select Committees
have formally divided on the endorsement of the candidate. The
Health Committee divided 3 - 2 on the endorsement of Lord Rooker
as Chair of the Food Standards Agency.
Similarly, the Communities and Local Government Committee divided
2 - 1 on the appointment of Dr Jane Martin as Local Government
Ombudsman and Vice Chair of the Commission for Local Administration
in England. Finally,
Paul Flynn MP proposed an amendment to the draft report on the
appointment of Lord Lang as Chair of the Advisory Committee on
Business Appointments (ACoBA), effectively proposing the Committee
advise against his appointment. That amendment was rejected without
a formal vote being recorded. None of these committee reports
comment on or explain the background to the issues on which the
Committee were divided - but that applies to all Committee reports.
Chapter 3 : Our interview based research
3.1.1 Our research was based on interviews with four
categories of people. These were;
- Parliamentarians, primarily the Chairs and clerks
of the Select Committees which had held pre-appointment scrutiny
hearings, but also including a number of committee members;
- the preferred candidates who had been subject
- the Departmental officials who had been primarily
responsible for the appointments concerned; and
- the search consultants ("headhunters")
who had been responsible for the management of the recruitment
process, including the identification of potential candidates.
3.1.2 We received an excellent response to our
request for interviews with response rates from , committee clerks,
candidates, Departments and headhunters all over 90%. We conducted
63 interviews in total.
3.1.3 We have set out the results of these interviews
in the rest of this chapter, summarising to the extent that seem
to us to reflect consensus views, but also pointing out differences
of views where we received them. We have used quotations extensively
to reflect as far as possible the words of those involved. As
all our interviews were all based on the principle of anonymity,
however, we have sought to disguise all quotations which might
be attributable to any particular individual.
3.2.1 During our research we interviewed 8 committee
chairs, 5 other Committee members and 10 Committee clerks.
3.2.2 In broad summary, the views
of Committees were largely negative about pre-appointment hearings,
though "frustrated" might be a more precise term. The
prevailing concern was that the purpose behind the hearings was
not clear: and Committee Members by and large thought that it
was window dressing with little real power. The majority of those
we interviewed felt that Committees should be more involved in
the process, see the short list and be given a choice of candidates,
though a minority thought that Committees were not really designed
to be able to take on such a role. The case of the Children's
Commissioner had also led to a strong expectation that Ministers
would simply ignore a recommendation not to appoint and impose
the preferred candidate regardless. There was some support for
the view that the hearings had added to transparency but generally
most of those we interviewed wanted to go further, with others
wishing to step back. Support for the approach that had been established
in the trial hearings was thus limited.
3.3.1 When originally announced, it was clear
that the hearings were regarded by most Parliamentarians as a
step forward. One Chair said;
I reacted very favourably to the opportunity to hold
PAS hearings. Select committees have very little power, only influence,
and this was a chance to enhance that influence
call it power yet. So much government policy is delivered through
so the people who run these organisations are
of huge significance to Parliament. I would expect all of the
members of my Committee to share that view.
3.3.2 And another commented;
We were initially very pleased to hold PAS hearings.
I think often there is a mystique which surrounds the appointments
process; the bodies for which these people are responsible spend
millions of pounds of taxpayer's money so it was a good step forward.
3.3.3 While a clerk said;
The Chairman was very positive. And a couple of the
members were quite enthusiastic, thinking it was like Congress.
3.3.4 There was also a clear recognition of the
potential benefits. One Chair said that it should have a positive
impact on the quality of candidates;
So much of what committees do is damage control.
If the Minister knows their policy will be subject to public scrutiny
you are presented with a better policy from the beginning. So
if they know that their appointees are subject to scrutiny they
will make sure to present us with good candidates.
3.3.5 while another suggested that public hearings
added something positive to the recruitment process;
a committee hearing tests whether people can handle
themselves on public platforms and under attack. The internal
process doesn't test that - so the hearings genuinely test something
which would otherwise not be tested. If someone can't hack it,
that should be shown up.
3.3.6 And that Chair also saw benefits to candidates
in the US approach;
our committee went to the States some time back to
look at congressional hearings. We were rather impressed. They
were doing lots of training. It is also politicised in a way that
our hearings aren't, but if you were a candidate and survived
that, there is no doubt that you walked taller in the job. That's
a positive side.
3.3.7 But, it was equally
clear that, even at the time there were reservations. A Chair
it was not a burden, and we [the committee] welcomed
the opportunity. We were told at the time, however that our views
would not change the course of events and that the Minister was
not obliged to listen to us.
3.3.8 And a Member of one Committee commented;
The members of the committee did not take the hearing
seriously, very few MPs actually showed up. Most members had just
come along to rubber stamp the appointment
they were just
going through the motions. There was little preparation; it was
not flagged up as being an important meeting. We received some
limited background briefing but if we were doing a normal evidence
session we would have a fairly lengthy briefing beforehand.
3.3.9 Another member said;
I and many others on the committee were very puzzled
as to the point of it all. We were not given the power to turn
anyone down, and it was really a rubber stamping exercise.
3.3.10 While a clerk commented;
My Committee took it seriously. But I do not think
they really knew what the point was. They asked in discussion
before the meeting what would happen if they did not like the
candidate - and there wasn't really a good and clear answer to
that other than saying that the Minister would probably still
appoint. We did wonder whether there should be another process
whereby the Committee could transmit to the Minister privately
what they thought if their views were adverse. The Committee were
seized of the fact that they were interviewing the lead candidate
for the role, that they had no role in identifying other candidates,
had no role in considering the attributes needed for the role
and so on.
3.3.11 A member also pointed out the limitations
of the "preferred candidate" concept;
When we were first asked to hold the PAS hearing
it seemed simply like a rubber-stamping exercise, but it was almost
impossible for us to do our jobs because we didn't know who the
other candidates were. For that reason, it is difficult to fully
endorse someone since we can't be sure that they were the best
3.4.1 In broad terms, the Committees seemed satisfied
with the conduct of the hearings in practice. One Chair said;
ours have been worthwhile. It was right for the candidate
to be tested. In both cases it was perhaps less about the individuals
than the systems they were presiding over. We have had a good
discussion after the hearings about the candidates; and views
have changed in those discussions.
3.4.2 Another Chair said;
It was worthwhile. In our work we deal with a lot
of matters that relate to the [body concerned] and the candidate
lacked direct experience in the [relevant area]. I think that
before the hearing there were members that were concerned about
that lack of experience but the candidate convinced them that
it was in fact a strength, giving a different perspective and
not being captured by the vested interests.
3.4.3 A member expressed some reservations, however,
about the practicality of forming a view through a hearing;
I don't think a Select Committee is in a position
to comment on a candidate's ability before they are in the job.
These appointees hire consultants to prepare them for the hearing
- they simply show up and go through the motions . I don't see
what the committee can learn from that. Maybe after a year or
so we can form a judgement once the appointee has a track record,
which is what we already do. So post-appointment makes more sense
but by then it's too late to do anything if we don't like the
3.4.4 It was also clear that after the hearings
some Committees felt uncertain as to what they should do. One
We did feel some reluctance to express a negative
view and cast a shadow over the appointment.
3.4.5 And a member - who was opposed to the appointment
of the candidate concerned - said;
I blame myself for not being forceful enough when
expressing my concerns. It was not a good session at all, not
like our usual sessions. I think the reason I was not so forceful,
as well as some of my fellow members, was because we couldn't
see the point if our recommendation did not matter in the end.
3.4.6 Overall, the impact of the hearings on
candidates was of limited concern. One clerk commented;
for anyone going before a Committee, it's a sensitive
issue - being examined in public on their competence. But the
Committee would not think that unreasonable. It's important to
recognise that MPs have to put themselves on the line in a very
public way when they are seeking re-appointment; and they transfer
that mentality across when looking at these sorts of roles
3.4.7 Another clerk saw potential value for both
The hearings are certainly valuable from the stand
point of the appointees - it must enhance their legitimacy if
they receive the endorsement of a Committee composed of MPs from
different parties. And it's a good opportunity for the Committee
to get to know the candidate in a way which sessions about particular
issues do not readily allow
3.4.8 And a member was forthright about candidates
having to stand up to public scrutiny;
I don't think PAS hearings should deter qualified
candidates - it is an essential skill to be able to speak publicly
and respond to difficult and complex question. The only people
who should be deterred are those hiding something.
3.5.1 The issue which came through most forcefully
in the issues was the strong sense that a negative report would
be disregarded. A Chair commented;
in the two we have done, I have to say we thought
that endorsing the candidate was a bit of a formality. We ought
to be clearer as to what these actually are. If they are "on
appointment" hearings that is one thing. But if we are to
have a serious prospect of aborting an appointment, then that
needs to be made much clearer.
3.5.2 Another said;
If Ministers become too casual in rejecting the Committees'
recommendations than I would not be in favour of continuing with
PAS. Whatever the merits of the argument, if the Government showed
it wasn't listening then there is no point
3.5.3 And a third said;
There is a very cynical view held by members of the
Committee who feel that this has become a PR exercise
I must say that I now share that view. We only get to scrutinise
the appointment after it has been made, it's more of an affirmation
3.5.4 A Committee member put the point more strongly;
The principle is absolutely correct but if we say
no that should be accepted by the Minister. We have already seen
a case where the Minister egregiously disregarded a committee
recommendation and I think that is a travesty. There is no point
in having the hearings if the result is set before the Committee
3.5.5 And another Member spoke on similar lines;
We would be extremely disappointed if the Secretary
of State made an appointment which we advised against. Committees
don't have power but they should have influence. Our reports demand
a Government response. We are in a position to closely examine
the issues (we have expertise which the Government does not necessarily
have on every issue) and therefore our recommendations should
3.5.6 Another member commented;
If Ministers regularly ignored the Committee's recommendations,
than I think most MPs would rather not continue this process.
It's terribly disrespectful - the Minister may genuinely disagree,
that's ok. But to habitually ignore the Committee would be fatal
to the future of PAS hearings.
3.5.7 Another Member wanted the reports to be
at least taken seriously;
I would hope that if the committee did not recommend
the candidate, then the Minister would discuss the issues with
the Chair before making a decision. If we uncovered something
unknown to the Minister then the candidate should be asked to
explain him or her self to the Minister before the Minister made
a decision. However, I expect that the Minister would proceed
with the appointment regardless of our recommendation unless we
had uncovered a major problem during the hearing. I would expect
a reasoned response from the Minister if he or she ignored the
3.6.1 Inevitably the Children's Commissioner
case was the subject of comment in our interviews. A Chair said;
I will admit that I don't think the Children's Commissioner
appointment did us any good. At the same time, I don't think that
simple ratifying everyone who comes through the process would
do any good. You are going to get rogue outcomes. There is an
element of uncertainty in the process but that's inevitable.
3.6.2 Another Chair said;
I fear there is a dangerous ambiguity which was thrown
up by the Children's Commissioner case. Is there a serious prospect
of any appointment being overturned by this process? I think indeed
that would be wrong. When these appointments were made on a patronage
basis then there would have been something to be said for hearings
with real power, as the only way to give real challenge. But when
there is , as now, a proper process for appointments, it would
be wrong to assume that one hearing by the Committee, without
a proper structure, should be allowed to change the outcome of
the process. I remain nervous that a single meeting with a Committee
should ever determine whether someone is the right candidate for
3.6.3 A member also said;
I've been told by fellow MPs that the Children's
Commissioner case was purely about a conflict between some MPs
and the minister. The candidate was dragged into it unfortunately
that's politics. Committees should be professional and not play
these sorts of games.
3.7.1 There was very limited support for the
status quo. But views differed as to how to move forward. One
Member expressed a strong preference for widening the approach;
PAS hearing should apply, like in the US, to the
Chancellor, Home Secretary, and Foreign Minister
government positions. We are doing these hearings for some really
trivial positions; why not do them for the government jobs that
actually matter? There is too much patronage in our country and
parliamentary scrutiny is the best way to stop it. The executive
should do the selecting, we should hold the power to confirm or
3.7.2 While others wanted greater engagement
in the process;
I think there should be a debate on the floor of
the House and a vote if there is a disagreement between the Government
and a Select Committee over a particular appointment. That would
be a better way of dealing with disagreement (better for democracy),
even though the Minister would be likely to get his or her way
should there be a vote in the House.
3.7.3 And another Chair said;
We don't want to be part of the whole process, but
maybe to see the short listed candidates. But only if we thought
our answer was going to carry weight. We would not want to spend
a lot of time on this if what we said wasn't going to count. Maybe
if we said that we were not satisfied then we could see the other
3.7.4 A Member also suggested greater involvement
with the short-list;
Committees are coming into the process far too late
- after they effectively have the job (at lest in reality if not
formally). We should perhaps create small subcommittees within
the select committees to meet with the top 2 or 3 candidates,
make a recommendation on that basis but still leave the decision
with the Government.
3.7.5 As did another;
If this process is to become more relevant, Committees
should interview the top 3 candidates and express a view as to
who we feel is the best.
3.7.6 But others disagreed with this approach.
A Chair said;
We need to understand the limits of the Select Committee
role. I note that on [one appointment] the Committee were concerned
they hadn't seen the shortlist. But that is to misunderstand the
nature of the Committee's role.
3.7.7 Another Chair went into more detail as
to his concerns;
if Committees were to be given a real role in appointments
we would have to do much more, to know who the other candidates
were, to see the scores they were awarded and so on - in short
be asked to do the job properly. In which case we need to be properly
briefed, see a range of candidates and make sure our processes
would stand up to scrutiny by an Industrial Tribunal. When Parliament
does make its own appointments, we have a formal Board system
and go through a process. We certainly don't do it through a Select
committee. The Committees are there to talk about the issues with
the person concerned, not appoint them. So overall I don't favour
it. The process we have for these posts is now pretty good; and
if it can be improved we should be trying to do that - not replace
it with a judgement by a Committee that is not geared up for that
3.7.8 The Chair concerned also made clear his
preference for post-appointment hearings;
I think it would be far better if we had a hearing
with the successful candidate after they had got the job but before
they had taken up post; so we could make clear to them how we
saw the role and its priorities. That would serve a useful purpose
and get rid of the current ambiguity
3.7.9 Another Chair expressed a different reservation;
Another potential danger is that if we continue with
this process - and some Committees start to exercise their power
with negative reports - then Ministers will start to get irritated
and there will be more pressure through the Whips on Government
backbenchers on the committees to vote on party lines. That would
be very bad.
3.7.10 Finally a member summarised the broad
The principle underlying the process is sound but
I'm not sure we are implementing it the right way. We seem to
be second interviewing people and I don't think that's the point.
We should be more probing, not just replicate the interview stage.
Ultimately the purpose is not clear and that is where the confusion
and misunderstandings originate.
3.8.1 During our research we interviewed all
but one of the candidates who had gone through a pre-appointment
3.8.2 In broad summary, the views
of candidates were generally positive or neutral towards both
the principle and experience of hearings, with a clear majority
finding at least some positive aspects of the process. There were
some reservations, however, about the nature of the recruitment
process overall; and about what was seen as - in a very small
number of cases - the rather unprofessional behaviour of the Select
Committees. A key finding is that a majority of candidates told
us they would have stood down in the face of a negative Committee
3.9.1 Our interviews demonstrated that candidates
had a wide variety of reasons for seeking these roles. Indeed
the roles differed. Several - the majority - were part-time Chair
roles which essentially appealed to experienced people who had
retired from their full-time career and were now in "portfolio"
careers. To such people the idea of "public service"
was a strong motivator, much more so than the potential pay or
status. For example;
when you are retired you need to be more selective
- for example I wanted to work only up to half time. So when they
approached me for [this role] I was deeply sceptical- especially
as it was not an area where I considered myself expert. But they
explained that the Chair needed to be neutral and objective; and
I could understand that so agreed to put myself forward. So that
sounded a good fit for me. And the public duty thing also kicked
3.9.2 For a minority of candidates, however,
the appointments concerned were full time roles, where the motivation
was more to develop the candidate's career.
3.10.1 Candidates (except one) were aware from
the outset that a pre-appointment hearing was part of the process.
Some were unclear as precisely what to expect or what the purpose
was; in particular whether it was really to test their suitability
for the post or simply to have a very early discussion after their
appointment. One said;
In my own case, I took the line that they were there
to ask about my background, my skills, my suitability for the
job, but it wasn't possible for me to discuss the specifics of
how I would set about the role because I hadn't started yet. But
I think the Committee members themselves were unsure about the
purpose and structure of the discussion - it was the first one
they had done.
3.10.2 But most understood the intention behind
the hearing and the clear majority welcomed it. Certainly, none
of the candidates was in any way deterred from proceeding with
their application because of the hearing. Several acknowledged
that there were potential downsides in being cross-examined in
public in such a way but one commented;
if you are going to do jobs at this sort of level,
you do have to take some risks.
3.10.3 Several candidates were, however, concerned
at the additional time it took before their appointment could
be confirmed. In general, candidates found the application process
for public sector roles of this sort too long; and the addition
of a Select Committee hearing made it longer still, especially
when (as happened in a minority of cases) the hearing had to be
delayed because of a Parliamentary recess. This was a particular
issue when candidates had other roles they were considering at
the same time; or where they were unable to step back from an
existing role because of the uncertainty. It was not uncommon
amongst those we interviewed for the time taken from application
to final confirmation to be six months or longer - a period that
was generally considered far too long. Those who had been the
"preferred candidate" for several months (e.g. when
the hearing had to be deferred because of the summer recess) found
it frustrating that they could not start in the role. One commented
that because her potential appointment had been announced, it
was widely assumed that she had been appointed - and it was curious
to be congratulated on an appointment that was still not certain.
3.10.4 The majority of those we interviewed said
that they had devoted considerable time to preparing for the hearing,
often with the support of the relevant Department; and it was
clear that all the candidates took it seriously. All but a few
had appeared before Select Committees before - and some had done
so on numerous occasions - but the standard view was that time
taken in preparation for Committees was entirely justified. Several
candidates had made a point of reading the transcripts of previous
3.11.1 The very clear consensus of the candidates
was that the hearings had been reasonable. Some found the experience
rather less "tough" than expected, having found the
questioning quite reasonable and straightforward. Others thought
that they had been pressed rather more, but still within reasonable
limits. In general the candidates were complementary about the
way the Committees had set about their task. One said, for example;
the members were genuinely concentrating hard on
the issue and I thought thinking hard but fairly as to whether
I was suitable for the role. They were positively engaged. That
was genuinely welcome. And at no point was I asked questions which
I did not think legitimate. Even when they asked about my pay
I thought it was fair.
3.11.2 and another candidate echoed this as follows;
I thought it was tough but fair, which is what you
would expect from this process. You must always be on your guard
and think very carefully about your answers. On the whole, it
was a fairly good experience.
3.11.3 While a third said;
It was much as I expected, covered the ground I expected,
and they wanted to check me out; whether I could stand up to the
pressure you have to deal with in this sort of job. There was
nothing which was unexpected. You must always be on your metal
and prepare very carefully. Treat it very seriously. The difference
from other Committees is that normally you are doing damage limitation
as the Committee members want headlines. This was different, not
so inquisitorial; it was less difficult that other Committees
I've appeared before but not qualitatively different.
3.11.4 Overall there was only one candidate who
had a low opinion of the process;
Frankly it was a shambles bordering on farce. The
Chair did a good job I thought of conducting the hearing, although
I have been told second hand that he was not happy with the number
of MPs who turned up. But if you read the transcript there are
points when you think I had applied for the job of Bob the Builder
3.11.5 And a couple of other candidates commented
adversely on the approach of the Select Committee members, one
saying, for example, that;
There is a tendency for some MPs to look incredibly
disinterested - like they are there because they have to be. They
are not good listeners, they tend to do other things, such as
reading papers or looking at their blackberries; and that gives
a bad impression to candidates - that's not fair - these are important
positions and MPs should take the process seriously.
3.11.6 Another candidate, responding to a comment
by the interviewer that his hearing had been "relatively
Well that's true. But let's get real. If I had been
given a tough time, I would have simply got up and walked out.
Why on earth should I be faced with hostile questioning? I wasn't
in Court. I was prepared to carry out this role in the public
interest but I didn't need it as such. My hearing was robust and
was fair. But this process has got to be civilised or it will
3.12.1 Almost all of the candidates thought the
hearing had had benefits for them as they took up their new role.
Most common was the view that they had had an additional and welcome
public endorsement of their appointment. One said;
After the hearing I really felt quite good about
it all. I think that giving a good performance at the Committee
gave me an additional legitimacy in the role which I would not
otherwise have. I have also been quite astonished by how many
people watched the hearing on the parliamentary channel - including
many of the staff at [the organisation I chair] - so I think it
helped me there too.
And there was one additional advantage. I do not
expect to be called regularly by the Committee and if I am it
will probably be about something specific that has gone wrong.
So the pre-appointment hearing was the one opportunity I had to
set out my stall and explain the type of chair I intended to be
and what my priorities were. I thought that opportunity was well
worth having - I welcomed it.
3.12.2 Another spoke in similar terms
I think there are two primary benefits: legitimacy
mainly within the organisation you will be in charge of, and it's
a good opportunity to establish a good relationship with the Committee
at the outset. I feel as though the endorsement of the Committee
was a real advantage to me when I took up the position. Another
advantage is that you get to learn what the Committee members
are concerned about which is useful when determining future priorities
3.12.3 While a third said
it's important to feel that Parliament is behind
you. I also think that in doing a job of this kind, you've got
to be consciously aware that you are accountable and that you
will be held accountable. Being scrutinised in this sort of way
makes you think carefully about the decisions you make, about
how transparent the process is, are you going to be able to explain
why you have taken a particular decision. It's all about transparency
3.13.1 Some, but not all, of the candidates had
considered in advance whether they might receive an adverse report
from the Committee. We also asked them all the hypothetical question
as to their likely reaction should they have been rejected.
3.13.2 Most of the candidates said that, in the
event of an adverse report, it was unlikely that they would have
persevered. A typical view was;
I would have stood down, irrespective of the reasons
as to why [the report was negative]. It seems to me that the process
is about the accountability of heads of certain organisation to
Parliament. That is entirely appropriate, and if you don't have
the confidence of the people to whom you are accountable you shouldn't
take the job, and I wouldn't have.
3.13.3 and another candidate said;
I'd have walked away. Life's too short to get into
anything that is controversial. I'm in my sixties, I have had
my career, I have had a number of public roles, but if a Committee
decides they don't want me, well, I'll happily walk away.
3.13.4 though other candidates acknowledged they
would need to consider the issue in more detail;
[Rejection is] always in the back of your mind; its
high risk low probability on the risk matrix. I was confident,
having been through the recruitment process. But the Department
would have had to really persuade me to take up the appointment
if the Committee had recommended against. In any public appointment
you need the confidence of all the stakeholders, including parliamentarians.
I don't think I would have taken it but it really depends on what
the reasons were.
3.13.5 and another thought they would probably
accept the role;
my instinctive reaction is that I would have wanted
to do it regardless. I am very keen to do this job and it would
take a lot to deter me. But you would have to think quite carefully
about the impact of that. In any job you want as much public support
as possible. It would certainly give me serious pause for thought
but at the end of the day, I would probably decide that I had
been through the formal process which had chosen me as the best
candidate and I would have wanted to proceed.
3.13.6 An issue for candidates in this context
was the long term impact on their reputation. One said;
I am sure I would not have wanted to continue. It
would have felt very personal. I think I would have felt that
I had in some way failed to demonstrate that I was a credible
performer in a public role. And my credibility would have been
severely damaged overall. And if I had failed once in an arena
like this, then that would be it, not only for that job but for
further roles as well. I would not have wanted to come back into
the public arena at all in those circumstances.
3.13.7 And another candidate said;
I would have considered the Committee's position
very carefully. Had they issued a negative report it certainly
would have damaged my reputation and possibly my ability to do
the job. On that basis, I would likely have stood down, but it
does depend on the Committee's reasons for rejecting me. Select
Committees do not have an agreed view and different MPs have different
views on what these hearings are for. You do worry about certain
MPs who may have an axe to grid with either myself, the Minister,
the Department, etc. You could get caught in the cross-fire of
3.14.1 Despite their generally positive view
of the process, some candidates did express clear reservations
about the system;
If it's found to have worked well for the first 20
- 25 appointments then it is likely that it will be opened up
to include any and every public appointment - there will be a
real battle - standard civil service appointments, permanent secretaries,
ambassadors - where do you draw the line? There will be huge resource
implications and it may slow down the whole public appointments
process. Another danger is that appointments will become a political
game and would lose the rationale for having PAS hearings. The
other danger, as seen in the case of the Children's Commissioner,
is that Committees will start to say that we've got to show that
we have teeth - and then start turning people down for political
reasons. This cannot happen; it must be about accountability to
Parliament not party politics.
3.14.2 And there was little sympathy for the
idea of Committees seeing more than one candidate;
I'm entirely against this. You have to have a proper,
transparent, completely non-political selection process. I believe
that is what we currently have. MPs have no place on selection
panels. Nor do I think that Committees should be able to second
guess by choosing between candidates. It would make life impossible
if they said that A had merits but that B is better for the job;
I think that would undermine the whole process.
3.14.3 There were also residual concerns that
candidates might be put off - even if it did not apply to those
We must be careful that this does not become a political
football. Candidates must be judged on whether they can do the
job and not on what their political affiliation is or how close
they are to a Minister - this would bring the process into disrepute
and probably cause people not to apply. There is a lot of stress
and aggravation that goes with doing these jobs and politicising
the appointments process so it becomes like a lottery will only
deter good people from applying.
3.14.4 While another candidate commented;
It was a very good process so I don't have any recommendations
as to how it could be improved. However, I was lucky to have been
in front of [X] Committee, they are very professional and thoughtful.
A good Committee can make all the difference. But if Committees
start playing politics with public appointments then I would say
get rid of PAS hearings. They must act responsibly and consider
the reputations of those nominated for appointments, although
I don't know how to guarantee that.
3.14.5 And a third said
If these hearings are to become permanent then it
needs to be made clear who is subject to them and the purpose
of PAS hearings. There is no point to them if the Committee does
not endorse a candidate and nothing happens. I don't think anyone
expected the Children's Commissioner case to turn out like that.
If it's a rubber stamp, I don't see the point in continuing. Are
the hearings to say yes or no to an appointment or are they to
test and prepare the person so the Committee can come back and
probe them in the future. If it's a confirmation hearing than
the Committee must be listened to but it's not entirely clear.
There is also a real possibility that this process will deter
people who don't come from the public sector and aren't used to
answering to MPs.
3.14.6 But another candidate was less concerned
about the risk of putting off candidates;
The nature of these jobs - high level of public responsibility
- means that you will be in the media and have to deal with stressful
situations. Personally, I don't think that a PAS hearing should
deter the kind of people that they are after to fill these positions.
If it does, then they are not cut out to do the job. That said,
I can see how someone with excellent skills may decide that they
don't want to go through a hearing. But there will always be someone
else with the same skills who is willing to do it. The level of
scrutiny for the public sector is different and people applying
for these jobs have to understand that and accept it in order
to be successful.
3.15.1 Finally, one candidate summed up the overall
I think PAS is a healthy process. I've been involved
in politics and I'm also technically qualified. I personally had
no difficulty with it. For people without experience in politics
I can see this as a potential problem. Also, in academia I was
able to tell my current employer what I was thinking about doing
in the future
that's normal in academia. However, that might
be more difficult in the private sector. As long as it doesn't
become like the hearings in the US, I think it's a good thing.
We need to work to get the good things out of the process and
minimise the negatives
3.15.2 while another said;
this was undoubtedly the most nerve wracking thing
I have done in my career, but I totally agree with it. I have
long been an exponent of public accountability in all its forms
and think this is wholly appropriate for these sorts of public
3.16.1 During our research we interviewed the
Departmental officials responsible for all [but one] of the appointments
which had been subject to pre-appointment hearings.
3.16.2 In broad summary, Departments
were largely neutral about pre-appointment hearings. The hearings
were primarily seen as an additional piece of process which had
been added on to the end of the existing processes and the impact
of which was no more than marginal. There was no evidence of candidates
being deterred by the need for hearings, and all candidates were
perceived to have taken it seriously. But most officials were
unable to point to any real benefits arising from the system,
though they could see that candidates might welcome the opportunity
to set out their case before the Committee. Most officials were
also wholly confident that "their" candidate would be
endorsed; so there had been very little thought given to the consequences
of a negative report, though most thought that a re-run of the
competition might prove necessary if the appointment did not proceed.
3.16.3 The most common comment from officials
concerned the impact of the hearings on the appointment timetable.
There was already a concern that appointments were taking too
long; and the additional step of hearings added to the timetable,
especially in cases where the hearing caused the appointment to
be delayed beyond a Parliamentary recess. That said, most of those
we interviewed had planned the timetable at the outset - while
some of those who complained most strongly about the delays seemed
to have planned the least.
3.17.1 One official gave an overview of the process;
We were one of the first Departments to go through
this new process. There was not much to go on in terms of what
we should and should not do. My team, along with the Cabinet Office
and the Office of Commissioner for Public Appointments arrived
at a process for the competition itself. But once that had finished
and we had a preferred candidate we were in uncharted territory.
Normally we would inform the Secretary of State of the successful
applicant and he would say yes or no. This time around we said
you can only appoint in principle - the final decision must wait
until after the hearing. It was essential to find the language
to explain to the preferred candidate that they have been appointed
subject to this PAS hearing. Once that had been established it
was a matter of finding a suitable date for the hearing because
we really wanted to get this going and have a Chair in place.
Fortunately there was an open slot and we had the hearing fairly
quickly. I worked closely with the committee clerk - i.e. to understand
what material the Committee wanted and the types of questions
they would ask - we sent them a background document which was
included in the Committee's report. We gave the candidate the
same material as we gave the Committee in order to help them prepare.
The whole thing went much more smoothly than I thought. In the
absence of precedents I was always a bit nervous; however, having
attended the hearing, it was apparent that the Committee was pleased
with the candidate and our role in the process.
3.18.1 We asked about the impact of pre-appointment
hearings on the range of candidates. Several said they had feared
there would be candidates put off by the Hearings but in practice
this had not happened. For example, one official said;
We were nervous that it would affect the quality
of candidates for the role. But based on the quality of the candidates
we got for the short list, that concern proved unfounded. We don't
know if anyone was put off - you'll need to ask the headhunters
- but we were quite satisfied with the field the role attracted.
3.18.2 There were some concerns, however, about
the potential narrowing of the field. Another official commented;
I think with all high profile public appointments
you see the same kind of people - they go from one appointment
to the next. Its difficult to know whether people of different
backgrounds don't apply because they perceive themselves as outsiders
and therefore at a disadvantage. I don't remember there being
any ethnic minorities who applied for this position; most were
people who have held similar roles in the past.
3.18.3 There was also a general view that potential
applicants who would be deterred from applying by the hearings
were unlikely to be serious contenders for the role in any event;
for the sorts of posts to which this applies, if
any candidate really can't handle an appearance before a Committee
I would be worried. Yes, they can be nervous about it, but they
shouldn't really be unable to cope with it. Most of these jobs
are reporting to Parliament, many of them are making big decisions.
So they should be ready and able to manage public accountability,
through Select Committees.
3.19.1 We asked all the Departments if they had
prepared for a negative report. The great majority had not, essentially
because they felt a negative report was unlikely. For example,
one official said;
we knew it was possible. But we were very confident
in our appointee who was sane and sensible. We had a discussion
about it but concluded that the risk was minimal. So we concentrated
on sitting down with the candidate and making sure they handled
3.19.2 And another said
We had no contingency plan, primarily because we
had no worries that [the candidate] would not be able to cope
very well. I suppose if new evidence had come up we would have
been obliged to think again. But it is unlikely that anything
new would come up which had not been considered in the interview
3.19.3 And a third said;
We certainly had no Plan B. We would have had to
consider the nature of the Committee's report and the strength
of the concern. I think it's rather unlikely we would back down.
If anyone ever did do so, then I really would begin to worry about
deterring future candidates from going through this process. If
we had a more modest recommendation -for example a question mark
over the time the person had available - then I suppose we would
have another conversation with the candidate. But that conversation
should have happened anyway.
3.19.4 Others had at least given some thought
to the possibility that the competition might need to be re-run;
The only thing that concerned me was what's plan
B if the committee don't like the candidate? Although I was aware
that the Secretary of State could ignore the committee's recommendation,
I didn't think that would happen as it seems to undermine the
whole process; although I have since been proven wrong with the
Children's Commissioner. But I think we would have had to start
the process all over again. Because the preferred candidate was
public knowledge, you couldn't really turn around and pick the
next best applicant - they would always know that they were the
second choice. We accepted that the only realistic option was
to go out and advertise again. If this was a closed process then
maybe we could have gone down the line of applicants but not once
it had become public.
3.19.5 While another was concerned along similar
The whole process took around 9 months and if we
had to go back to the start it would have been a real problem
for us. It also costs money to do this. If the Minister decided
not to appoint the preferred candidate I am sure we would have
to start over again despite the fact that there were at least
2 other appointable candidates, at a cost of around £30,000
3.20.1 One regular concern of officials was the
time that the hearings added to the process, especially where
there was a delay because of the summer recess. One was quite
vehement on this issue;
What other senior management process would be delayed
by two or more months by the fact that those involved in the process
were away from their place of work?
3.20.2 Most others simply recorded the additional
time taken and recognised that officials needed to plan the timetable
to accommodate the hearings;
the need for a hearing added roughly six weeks to
the length of the process as we were ready to make the appointment
just before Xmas, but we had to wait till Parliament resumed after
Xmas for the hearing - though we had known this was likely and
had started the process in very good time.
3.21.1 Most of the officials we interviewed saw
little overall impact of the Hearings on the outcome of the process.
Typical comments were;
my overall conclusion is that this was a piece of
additional process which had no impact on the final outcome, beyond
making it longer. It added no obvious value. But I accept I start
from the position that we will have done a thorough job, taken
every care over the choice and unlikely to have put forward an
unsuitable candidate. If those assumptions are not accurate, then
the arguments could be different.
3.21.2 Another said;
I don't think [the need for a Hearing] really featured
heavily in the thinking of the selection panel - it might just
have made them a bit more conscious that their decision would
have an additional degree of public accountability, but it was
3.21.3 Doubts were expressed as to whether any
value can be added by hearings
we already have a thorough process for appointing
people to those roles, based on a fairly rigorous process of assessing
competencies. Its hard to see what Select Committee hearings add
to that - and the risk is they will consider candidates from a
different perspective, using other criteria.
3.21.4 Some acknowledged potential benefits to
it certainly gave [the candidate] an up-front opportunity
to meet the Committees and I do believe that he took that opportunity
and it will stand him in good stead in the future.
3.21.5 And another said;
It also arguably helps the candidate's legitimacy
- it makes clearer that they are not simply a political appointee.
And there is a bit of value added in adding transparency to the
process. But in terms of making sure we get the best candidate,
other than keeping us honest, I think it's very marginal
3.21.6 One official commented more generally;
[If this system continues,] I would be more explicit
about what its purpose is as it's misunderstood by lay people
and insiders. It's an opportunity for MPs to question about suitability.
To say you have to go through a scrutiny hearing before appointment
suggests to me that the Committees have power - they don't. There
needs to be clarity. If Committee members want to influence the
process then maybe they should be part of the selection panel
- then they can influence the decision - but I'm not convinced
that's a good idea.
3.21.7 Whereas another commented;
to be blunt, the hearing added a bit of time to the
process but that was about it. If the appointment process has
been properly managed and there has been no undue political interference
then I can't see that it adds much value. Unless you have made
a strange appointment or they have an agenda of their own, the
Committee will come to the same conclusion. If you wanted to make
a real impact, then you would have to get the Committee involved
at a much earlier stage and given a real role in the selection
3.21.8 A further official questioned the process
in similar terms;
There were some reasonable discussions about high
level issues. All interesting enough, but I don't really think
it added anything to the sum of human knowledge or would have
persuaded the public that this was an important new democratic
innovation - there were hardly any members of the public there
of course. Nor was the Report anything more than factual and anodyne.
3.21.9 One official was asked whether Select
Committee might consider more than one candidate. He responded;
I don't think that's possible: it flies in the face
of the purpose of PAS hearings - it's to scrutinise the Minister's
preferred candidate - not to pick from a list. It's not the role
of an MP to do that. Their role is to scrutinise the preferred
candidate. You would have to change the process from one of scrutiny
to candidate selection. And I don't think it would be right for
the Select Committee to have more power than the secretary of
3.21.10 One concern raised was whether Committees'
decisions on candidates would be influenced by the overall relationship
with the Department;
A concern is that Committees do have changing relationships
with Departments. It would be fundamentally unfair if a candidate
could get through in January when relationships were good - but
might have a negative report in June when they weren't.
3.21.11 While another remarked that Committees might
be compromised by a positive report;
To be honest, I think it somewhat compromises the
freedom of the Committee to criticise post hoc. If there proves
to be a major failure down the line for which the candidate is
culpable, I think it weakens the Committee's authority a little
if they have endorsed the candidate.
3.22.1 During our research we interviewed the
Search consultancies ("headhunters") responsible for
all but two of the appointments which had been subject to pre-appointment
hearings, one of which had not used search consultants.
3.22.2 In broad summary, the views
of search consultants were mildly negative about pre-appointment
hearings. The initial concerns that candidates would be deterred
by the hearings had not been realised, though the Children's Commissioner
case meant that they remained anxious about the potential future
3.22.3 But the consistent view of the search
consultants was that the overall public sector recruitment process
was already a very real deterrent to some potential candidates.
In their view there were a good number of people who had a lot
to offer the public sector but who were put off by the processes
of recruitment and found it bureaucratic, excessively time consuming
and lengthy; and generally unengaging. Many potentially good candidates
were also put off by what they saw as the potential bear-pit of
public criticism which would result from taking up a role in public
3.22.4 Moreover, they considered there was an
inherent tendency in Whitehall to recruit people for such major
roles who were already well used to public life as they would
be comfortable with the public accountability of the role and
exposure to public challenge. So requiring the preferred candidate
people to go before a Select Committee prior to appointment could
not really be said to be reducing the chances of those from other
backgrounds - as those candidates had usually been deterred or
rejected before the final stages.
3.23.1 On the whole, search consultants could
point to no direct evidence that candidates were being deterred
by the process of Hearings. The view below was typical;
I started off, much like the Appointments Commissioner,
by fearing that there was a big risk of people being deterred
- especially for private sector people with a public reputation.
But the overall impression I have is actually that this is something
that has not had the impact we thought.
3.23.2 Another consultant said;
there was a great worry at the start that it would
be seen by candidates as a major and difficult hoop. I don't think
that has been an issue for me. The people who have gone through
the hoop seem to have coped with it very well and without undue
anxiety. That may have been because they were not really aware
of the risks of a negative report - I told them that it wasn't
a fait accompli but they may not have listened. But more probably
it is because they were the sort of people who were big enough
and good enough that in practice it really wasn't a major obstacle
for them. So it hasn't been as quite as scary as we first thought.
Indeed, I have found that candidates who have been through it
have hardly mentioned it. So there may be an argument which says
that it wasn't enough of a hurdle for them. If its worth doing
at all, perhaps it should be tougher.
3.23.3 But it was still seen as a potential
issue of concern. For example;
I always felt that the main concern would be how
private sector candidates would cope with the process and whether
it would be enough of a disincentive to cause them to withdraw.
I still have that concern but have no tangible evidence.
my top line view is that, while you can never be
definitive, as people do not wholly tell you the full truth, this
may be an issue which is putting off candidates. And we have no
way of knowing who might have been put off without telling us.
3.24.1 Most of those we interviewed, however,
thought that it was too often an uphill struggle trying to attract
high quality candidates for some of these public roles, especially
from the private sector
the public appointments process is fraught with issues
which put off candidates and the Hearing is just one, though not
particularly a key one.
3.24.2 And there was a recognition that some
Select Committee hearings were part of a general concern felt
by candidates about being subject to public scrutiny;
The first issue is whether a candidate who was intimidated
by having to appear before a Select Committee would be credible.
I don't think they would be. But the second issue - which has
always been my main concern - is whether a candidate from the
private sector and with no relevant public experience would be
willing to contemplate even the possibility of being rejected
by a Select Committee in such a public way. People from the private
sector are not used to that; and might well be put off by it.
The recent examples of both Maggie Atkinson and Professor Nutt
might well lead a private sector person to stand back as they
will see a risk to their reputation.
3.24.3 Another commented
There are a whole bunch of people who select themselves
out of these processes because they say, 'is it worth it?' It
is a protracted process with many hurdles which people are not
used to. One major problem is the time between when the panel
makes its decision and the Minister confirming that view
is way too long. If you separate the hearing aspect from the rest
of the process, the rest of the process gives you 90% of the deterrent
3.24.4 And a third search consultant said;
Hearings are a marginal issue, compared to the wider
concerns about working within Government - and just at the moment
people don't want to apply for posts at a time of major political
uncertainty. People do think that they might in theory be independent
chairs but in practice will be leant on. People are also worried
that if things get difficult it will be the Chairs not the Ministers
who take the rap. So the Select Committee requirement is pretty
marginal as an additional disincentive.
3.24.5 Another comment was
there are people who could make a real contribution
to public life who look at the goldfish bowl of being in public
life - and the way the press behave in particular - and simply
back away from it. That's impacting on people's willingness to
be politicians, of course, not just being a candidate for a public
3.25.1 Most consultants emphasised the importance
of candidates being able to perform on public platforms. One said;
it is clear these are high profile jobs overall,
so if a candidate is not up for a Select Committee hearing , I
doubt they are really up to the challenges of the appointment
overall. From my experience what looms large in some people's
minds, is what they see as the general horror of the exposure
to public scrutiny and the very real possibility that they will
come across in a bad light. So the pre-app hearing is rather a
good proxy for whether they are really willing to do these roles.
If the aversion is so great that they pull out, they almost certainly
weren't suitable for the appointment.
3.25.2 It was accepted in this context that the
process favoured those who were already used to Westminster;
it really does favour insiders. The whole system
militates towards the senior reaches of the public sector.
3.25.3 A view which was repeated by another search
when I look at the people who have gone through this,
it seems to me they are almost exclusively people who know and
understand the public sector and not people who are new to it.
It seems to me that this new process of hearings is re-enforcing
3.25.4 One consultant pointed out the downsides
If there is one area I am concerned with its whether
we are only getting the great and the good - can we get someone
with all the skills but has never done it before. We need to make
these people feel comfortable.
3.25.5 But considerable scepticism was expressed
as to whether "Whitehall" genuinely wanted more diverse
When I look at the people who have been appointed,
I am sure they would have got the jobs regardless of this new
process. So I find it difficult to say that the pre-appointment
hearings have as yet had any impact on the field. For these sorts
of jobs, you are very likely to only give serious consideration
to people who have considerable experience of the public sector;
and who would thus not be put off by the process.
The civil service is genuinely risk averse when it
comes to appointments. Its in the culture. They recruit in their
own mould. When we bring in a candidate who we think they should
consider but might be a bit of a risk they invariably say No.
3.26.1 In broad terms there was a feeling that
the hearings had gone well. One said;
Having seen the hearings, I thought it was a very
reasonable process. It was an intelligent conversation, not a
political forum. We feared there would be some politics in the
hearing because of the circumstances surrounding the setting up
of the body, but the candidate did very well. I suppose this attracts
people who enjoy those processes, that is political people.
3.26.2 Another who attended a hearing said;
I was struck by how well [the candidate] handled
it - but I realised they were only able to do so because they
had had such a long career in the public sector and was used to
the environment of select committees. Indeed the candidate told
me it had been a walk in the park; but I am very sure it would
have been much, much harder for others. But I could see why the
OCPA head would be concerned that it would deflect a more diverse
group of people from applying. I was also struck by the loneliness
of it - it is rather unusual for someone to be appearing before
a Select Committee on their own. It did look rather intimidating.
3.26.3 And another consultant expressed a similar
view more forcefully;
the final thing I would say would be about the extent
to which the MPs on the Committees recognise that recruitment
is about both buying and selling. Some of the questioning seems
to be along the lines of "why do you think we should let
you do this job"; whereas many of the candidates might reasonably
say that they are only considering doing the job because they
have been asked to do so and are willing to do something for the
public and certainly not because they need to do it.
3.27.1 There was a clear recognition that a successful
hearing might enhance the reputation of a candidate;
Although the PAS hearing introduces some uncertainty
and irrationality in the process, the candidate can walk in knowing
that they have already succeeded - they have the endorsement of
the department and the minister. They may hate the process but
when they go into the hearing I imagine they feel fairly good
about it. These are big people well before they get to the PAS
hearing. I don't think that is any different from those coming
out of the private sector. I was genuinely concerned about this
process but I have not seen evidence suggesting that PAS deters
good people. There is an upside to all this; if you get through
you have three endorsements - that has to be empowering.
3.27.2 That said, there was some views to the
It seems to me that people have a justified prejudice
as to what they can expect from a Select Committee; and don't
have much respect for it. Its mechanistic, many members just trying
to use it to get publicity for themselves and so on. No one will
think that appearing before a Committee will do them or their
reputation any good.
3.27.3 One commented on the impact of the Children's
I think it has changed the game. There was a lot
of politics involved. The process had gone through, a panel had
made a recommendation, the Committee had an opportunity to express
a view and the Minister decided to make the appointment. So I
think the formal process was maintained. I don't know how much
damage it has done to the Children's Commissioner , but it has
made clear to all potential candidates for other roles that it
is a highly politicised environment
that's what went on here;
it was about politics. Unfortunately a candidate got kicked around
as a result.
3.28.1 Looking to the future, there was a general
concern that it might become harder to fill these roles in future.
One search consultant commented;
Whitehall is recognising that in the future it is
going to have to deliver more for less, something which it traditionally
struggles to do and is going to need to bring in private sector
skills it does not have. But it simultaneously restricts itself
by recruitment processes which aim to be transparent and equitable
and by apparently wanting to backtrack from a willingness to pay
the rates necessary to attract the best talent - so the current
rhetoric about forcing all pay to below that of the Prime Minister
is going to make the public sector a less attractive place for
people of talent. And we load on top of that requiring people
to go before Parliament in a very public way and crawl over their
record in ways which can belittle the candidates. I just don't
know how that circle is going to be squared.
3.28.2 And another commented
[pre-appointment hearings have] not been a big factor
in the appointments I have done so far, but that has been because
of the nature of the appointments. But I still think that there
is a genuine risk that in the future people - and particularly
private sector people - will be deterred. First because they decide
they cannot take any risk, however, remote to their reputation
by being "recommended against"; and second, because
they cannot accept that a bunch of MPs, who they do not consider
have any relevant skills to make judgements on them, will have
the opportunity to do so. Some people I have met in the past will
certainly think along those lines.
3.28.3 A third said;
if we are to continue with hearings I think we have
to consider much more carefully which of these appointments pre-app
hearings should apply to and which they shouldn't. We might well
want to take certain appointments out of the system, simply because
we genuinely want to broaden the candidates to include people
who might not be prepared to go through with a hearing - and I
certainly don't think we risk bad appointments as a result.
Chapter 4: Our media research
4.1.1 A media analysis using Lexis Nexis UK was
conducted in order to determine the extent and nature of media
coverage which pre-appointment hearings have received. This involved
searching the appointees' name and the title of the position to
which he or she had been appointed both separately and together.
Searches were restricted to all UK publications so as to include
industry publications as well as national and local newspapers.
The search dates were restricted to the time the appointee was
announced as the preferred candidate until a month after the pre-appointment
4.2.2 Based on the media analysis it is clear
that pre-appointment hearings received fairly wide-spread coverage
by the major media sources in the UK. However, the extent of coverage
varied depending on the appointment. Almost all appointments received
at least a small mention in two or more major publications. However,
the appointment of Lord Jay of Ewelme as the Chair of the House
of Lords Appointments Commission was mentioned in only one major
publication; the "Other people on the move" section
of the Guardian. A search related to the appointment of the Local
Government Ombudsman returned zero results.
4.2.3 Conversely, searches related to Colette
Bowe's appointment as Chair of OFCOM returned multiple articles
in all of the major publications, including: The Guardian,
The Times, The Independent, The Evening Standard
and The Daily Mail. Not surprisingly, the Children's Commissioner's
appointment hearing and its aftermath generated the most coverage
of all the appointments with over thirty print-based articles.
The appointment of the Chair of the Statistics Authority also
generated considerable media coverage with searches returning
4.2.4 Appointments which were regarded as high
profile, either because of the appointee or due to the position
itself tended to receive greater media coverage. The appointment
of the Chair of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), for example,
received more coverage in the national press than the appointment
of the Information Commissioner. This is despite the fact that
the Information Commissioner has a comparable remit to the Chair
of the CQC, arguably more so given the significant executive powers
vested in the former.
4.2.5 Coverage of appointments to bodies which
are considered highly technical or which have relatively narrow
remits were more likely to appear in trade and industry publications
rather than mainstream media sources. With the exception of one
local newspaper, searches related to the appointment of the Chair
of the Infrastructure Planning Commission returned results from
publications such as Building Design, Planning and Regeneration
Table 4A: Media Coverage of Appointments
||Number of Search Results
|Chair of the Statistics Authority
|Chair of the Care Quality Commission
|Chair of the House of Lords Appointments Commission
|Chair of the Office for Legal Complaints
|Chair of OFCOM||24
|Chair of the Infrastructure Planning Commission
|HM Inspector of Constabulary
|Chair of the Office of Rail Regulation
|Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council
|Chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
|Chair of the Food Standards Agency
|Chair of the Science and Technology Facilities Council
|Deputy Chairs of the Infrastructure Planning Commission
|Local Government Ombudsman
|Chair of Natural England
|Chair of ACoBA||3
4.3.1 The nature of the coverage of pre-appointment
hearings has been relatively fair - though with a depressing degree
of gender bias as demonstrated below. Most articles simply stated
that a particular person has been appointed to the post, provided
some background on the appointee and the position, and explained
that he or she had been obliged to attend a pre-appointment hearing.
However, some appointees have been treated in a distinctly prejudicial
way by certain media sources, notably in terms of salaries, which
are obviously not set by the candidates themselves.
4.3.2 Most of the coverage of Colette Bowe's
appointment, for example, focused on her £206,000 a year
salary. Anna Walker's £125,000 a year salary was also reported
in certain publications. However, some went further, discussing
issues such as Dr Bowe's clothing and jobs from when she was a
university student. One headline in the Daily Mail simply
stated, "Quango Queen Colette".
4.3.3 In the case of the Children's Commissioner,
the Daily Mail published a very short mention of Maggie
Atkinson's appointment which read,
The next £138,000-a-year head of the fancy-titled
quango with the job of making children's rights-type noise with
minimal effect is Dr Maggie Atkinson. Who she, you ask? A former
teacher, she is currently children's services director at Gateshead
council. Oh, and she has no children of her own. C'est la vie.
Without exception, male appointees were not subject
to this type of coverage, including those with high salaries.
4.3.4 On some occasions, stories in the press
have formed the basis of members' questions during pre-appointment
hearings. On the day of his hearing, the Financial Times
published an article noting that the Sir Michael Scholar's son
was the Chief of Staff at No 10. In order to test his independence,
Sir Michael was asked by the committee chairman whether his son
was aware of the appointment. Stories were published in the days
prior to the appointment hearing of Lord Lang as Chair of ACoBA
detailing past and outstanding legal claims against US financial
services firm Marsh & McLennan. Lord Lang, who is a director
of the company, was questioned extensively about these issues
by some members of PASC.
4.3.5 Some media coverage of the introduction
of pre-appointment hearings presented a highly simplified, and
perhaps even inaccurate, picture of the new system. Certain members
of the press were quick to point-out the apparent similarities
between pre-appointment hearings in the UK and congressional confirmation
hearings in the US. For example, an article from the Guardian
on 3 June 2008 states, "The announcement [of the introduction
of pre-appointment hearings] is a move towards the US system of
government, where Congress has a role in top White House appointments."
An article from the Sunday Times uses the phrase "American-style
'confirmation hearings'". This is unfortunate given that
the two systems differ significantly as noted in Chapter 1 of
4.4.1 In addition to traditional print-based
media sources, coverage of and opinions on pre-appointment scrutiny
hearings are also transmitted via blogs on the internet. The recent
appointment hearing for the Chair of ACoBA illustrates this new
and growing phenomenon. Following the hearing, Paul Flynn MP,
a member of PASC, used his personal blog to criticise both the
appointee, Lord Lang, and the Committee's decision to endorse
4.4.2 In his blog entry from 27 November 2009,
titled, "Lang the problem, not the solution", Mr Flynn
The final decision by a majority of the committee
was wrong. Rejection was judged to be a nuclear option. If holding
pre-appointment hearings is justified, rejections must be seriously
considered. One unique feature in this case is that the appointment
had already been made and retrospective rejection would have created
a messy situation. That's no excuse for taking the wrong decision.
4.4.3 Other MPs have used both personal and party
blogs to express their views on pre-appointment hearings and the
work of Select Committees. On his personal blog, Douglas Carswell
MP has stated that the appointment of "quango chiefs"
should be subject to "confirmation hearings" by Select
Luff MP has argued on a Conservative Party blog that some public
appointments should require a debate and vote in the House of
Chapter 5 : The key issues
5.1.2 Based on our research, we have identified
five key issues which justify discussion. (We distinguish this
from the identification of possible options going forward - a
subject discussed in chapter 6.) Those issues are
- Has the system of pre-appointment hearings added
- What are the impacts of hearings upon the supply
and willingness of candidates to come forward?
- What have we learnt about the potential impacts
of a negative report?
- Is there an inherent contradiction between the
formality of the appointments process within Whitehall and the
informality of Select Committees?
- Are the right appointments being tested?
5.1.3 In this chapter we consider the arguments
and evidence in each of these areas.
5.2.1 In this context, a key argument for hearings
was based on a broad view that significant public appointments
should have an additional degree of transparency by engaging Parliament
in the process of making those appointments. This was assumed
to have a wider benefit in terms of democratic transparency, recognising
that the post-holders for the various roles subject to scrutiny
were exercising considerable powers in the public interest. While
there was no suggestion that there was a significant "democratic
deficit" in the previous approach - which, after all, involved
appointment by an elected Government, following a formal process
approved by the Commissioner for Public Appointments - the chosen
roles were seen as of such importance that a greater degree of
transparency was justified.
5.2.2 Our research suggests that this objective
has been achieved. Regardless of views on the conduct
of hearings (discussed below), the fact that public hearings have
been held seems a clear democratic gain. Under the previous system,
Departments announced that appointments had been made at the end
of the process but very little was made public about the nature
of the recruitment process. There was a degree of transparency
about the system as a whole through the public availability of
the OCPA code of practice, coupled with the regular reports from
the Commissioner herself. But there is little doubt that the Committee
hearings have attracted a degree of publicity and at times press
comment which had not previously been routine. And the reports
of the Committees have contained more information on the process
for individual appointments than had previously been the case.
5.2.3 Moreover, the views of the candidates we
interviewed suggest that the majority of them felt some tangible,
if not easily defined, benefit in terms of their "legitimacy".
There were various comments along the lines that they felt they
had received an additional and very public endorsement of their
appointment which would not otherwise have been the case. And
several noted that their standing with the organisation they were
leading had been enhanced, because they had already been seen
to perform creditably in public.
5.2.4 It is important, of course, not to overstate
this conclusion. It could not be remotely claimed that pre-appointment
scrutiny has transformed the situation from the earlier practice.
It is only the preferred candidate whose name enters the public
domain; and the media interest, though consistent, has generally
been low key. It is also fair to record that not all the candidates
we interviewed saw any additional benefit to them from the hearing
but regarded it instead as simply another hurdle in the process.
So, even though we conclude that there has been a step forward
in terms of democratic transparency, it is simply an incremental
step - and quite a small one.
5.2.5 Finally under this heading, we should note
the question as to whether there is any benefit in hearings in
reducing the risk of - or perception of - "political bias"
in making appointments to these roles. This is clearly a sensitive
issue; and we found no evidence whatsoever of there being any
such bias in practice, something which OCPA processes should already
pick up and prevent. We are thus confident that no candidate
who has not demonstrated they can meet the specified criteria
for the role could be appointed, with or without Committee hearings.
But it would be equally wrong to deny that there is not at least
some perception of a political element in a number of potential
appointments. And we think that at the margin there is legitimate
scope within the system for appointments which allow some political
issues to be considered when choosing between well-qualified candidates.
But several of those we interviewed, both Parliamentarians and
officials, thought that there was something about the public nature
of the hearings which "kept the process honest"; and
thus ensured that all preferred candidates were capable of performing
the role, regardless of their background. We agree; and conclude
that pre-appointment hearings provide an additional safeguard
against the potential for abuse.
5.3.1 A clear concern from the outset of the
new system was that;
i. it would deter some good quality candidates
from applying; and
ii. it would tend to favour the "usual suspects"
rather than encourage greater diversity.
5.3.2 Our research suggests strongly that to date there
has been no significant deterrent effect on applications.
The headhunters we interviewed said consistently that they
had been initially concerned that candidates would be put off
by the prospect of Hearings, but that in practice they had not
discerned any such impact. Departments had had similar concerns
but could report no evidence of short-listed candidates being
put off by the requirement for hearings.
5.3.3 It is, of course, hard to prove a negative;
so there must remain a possibility that people who might have
been credible candidates were indeed deterred but never got as
far as a serious discussion with the headhunters. Moreover, in
our interviews with candidates and Departments, a couple of examples
were given to us of specific cases where the interviewees were
confident that certain individuals would have been deterred by
the prospect of hearings. (For example, two cases were mentioned
to us where our interviewees were confident that if particular
posts had been included on the list, the current post holder would
not have been prepared to go through a hearing for reasons which
it is not appropriate to discuss in this report but which seemed
to us entirely credible.)
5.3.4 It was also clear that the headhunters
were giving us a more nuanced response than a simple "no
impact". They all recorded a view that they encountered many
individuals who they felt could do an excellent job in public
roles of this sort but who were unwilling to take them on because
they perceived them as more trouble than they were worth. Frequent
concerns were expressed about what was seen as an overly-complex
and time consuming recruitment process; and the potential downsides,
if appointed, of taking on roles which were perceived as modestly
paid but with major potential for public criticism. The introduction
of pre-appointment hearings would undoubtedly be seen by such
reluctant candidates as a negative. But the point was that such
people were already deterred from applying for public appointments
- so the addition of a public hearing had no discernible additional
impact. Other candidates, in contrast, were prepared to accept
the inevitable public elements of public roles, including the
hearings. One preferred candidate put the same point to us very
I can see how someone with excellent skills may decide
that they don't want to go through a hearing, but there will always
be someone else with the same skills who is willing to do it.
5.3.5 At the time of our interviews, the Children's
Commissioner case had become a very public issue and this was
obviously the source of additional comment about its potentially
deterrent effect. Our broad conclusion is that occasional
recommendations not to appoint will have little deterrent effect
especially if they are perceived - as the Children's Commissioner
case was undoubtedly perceived - as being one-off events where
a broader political agenda was in play. But there is no doubt
that the headhunters we interviewed felt that if adverse recommendations
became commonplace, then the deterrent effect could come to have
|The Children's Commissioner Case
The Children's Commissioner for England post is unique amongst those which posts have been subject to pre-appointment hearings in that it resulted in a report by the Children, Schools and Families Committee, concluding they could not endorse the appointment of Maggie Atkinson, the preferred candidate identified by an independent recruitment process. The Secretary of State decided, however, to proceed with the appointment recommended by the independent panel. Inevitably this became a very public issue, with considerable media comment.
This case had a clear impact on this research and many of those we have interviewed - including those involved directly in that case- spoke to us about it. Those views are reflected in this report, in so far as they have implications for the concept of hearings overall. The details of the case itself and our analysis of it are set out in Annex A.
5.3.6 On the related issue of "diversity",
our conclusion is that pre-appointment hearings clearly favour
candidates who have already been engaged in public positions .
But it is again a nuanced conclusion in that we believe that there
are already very strong pressures in the appointments system which
favours candidates with such a background. So the impact on diversity,
though real, is a marginal one and we have not found any indication
that any of these appointments would have been more likely to
go to "outsiders" if there had been no pre-appointment
5.3.7 It is important to make clear that we define
"diversity" for the purposes of this report not in terms
of gender or ethnic background but in terms of distinguishing
between people who are experienced in public life from people
who have no track record in public matters. (Whether the former
are termed as the "establishment", the "great and
the good" or "the usual suspects" is a matter of
choice.) In broad terms, the government has made clear it wishes
to open up public appointments to a wider range of candidates
than has traditionally been the case, so it would obviously be
a concern if the requirement for hearings were to discourage the
consideration of a wider range of candidates.
5.3.8 It is clear, however, that the vast majority
of the candidates who have been subject to pre-appointment scrutiny
hearings to date have been of people already experienced in public
life. Almost all, for example, had appeared before Select Committees
before, in some cases on numerous occasions. So, on the face of
it, the concern that hearings might have a negative impact on
diversity seems justified.
5.3.9 It is important to recognise, however,
that the posts chosen for scrutiny by Committees are the most
senior public appointments. For all such posts a strong CV is
essential, demonstrating that the candidate has experience off
issues such as public accountability and the need for public appearances.
Very few candidates with no previous public appointment would
be able to demonstrate this. Moreover, the Departmental officials
we interviewed said that they would be very reluctant to select
someone for appointment unless they had absolute confidence that
the chosen candidate would perform credibly on public platforms
such as in front of Committees. So an ability to operate in the
public domain is already built in to the criteria for the appointment,
usually explicitly. Moreover, we note that Departmental officials,
by their own admission in our interviews, tend not be risk-taking
in recommending public appointments to Ministers and often give
a high priority to selecting "a safe pair of hands".
This again favours experienced candidates.
5.3.10 In substance, therefore, while we conclude
that pre-appointment hearings do not encourage wider diversity
in that they discriminate against "outsiders", we do
not think that genuine outsiders are likely to be appointed to
roles at this level. We do not challenge the importance of promoting
greater diversity in public appointments, but we suggest that
objective is best achieved by focusing on the more junior public
appointments - which of course are the great majority of appointments
5.4.1 A consistent comment we received from those
we interviewed from Parliament was that the Children's Commissioner
case demonstrated that there was no value in pre-appointment hearings
"because the government will simply press on with the appointment
regardless". Based on our research, we believe that this
view is wrong. Indeed our conclusion is that a negative
report may well lead to the proposed appointment not proceeding.
While this is a "hypothetical" conclusion, we certainly
think it would be wrong for anyone to assume that the outcome
of the one negative report to date means that all negative reports
would have the same outcome.
5.4.2 Our view is based on the following assessment;
- A clear majority of the candidates we interviewed
said that in the event of a negative report they would not
have wanted to be appointed. This particularly applied to those
who were being appointed to "Chair" roles where the
post holder was likely to have a portfolio career and to have,
in a typical phrase, "plenty of other good uses of my time".
Attitudes to a potentially negative report varied somewhat from
a genuine respect of the Committee's right to recommend against
appointment to a more robust "plague on all their houses"
attitude. But most candidates thought that it would be difficult
to proceed without Committee endorsement - and that they would
not want to. It may be appropriate to discount this research finding
to a degree because it is arguably easier to take a principled
stance when the issue is hypothetical rather than actual. But
we are clear that several preferred candidates would not have
proceeded in the event of a negative report;
- separately, it should not be assumed that Departments
or Ministers will simply over-ride a negative report without considering
it in detail. In our analysis of the Children's Commissioner case,
we point out that that DCSF considered the Children's Committee's
report in considerable depth and gave a thorough and detailed
response to the report - in practice far more detailed that the
report itself. It is clear to us that the special circumstances
surrounding that case - especially the Committee's focus on the
nature of the post as much as the candidate - made the Department's
response an entirely legitimate one, given the Committee's role
was to offer advice not exercise a veto. (We also note the spontaneous
support for that candidate from third parties after the Committee's
report was published.) But it certainly cannot be assumed that
because the Secretary of State rejected the Committee's advice
in the one negative case to date, then the Committee's advice
would always be rejected.
5.4.3 Of these two issues, we believe the first
is more likely to come into play than the second in that we would
expect that candidates would be more likely to withdraw
in the face of a negative report than that Department would withdraw
their support for the candidate. But both are certainly possible.
5.4.4 We have yet to see, of course, what would
happen if a negative Committee report was accepted by the relevant
Secretary of State or the candidate concerned decided not to proceed.
Our expectation is that it is unlikely that the Department would
be able to promote any other candidate from the original recruitment
round (who would already know that they were not first choice
and might well be reluctant to proceed or quite possibly be unavailable
by that point). Instead a new recruitment round would then be
needed with the inevitable additional costs and delay. In some
cases this could lead to real operational issues, with a post
left vacant for some time.
5.4.5 A further consideration in those circumstances
would be whether a subsequent re-run of the recruitment would
be overshadowed by concerns among candidates about applying for
a role which had already been the subject of political controversy.
The odds are certainly that some candidates would be deterred.
5.5.1 A strong concern of the Commissioner for
Public Appointments was that the Select Committee process would
compromise the integrity of the public appointments process, which
is generally determined by the OCPA code of conduct. Our conclusion
is that there is an inherent contradiction between the
two approaches which experience has demonstrated. It does
not follow, however, that such logical contradictions cannot exist
- indeed they are quite common in public life.
5.5.2 In essence, the OCPA rules subject appointment
processes to a standard set of procedures and a "competencies"
based approach. In brief, this means that Departments decide in
advance what personal skills and abilities are required if the
post-holder is to carry out the role effectively; and candidates
are assessed as to how far they match those competencies. The
qualities required are generally graded as either "essential"
or "desirable" - so that a candidate who does not meet
all the essential competencies will not be appointed, but it is
possible that a candidate may not meet all the "desirable"
requirements. At the same time, the use of competency-based assessments
ensures that appointments are made on the basis of criteria set
at the outset - and that other information is not considered relevant.
5.5.3 As part of the preparation for hearings,
Departments have made these competence criteria available to the
Committee through the clerks as part of the factual background
to the appointment. It is clear, however, from our reading of
the transcripts (and attendance at the more recent hearings),
backed up by the interviews we have conducted, that the Committee
hearings have in no significant way sought to assess the
preferred candidate against those competencies.
5.5.4 Instead, the hearings have tended to be
wide ranging and cover the whole range of issues which seemed
relevant to the Committee at the time. Candidates have been questioned,
for example, about their personal background, their views on current
operational issues, the legitimacy of their salaries, whether
the terms of reference of the role concerned are correct and so
on. Some Committees have clearly - backed up by the evidence of
our interviews - regarded the hearings as in effect their first
meeting with the newly appointed post holder rather than assessing
whether the post-holder meets the criteria. Others have focussed
more on the candidate but even those have strayed from that narrow
agenda into wider issues. A few have clearly challenged the definition
of the requirements for the role laid down by the Department or
set out in statute, an approach which overlay the discussion of
the Children's Commissioner case but also affected others. (For
example in the case of one regulatory Chair, the Committee clearly
questioned the preferred candidate's lack of sector specific experience
in relation to the industry being regulated, though the Department
had not made such experience an essential competence for the role.)
5.5.5 This does not remotely mean that Committees
have exceeded their brief in conducting these hearings. It was
never intended that Committees should confine their hearings to
the issues raised by the formal competency based recruitment process
and it was always accepted that Committees would be able to adopt
their usual approach under which anyone giving evidence to a Committee
can expect to be pressed for views on a wide range of issues.
Moreover, simply asking Committees to assess against pre-determined
criteria would seem a rather pointless process as those criteria
will already have been used in the identification of the preferred
candidate by the Department.
5.5.6 But the fact that Committee hearings are
so wide ranging in the issues they discuss with candidates does
create an inherent tension between the formality of the OCPA approach,
testing defined competencies, and the informality (by comparison)
of the Select Committee hearings seeking to form an overview of
the candidate. And, given that candidates have a legitimate expectation
that they will be assessed against the stated requirements for
the role rather than other criteria, then it is conceivable that
a candidate rejected after a negative hearing could object on
"due process" grounds about their rejection. We do not
think, however, that this is remotely likely to happen in practice,
given that candidates for these types of roles know they are in
a political arena and knew the potential for a negative report
in the first place.
5.5.7 Moreover, it is possible for the circle
to be squared. For most roles at this level, the ability to perform
successfully with stakeholders and on public platforms is likely
to be an "essential" requirement and that is certainly
being tested by the hearings. And the fact that the Secretary
of State is free to reject a negative report means that a candidate
has a degree of protection from a Committee which seeks to "rewrite
the job description" and reject the candidate by new criteria.
But there is no doubt that a conflict between the formal process
and the hearings remains.
5.6.1 The current list of just over 60 appointments
subject to this process came about through discussion between
Government (represented by the Cabinet Office) and Parliament
(represented by the Liaison Committee and the Public Administration
Committee). The original Government proposal was for a smaller
number of appointments, but Committees were invited to suggest
additions to the list and several did so. Most of their requests
were accepted (with some exceptions, most notably, perhaps, the
rejected request to include the Chair of the BBC Trust), but Committees
did not have any universal template against which to request additions.
Given the "pilot" nature of the hearings, this seemed
5.6.2 We are clear, however, that the resultant
list is somewhat illogical in a number of areas. Most
of those we interviewed felt that the list was about right in
length but less sensible in detail. The Transport Committee has
only one appointment on the list (the Rail Regulator) and the
other economic regulator in their area - the Civil Aviation Authority)
is not covered. The Chair of the Office of Legal Complaints is
on the list, but not the Chair of the Legal Services Board, which
is the more senior body (and which appoints the Chair of the OLC).
The Chair of the Agricultural Wages Board is included but not
the Chair of the Low Pay Commission. In some cases, Departmental
officials gave technical reasons for distinguishing between bodies
on and off the list, but other Departments appeared not to be
applying the same logic.
5.6.3 We are not suggesting that the list is
wrong in terms of the majority of posts currently included on
it. But we suggest in the next chapter some possible thoughts
on the way that a future list could be constructed.
5.6.4 We also note briefly that some interviewees
suggested to us that different categories of appointments should
also be included in the process - in one case Cabinet Ministers,
but more regularly Permanent Secretaries or senior diplomatic
posts (which are already subject to a post appointment but pre-commencement
hearings if going to a non career diplomat). But we consider that
widening the scope of this report in such a way would be beyond
our terms of reference. We observe, however, that Select Committees
have considerable demands on their time which make it unlikely
that they could prioritise significantly greater numbers of appointment-related
Chapter 6: possible ways forward
In compiling this report, we have sought to focus
on gathering the evidence and identifying the key issues. In this
chapter we turn to identifying possible ways forward.
6.1.2 In doing so, we are clear that we are
not making recommendations. The issues raised in this report
are essentially about the balance of responsibilities between
Parliament as the legislative body and the Government as the executive
body. That balance can only be determined in discussion and dialogue
between Parliament and Government and is not a matter for us.
What does concern us, however, is what the possible options might
be - and whether they are likely to be workable.
6.1.3 We have grouped our thoughts around four
possible ways forward as follows;
- A greater role for Parliament - e.g. engagement
with more than one candidate, a power of veto etc;
- The status quo, perhaps with some modest adjustments
to the appointments subject to hearings and the current processes;
- A slight step back - effectively to replace pre-appointment
scrutiny with post-appointment or pre-commencement hearings;
- A hybrid approach - a greater role for Parliament
in a smaller number of appointments.
6.1.4 This is certainly not a complete list of
possibilities but provides a focus for the discussion which will
be needed between Parliament and Government in taking the next
6.2.1 We discuss this issue first because the
strongest views expressed in our research were by Parliamentarians,
the majority of whom saw the existing process as unsatisfactory
and wanted to go further. The two main types of proposal were;
- The power to recommend against the appointment
of the preferred candidate should become a formal veto on their
- Committees should not be limited to a hearing
with a single candidate but should have some form of access to
the short list of candidates and possibly be able to interview
more than one.
6.2.3 We can understand the thinking behind both
concepts. There is currently a widespread view amongst Chair and
Committee members that the government will simply press ahead
with the preferred candidate, so a negative report will have no
impact - in which case "what's the point". We can also
understand why Committee members feel that they are being asked
to identify too narrow a question - "is this candidate suitable
for appointment?" - and would prefer to be able to answer
the question "is this the best candidate for the post?",
a question which would obviously require a deeper engagement in
6.2.4 An absolute veto would in effect
mean that no appointment would proceed unless the Committee had
approved the appointment. It is effectively the system in operation
for many posts in the USA where senate agreement is needed to
ratify a wide range of Presidential nominations. There are important
differences, however, between the UK and the USA. The logic for
the US veto is that candidates have not gone through an application
process which formally tests their competence to perform the role
but are essentially put forward as political nominees. That approach
is not followed in the UK where posts of this nature are open
to public application and there is very limited scope - in principle
none - for party political considerations.
6.2.5 While we have not specifically tested the
proposition in our interviews, our expectations are that very
few candidates for these roles would be prepared to accept that
they should run the risk of going through a complete process -
which can already take six months - only to be vetoed by a Committee
which might have a low turn out or be motivated by considerations
going beyond the immediate competence of the potential post holder.
Most of the candidates we interviewed thought that the risk of
an adverse report was a risk worth running - but we believe the
fact that the Committee role was essentially advisory was an important
component of their personal risk assessment.
6.2.6 Separately, we do not see that a veto concept
is compatible with the reality that these appointments are Government
appointments rather than Parliamentary ones. This is both a practical
and technical issue. On the practical side, most of the postholders
report directly to the Ministers and officials of the Government
Department concerned, receive their budgets from them and require
their approval for their activities, for example through approval
of their annual plans. In turn, Ministers are then answerable
in Parliament for the bodies concerned, a concept which we feel
would be undermined by Ministers not being directly responsible
for the appointment of the head of the organisation concerned.
On the technical side, most of the posts concerned are statutory
appointments with the legislation assigning the appointment decision
to Ministers. While it is compatible with such legislation for
the Secretary of State to seek advice on the appointment, it would
not be compatible to make the appointment subject to a third party
veto; and primary legislation would almost certainly be needed
for a formal veto to be given effect.
6.2.7 We would conclude therefore that a veto
for Parliament on these appointments would be far more radical
that a mere evolution of the current system of pre-appointment
hearings. It would involve a wholesale replacement of the current
appointments process in the UK with a system based around government
nominations for such posts with the approval of the legislature
being required before the appointment could be made. Such an approach
is clearly possible but beyond the scope of this report.
6.2.8 The possibility of Committees having a
wider engagement with the short-list raises different considerations,
as this would still retain the essential advisory nature of the
Committee role. There are possible variations, ranging for example,
from a formal interview with all the short listed candidates to
a paper list made available to a Committee in confidence. The
Committee might thus recommend which candidate be appointed, but
have only an advisory role with no power of veto.
6.2.9 We are again doubtful, however, whether
this is in practice compatible with the current system of appointments.
Although the sort of appointments covered by this survey are public
appointments, they are not posts for which people compete in public.
There is accordingly no expectation amongst those applying for
these roles that their interest will become known unless and until
they are appointed to the role - or at least until they become
the preferred candidate. This is not simply a question of personal
preference but can have practical consequences - for example,
candidates may not wish to inform their current employers of the
fact that they are applying for one of these roles, until they
have a reasonable prospect of succeeding. We would expect any
system which involved the short list becoming public knowledge,
therefore, to be a serious deterrent to a wide range of potential
6.2.11 We do accept, of course, that MPs are
in exactly this position of being public candidates for public
roles whenever there is an election - and that many of them feel,
and indeed told us, that they cannot see why there should be any
anonymity for those wishing to take on high-profile public appointments.
But that would require a very significant shift in the way that
these roles are filled, effectively with full disclosure and,
no doubt, moves towards people beginning to campaign for public
appointments. That would again be a radical shift, beyond the
scope of this report.
6.2.12 More practically, we are also unclear
how a system of the Committee being provided with the short-list
could be managed in logistical terms. If the Department had nominated
a preferred candidate, we consider it would be unfair to that
candidate to reject them after a hearing against the possibility
that a subsequent candidate might be better. In practice we think
this short list approach could only work if all short listed candidates
were interviewed - an approach which, as noted, we think would
deter many candidates. (It would also require the Committees to
spend considerably more time on each appointment.)
6.2.13 Finally, we would note that the more responsibility
that is given to Committees in relation to appointments, the higher
the expectations would be that they should follow processes which
are compliant with best practice in interviewing techniques against
a background of employment law. There is no reason in principle
why that could not be done - but it would undoubtedly be alien
to the overall approach of Select Committees to expect them to
depart from their current freedom to interrogate witnesses "without
fear or favour".
6.2.14 A variation on this approach - under which
Committees might have some confidential engagement with the process
- is considered in the next section.
6.3.1 We noted in chapter 3 that the majority
of those we interviewed in Parliament were critical of the process
to date, with considerable frustration as to the limited role
that has been given to Committees.
6.3.2 As we pointed out in chapter 5, however,
a good degree of the frustration has been caused by the assumption
that any adverse views on candidates would be disregarded by the
Government. We believe that this assumption is unjustified - and
that even if Government were to wish to press ahead following
a negative report, many candidates might choose to withdraw.
In short, the influence of Committees is probably rather greater
than they are currently assuming.
6.3.3 The other concern with the status quo has
tended to come from the other direction and to be concerned with
the incompatibility of the current process with the formal OCPA
processes. While we understand this concern, we also note that
many of the specific concerns were about potential detrimental
effects which have not in practice occurred. And we also note
the strongest advocates of the new approach have been the candidates
themselves who have in most cases rather welcomed the introduction
of a public element to the process which was not previously present.
6.3.4 In short, therefore, we believe that there
is a clear case for the maintenance of the current process as
instituted in 2008 and for the trial process to become a permanent
one. If that approach were to be followed, however, we suggest
a number of possible improvements could be considered in the following
- Shared guidance for Committees, Departments and
candidates making clear what hearings are meant to test - and
what is beyond the process. At the moment, the Cabinet Office
guidance to Departments is separate from the guidance issued to
Committees by the Liaison Committee - and this caused some confusion
in the Children's Commissioner case. Ideally there should be a
single statement on the nature of the hearings agreed between
Parliament and Government - and available to the candidates;
- A recognition by Committees that they are primarily
focussed on the candidate's ability to engage with stakeholders
in discussing the issues facing the organisation concerned and
on assessing their qualifications for the role as defined. It
is entirely reasonable for Committees to argue for a different
specification for the role concerned - but not to assess the candidate
against that different specification. This is not to suggest that
the hearing itself should not be wide-ranging in the issues discussed
- but the Committee's advice should be focussed on the suitability
of the candidate for the role they have applied for;
- Whether it might be possible for Committees to
be more fully briefed (probably privately but this would be for
discussion) by the Department concerned on the background to the
appointment before a decision is made to hold a hearing. The Committee
could then decide whether, in the circumstances of the case, a
hearing was a good use of their time and how best to focus the
discussion. The Committee would not be given the names of other
members of the short list, but would be better able to understand
what might happen if they advised against the preferred candidate.
In some cases, the Committee might decide that they would prefer
not to have a formal hearing - or replace it with a post appointment
- whether there is scope for some confidential
discussion between the Committee and the Department concerned
(or perhaps the Chair and the Minister) so that Committees can
express reservations in a less public form. The Liaison Committee
guidelines (para 1.1.6 above) provide for this in certain circumstances
but we are not aware that this provision has been used and it
could be further developed;
- whether there is a case for an additional piece
of Parliamentary procedure in cases where the Government receives
a negative report from the Committee but decides to proceed with
the appointment. The Secretary of State could commit, for example,
to a statement in those circumstances which would enable him or
her to be challenged on the decision. (There have also been suggestions
that there should be a vote on the floor of the House as is required
- exceptionally - for the Chair of the Statistics Authority.)
If this option is pursued, however, we believe the focus should
be on the decision of the Secretary of State concerned, not the
merits of the candidate;
- further consideration as to which posts should
be subject to hearings, with a focus on posts which have major
elements of Parliamentary accountability. As noted above, our
impression is that the current list evolved from the various discussions
between the Committees and the Government prior to the introduction
of Hearings but was based more on pragmatism than seeking to identify
a rational basis to decide whether posts should be on the list
or not. In the box below, we consider in outline what posts might
be covered, though we do not claim this approach would necessarily
produce a better outcome.
|Possible criteria for deciding which posts should be included|
In broad terms, pre-appointment scrutiny should be applied to the most important posts - those which have considerable power. Potential characteristics which would favour inclusion might be;
Where the post-holder is expected to call Government to account - and where a Select Committee can test the candidate's independence of mind and willingness to criticise Government;
Where the post-holder (or organisation) is making decisions which have a strong ethical or moral dimension, for example making decisions based on assessments of public taste or decency. There is potential benefit in a Select Committee asking the candidate about those issues in a public forum;
Where the post is particularly high profile in terms of public interest and political debate;
Where the post holder is making decisions of particular interest to Parliament (for example the House of Lords Appointments Committee);
Where the post holder is making decisions of direct impact on third parties - whether individuals or private companies.
In contrast, posts for which recruitment is focussed on professional skills - engineering, economics or legal - and which are rather less likely to be in the public eye should be less of a priority for hearings. We also think that making decisions on whether a post should be on the list by virtue of its "technical" classification (e.g. the formal legal status of the body concerned) should generally be avoided.
6.3.5 In making these suggestions for possible
improvements to the current approach, we are conscious of one
counter-argument, namely that the greater the detailed engagement
of Committees with the process, the more Committees are potentially
compromising their traditional role of calling Government to account
"without fear or favour". As a number of those we interviewed
pointed out, Committees are primarily there to hold the Government
to account and are not engaged in the decision making process.
It is certainly arguable that the more that Committees are drawn
into joint decision making, the more that their traditional role
is compromised. 
6.3.6 Finally in this section we note that a
number of those we interviewed - committee members, candidates
and Departments - commented on whether there should be some opportunity
for Select Committees to be consulted to whether the existing
post-holder for these appointments should be re-appointed at the
end of their first term. The argument put forward for this
was that Committees were in practice better able to comment on
the performance of someone who had been in post for a number of
years than they were able to comment on someone before they took
up the post. Some Committees suggested they should be able to
conduct "pre-reappointment" hearings, while others thought
their views should be sought through the Chairman on a confidential
basis, to inform the Department's decision on whether to re-appoint
6.3.7 This might, therefore, be an additional potential
reform for the Cabinet Office and Parliament to consider. We
note, however, the argument put to us by one Committee Chair that
all appointments of this nature should essentially be "single
term" appointments of four or five years, as he considered
that would be a far better guarantee of the independence of mind
of the post holder. That approach is already the case for certain
6.4.1 A very clear option for the future would
be to reconstitute the hearings so that they took place after
the candidate was appointed but before they took up post (or
very shortly thereafter). A minority of Committee Chairs suggested
that this was, in effect, how they regarded hearings at the moment.
6.4.2 The principle attraction of such a reform
is that it would remove the concerns that the current approach
is inherently confused and contradictory. In particular that approach
would remove the inherent contradiction between the integrity
of the OCPA rules and processes and the introduction at the later
stages of the process of the "wild card" of committee
hearings. We are confident that many Departments would support
that approach as would some Committee members, who find the current
approach so frustrating and who might prefer a step back to the
status quo, if a step forward is not on offer.
6.4.3 Our concern, however, would be that such
an approach would in effect be abandoning the system of hearings
completely. We note in particular that it has always been open
to Committees to hold hearings with new appointees to significant
roles in their area of responsibility - and some indeed have done
so. But it has very much been an occasional event and the majority
of Committees have not chosen to hold such hearings. We consider
it is essentially the fact that Committees have had the power
to recommend against a candidate's appointment that has added
a degree of substance to the hearings; and believe that few Committees
would choose to hold such hearings if they had no potential influence
on the appointment itself. If Committee members feel at present
sceptical about the value of these hearings under the current
regime, we doubt they would feel more positive about hearings
with less obvious substance.
6.4.4 We also believe that something worthwhile
would be lost as a result. We continue to be struck by how candidates
- while still regarding the hearings as challenging - have welcomed
the opportunity they were given to set out their stall and to
have a dialogue with the Committee on their approach to the role
- as well as taking the Committee's views at such an early stage.
We think this would be lost if we had a system of post-appointment
hearings - as we doubt that many such hearings would be held.
6.4.5 But this nonetheless remains a clear option
for the Cabinet Office and Parliament to consider. We have shown
how much frustration the current arrangements are causing and
this is very much the "clarity" option.
6.5.1 Finally, we consider that there is an option
of a stronger role for Parliament in a smaller number of particular
appointments. These would in effect become joint appointments
between Parliament and the Government, thus removing the need
for Committee hearings.
6.5.2 The logic of this is that there is a particular
type of public appointment where the post holder is by definition
required to be critical of Government (and on some occasions Parliament
) in performing their role effectively - in effect to be on the
side of the citizen against those who hold power over them. These
are often grouped together under the broad heading of "constitutional
watchdogs" though there is no precise definition of that
term. Several of the posts already covered by the requirement
for pre-appointment hearings would fall within this category,
for example the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration.
Some of the cases where there have already been pre-appointment
hearings, for example the Information Commissioner, the Chair
of the Statistics Authority and the Chair of the House of Lords
Appointment Commission, seem to share the same characteristic
of being appointments where independence of Government is "part
of the DNA" of the role.
6.5.3 We think there is a case, therefore, for
consideration as to whether Parliament could be more directly
engaged in these appointments than is currently given through
pre-appointment hearings. One simple option, which would not undermine
the principle of Ministerial accountability for the final decision,
would be for Parliament to nominate a member of the selection
panel, possibly but not necessarily the Chair of the relevant
Departmental committee. But other approaches might be possible.
In the longer term, it might be possible for legislation to recognise
that such appointments should be formally carried out on a dual
basis. We would not overstate the case for such a reform but we
believe there would be some value in terms of public perception
if Government were less open to the criticism than, at least in
some of these cases, it is inevitably compromising the independence
of the post holder by being solely responsible for their appointment.
6.5.4 It would then be for consideration as to
the impact a more intensive engagement by Parliament in a sub-set
of appointments should have on the other appointments - and, indeed
whether there should still be a formal hearing in all cases.
The Children Commissioner's case
The essential facts of the case are as follows;
- The Secretary of State for Children, Schools
and Families wrote to the CSF 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, came to an end in February 2010.
- The Department also provided a supporting memorandum
about the recruitment process and the criteria that had been used
in assessing the candidates. The process followed standard OCPA
rules, the only unusual feature being that the short listed candidates
had had an interview with a number of children, observed by the
OCPA assessor and a member of the recruitment panel.
- The Committee held a hearing with Maggie Atkinson
on Monday 12 October 2009.
- The Committee informed the Department of its
intention to recommend against her appointment later that week,
enabling the Department to prepare its response before the report
- The Committee issued its report on 19 October.
It concluded as follows;
- While we are satisfied that Maggie Atkinson demonstrated
a high degree of professional competence, we feel unable to endorse
her appointment, as we would like to have seen more sign of determination
to assert the independence of the role, to challenge the status
quo on children's behalf, and to stretch the remit of the post,
in particular by championing children's rights.
- The Secretary of State simultaneously released
a letter to the Chairman of the Committee (dated 18 October) discussing
the issues in considerable detail and making clear that he intended
to proceed with the appointment.
- The appointment was formally announced on 21
Parliamentary and press coverage
- Following the Committee's report and the Secretary
of State's announcement that he was proceeding with the appointment,
the Speaker granted an Urgent Question from the Conservative Front
bench on the afternoon of 19 October which was answered by the
Secretary of State. The Chairman of the CSF Committee took part
in these exchanges.
- There was considerable coverage in the press
the next day, with some commentators arguing that the new system
of hearings had failed in that the government had rejected the
first recommendation not to appoint from a Committee; or that
this was part of a wider political conflict between the Committee
and the Secretary of State; or that Maggie Atkinson would indeed
be strongly independent in the way she performed the role and
the Committee had been mistaken.
- A further short discussion was held between
the Committee and the Secretary of State at a Committee hearing
on 21 October. Part of those exchanges focussed on the Cabinet
Office guidance for pre-appointment hearings and in particular
the fact that those guidelines - which the Committee had apparently
not seen - suggested that recommendations not to appoint by Committees
based on the candidate's performance at the Committee would be
- This case was the first and so far only example
of a recommendation not to appoint by a Committee. It demonstrates
that the new approach of Committee hearings has substance and
are not just rubber stamping exercises.
- The Committee's advice was in this case rejected.
But it does not follow - as has been asserted by some - that it
"proves the hearings are a sham". Because the system
is based on not on a principle of veto but on Committees offering
advice to the Secretary of State, it would be reasonable to expect
that their advice would be followed in some cases but not in all
of them. It is not sensible to make overall judgements on a single
- It has also been argued that the speed of the
Government's response to the Committee meant that their report
has been casually dismissed. We disagree with this. The Department
responded quickly because it wished to avoid leaving the candidate
in limbo, as would have been the case had there been a delay before
the response. But the Secretary of State's response was detailed,
indeed almost forensic in its analysis. We are satisfied that
the Department took the Committee's report seriously.
- A clear factor in this case was that the Committee
had reservations about the nature of the role of Children's Commissioner
(a role which is set out in statute); and that, it was this, rather
more than the competence of the candidate which dictated their
conclusion. As noted above, the Committee had expressed the view
that they did not think the candidate would "stretch the
remit of the post". Indeed, the Chair of the Committee spoke
as follows in the debate on 21 October;
"Can I just put it on record that there has
been some discussion that this Committee, and the Chairman in
particular, have undermined the reputation of the person who was
put forward? Can I say that in all the deliberations, in all the
interviews I have done, I have tried to go out of my way to say
that this woman is highly qualified, highly competent, and, for
many jobs, if I had been sitting on the panel, I would have hired
her on the spot?
But this Committee did have reservations about
her rightness for this particular role. We at no time tried to
undermine this woman's reputation. Can I put that on the record
today? That is not our intention and never was our intention.
For us, we had reservations about this particular role, and that
came out of the questioning".
Clearly the Committee were entitled to their view
on what the nature of the post should be. But the Secretary of
State was, in our view, equally entitled to take the line that
the candidate had been recruited against a particular specification
for the role - and that the Committee had in effect endorsed the
candidate against that specification. He was certainly not obliged
to endorse the Committee's different view of the right emphasis
for the role.
The case does, however, make clear that there is
still a lack of a common understanding between the Government
and the Select Committees on the scope of the hearings. This is
not a criticism - that understanding was always more likely to
be tested through specific cases than through hypothetical discussions.
List of Appointments Subject to Pre-Appointment
|Title of Post
|HM Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service
|Chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments
|Chair of the Charity Commission||PASC
|Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life
|Chair of the House of Lords Appointments Commission
|Chair of the Statistics Authority
|Treasury, now PASC|
|Commissioner for Public Appointments||PASC
|First Civil Service Commissioner||PASC
|Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration
|Chair of the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority (GEMA)
|Chair of OFCOM||BIS/CMS
|Chair of the Competition Commission||BIS
|Chair of the Office of Fair Trading||BIS
|Chair of the Postal Services Commission
|Chair of the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency
|Chair of Ofqual||CSF|
|Children's Commissioner for England||CSF
|HM Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills
|Chair of Tenant Services Authority||CLG
|Chair of the Audit Commission||CLG
|Chair of the Infrastructure Planning Commission
|Chair of Standards for England||CLG
|Chief Fire and Rescue Officer||CLG
|Local Commissioners for Administration in England
|Chair of the Agricultural Wages Board||EFRA
|Chair of the Committee on Climate Change
|Chair of the Environment Agency||EFRA
|Chair of the Gangmaster Licensing Authority
|Chair of Natural England||EFRA
|Chair of the Water Services Regulatory Authority (OFWAT)
|Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council
|Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council
|Chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
|Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
|Chair of the Medical Research Council||S&T
|Chair of the Natural Environment Research Council
|Chair of the Science and Technology Facilities Council
|Chair of the Higher Education Funding Council for England
|Director of the Office for Fair Access
|Chair of the Office of Rail Regulation
|Chair of the Social Security Advisory Committee
|Pensions Protection Fund Ombudsman||W&P
|Chair of the Appointments Commission||Health
|Chair of the Care Quality Commission||Health
|Chair of the Food Standards Agency||Health
|Health Service Commissioner for England
|Chair of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights
|Comptroller and Auditor General||PAC
|HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary||Home Affairs
|Service Complaints Commissioner||Defence
|Chair of the Judicial Appointments Commission
|Chair of the Office for Legal Complaints
|HM Chief Inspector of Prisons||Justice
|HM Chief Inspector of Probation||Justice
|Prison and Probation Ombudsman||Justice
|Deputy Chairs of the Infrastructure Planning Commission
Other appointment hearings held by select committees not included in the Government's list of positions subject to pre-appointment scrutiny (see paras. 1.2.2 - 1.2.4)
|Member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee
|Member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee
|Member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee
|Member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee
|Deputy Governor of Bank of England||Treasury
|Deputy Governor of Bank of England||Treasury
|Chairman of Financial Services Authority
|British High Commissioner to Malawi||Foreign Affairs
|British High Commissioner to Australia
List of Pre-Appointment Hearings
(As of 1 February 2010)
18 July 2007 (date of hearing)
Chair of the Statistics Board
8 May 2008
Chair of the Care Quality Commission
22 July 2008
Chair of the House of Lords Appointments Commission
21 October 2008
Chair of the Office for Legal Complaints
13 January 2009
Chair of OFCOM
Joint Business and Enterprise and Culture, Media and Sport Committees
27 January 2009
16 March 2009
Chair of the Infrastructure Planning Commission
Communities and Local Government Committee
21 April 2009
HM Inspector of Constabulary
Home Affairs Committee
29 April 2009
Chair of the Office of Rail Regulation
5 May 2009
Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council
Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee
13 May 2009
Chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research
Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee
6 July 2009
Chair of the Food Standards Agency
13 July 2009
Chair of the Science and Technology Facilities Council
Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee
20 July 2009
Deputy Chairs of the Infrastructure Planning Commission
Communities and Local Government Committee
12 October 2009
Children, Schools and Families
12 October 2009
Local Government Ombudsman
Communities and Local Government
25 November 2009
Chair of Natural England
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
26 November 2009
Chair of ACoBA
12 January 2009
HM Chief Inspector Crown Prosecution Service
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Dr Colette Bowe. First Joint Report of Session 2008-09, HC
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Children, Schools and Families Committee (2009). Appointment
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Communities and Local Government Committee (2009a). Appointment
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Communities and Local Government Committee (2009b). Appointment
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Communities and Local Government Committee (2009c). Appointment
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for Local Administration in England. Twelfth Report of Session
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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (2009). Appointment
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Foreign Affairs Committee (2008). Proposed appointment of Rt Hon
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Foreign Affairs Committee (2009). Pre-Appointment Hearing:
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Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee (2009b).
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Sixth Report of Session 2008-09, HC 506. London: House of Commons.
Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee (2009c).
Pre-appointment hearing with the Chair-elect of the Science
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FREng. Ninth Report of Session 2008-09. London: House of Commons.
Justice Committee (2008). Appointment of the Chair of the Office
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Justice Committee (2009). The work of the Information Commissioner:
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Public Accounts Committee (2009). Selection of the new Comptroller
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Public Administration Select Committee (2003). Government by
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Public Administration Select Committee (2008c). Selection of
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Thirteenth Report of Session 2007-08, HC 985. London: House of
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170 Ministry of Justice, The Governance of Britain,
July 2007, Cm 7170. Back
Public Administration Select Committee, Parliament and Public
Appointments: Pre-appointment hearings by select committees, 16
January 2008, HC 152. Back
Ibid., para 13. Back
Ibid., para 19. Back
Letter dated 23 January 2008 from Ed Miliband MP to Alan Williams
MP, Chair of the Liaison Committee, re pre-appointment hearings
by select committees. Printed as Annex A to the Liaison Committee,
Pre-appointment hearings by select committees, 5 March 2008, HC
384 2007-08. Back
Liaison Committee, Pre-appointment hearings by select committees,
5 March 2008, HC 384 2007-08. Back
Ibid., pp 7-8. Back
Ibid., p 9. Back
Ministry of Justice, The Governance of Britain - Constitutional
Renewal, March 2008, Cm 7342. Back
Ibid., para 252. Back
Liaison Committee, Pre-appointment hearings by select committees:
Government Response to the Committee's First Report of Session
2007-08, 22 May 2008, HC 594 2007-08. Back
Ibid., p 1. Back
Ibid., pp 5-8. Back
Ministry of Justice, The Governance of Britain, July 2007, Cm
7170, para 80. Back
Lucinda Maer, Parliamentary Involvement in Public Appointments,
House of Commons Library, Research Paper 08/39, 23 April 2008,
p 19. Back
Ibid., pp 30-31. Back
See Treasury Select Committee, Confirmation Hearings, 25 February
1998, HC 571, para 6, and Treasury Select Committee, The Monetary
Policy Committee of the Bank of England: Confirmation Hearings,
24 May 2000, HC 520. Back
Ministry of Justice, The Governance of Britain, July 2007, Cm
7170, para 79. Back
Lucinda Maer, ibid., p 34. Back
Public Administration Select Committee, Parliament and public
appointments: Pre-appointment hearings by select committees, 16
January 2008, HC 152, pp Ev15 - Ev20. Back
House of Commons Canada, Compendium of Procedure, Committees
Order-in-Council Appointments, March 2006, http://www.parl.gc.ca/compendium/web-content/pdf-e/committees-e/c_d_ordercouncilappointments-e.pdf Back
The Constitution of the United States, Article II, Section 2. Back
Lucinda Maer, ibid., p 48. Back
Lauren Cohen Bell, "Senatorial Discourtesy: The Senate's
Use of Delay to Shape the Federal Judiciary," (September
2002) Political Research Quarterly 590. See also Lorraine
Tong, "Senate Confirmation Process: An Overview," Congressional
Research Service, 4 April 2003. Back
Ibid., 49. Back
Cabinet Office, Pre-Appointment Hearings by Select Committees:
Guidance for Departments, August 2009, para 2.3. As of January
2010 there have been five reappointments: Dame Suzi Leather as
Chair of the Charity Commission; Michael O'Higgins as Chair of
the Audit Commission; Mr. D. Evans as Chair of the Agricultural
Wages Board; Trevor Phillips as Chair of the Equality and Human
Rights Commission; and Kathleen Tattersall as Chair of Ofqual.
Ben Farrugia, "Equality, Charity and the Red Ermine,"
The TaxPayers' Alliance, 21 July 2009, available at: http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/bettergovernment/2009/07/equality-charity-and-the-red-ermine.html Back
Transport Committee, Appointment of the Chair of the Office of
Rail Regulation, 29 April 2009, HC 433, Ev1 Q6. Back
Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee, Pre-Appointment
Hearing with the Chair-elect of the Biotechnology and Biological
Sciences Research Council, Professor Sir Tom Blundell, 13 May
2009, HC 506, Ev1 Q2. Back
Treasury Committee, The appointment of the Chair of the Statistics
Board, 18 July 2007, HC 934-I, Ev2 Q11. Back
Health Committee, The Appointment of the Chair of the Food Standards
Agency, 6 July 2009, HC 856-I, Ev9 Q43. Back
Treasury Committee, The appointment of the Chair of the Statistics
Board, 18 July 2007, HC 934-I, Ev7 Q59. In the Report, Selection
of a new Chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments,
26 November 2009, HC 42-I, PASC noted at para 13 that there were
"advantages" associated with the fact that the appointee
had been in post on an interim basis prior to the pre-appointment
hearing, "in that we could question him on the work that
he already begun to carry out." Back
Business and Enterprise and Culture, Media and Sport Committee,
Pre-appointment hearing with the Chairman-elect of Ofcom,
Dr Colette Bowe, 13 January 2008, HC 119, para 11. Back
Ibid., Ev2 Q10. Back
Justice Committee, Appointment for the Chair of the Office
for Legal Complaints, 28 October 2008, HC 1122, Ev4 Q19. Back
Health Committee, Appointment of the Chair of the Care Quality
Commission, 8 May 2008, HC 545-I, Ev4 Q10. Back
Justice Committee, The work of the Information Commissioner: appointment
of a new Commissioner, 3 February 2009, HC 146, para 36. Back
Children, Schools and Families Committee, Appointment of the Children's
Commissioner for England, 14 October 2009, HC 998-I, para 6. Back
Liaison Committee, Shifting the Balance: Select Committees and
the Executive, 2 March 2000, Session 1999-2000, para 27. Back
Children, Schools and Families Committee, Appointment of the Children's
Commissioner for England, 14 October 2009, HC 998-I, para 18. Back
Health Committee, The Appointment of the Chair of the Food Standards
Agency, 6 July 2009, HC 856-I, p 14. Back
Communities and Local Government Committee, Appointment of the
Local Government Ombudsman and Vice-Chair of the Commission for
Local Administration in England, 12 October 2009, HC 1012, p 11. Back
Ephraim Hardcastle, 'Quango Queen Colette,' Daily Mail,
4 December 2008, p 17. Back
Ephraim Hardcastle, Daily Mail, 7 October 2009. Back
Paul Flynn, 'Lang the problem, not the answer,' Personal Blog,
27 November 2009, available at:http://paulflynnmp.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/11/index.html. Back
Douglas Carswell, 'How do we cull the quangos?' Personal Blog,
9 September 2009, available at: http://www.talkcarswell.com/show.aspx?id=974. Back
Peter Luff, 'We need fewer but more powerful select committees,'
Conservative Party Blog, 13 January 2009, available at: http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2009/01/peter-luff-mp-w.html.
We cannot resist including a quote from John Stuart Mill in his
19th century book Representative Government p. 239:
"Instead of the function of governing, for which it is radically
unfit, the proper office of the representative assembly is to
watch and control the government: to throw the light of publicity
on its acts...." Back
Children, Schools and Families Committee, Appointment of the Children's
Commissioner for England, 14 October 2009, HC 998-I, para 6. Back
Letter dated 19 October 2009 from Ed Balls MP to Barry Sheerman
MP, Chair of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee,
re the appointment of the Children's Commissioner for England.
Available at: http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/pns/DisplayPN.cgi?pn_id=2009_0192.
HC Deb 19 October 2009 cc639-643. Back
Children, Schools and Families Committee, Oral Evidence given
by Rt Hon. Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools
and Families, and David Bell, Permanent Secretary, Department
for Children, Schools and Families, 21 October 2009, HC 174. Back