Goats and Tsars: Ministerial and other appointments from outside Parliament - Public Administration Committee Contents


1. Upon becoming Prime Minister in 2007, Gordon Brown said that he would build a "government that uses all the talents" by appointing people from outside Parliament to be ministers. These ministers became known as 'goats' ('government of all the talents'). This report examines the appointment of ministers from outside Parliament. It also looks at the ad hoc appointment by government of prominent people to be its public face on a particular policy area—so-called 'tsars'.

2. We recently completed a separate inquiry into external appointments to senior posts within the Civil Service and our conclusions were published in Outsiders and Insiders: External Appointments to the Senior Civil Service.[1] This Committee and its predecessors have also undertaken extensive work on the role of special advisers within government.[2]

3. We took oral evidence from four people with extensive experience and knowledge of central government: Rt Hon Sir John Major, Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997, Lord Turnbull, Cabinet Secretary from 2002 to 2005, Jonathan Powell, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007, and Professor Anthony King, of the University of Essex. We also took evidence from three people who had been brought into the House of Lords to take up ministerial posts: Rt Hon Lord Adonis, Secretary of State for Transport, Admiral Lord West of Spithead, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, and Professor Lord Darzi of Denham, former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Health. We also received written evidence on the recruitment of government 'tsars'. We would like to thank all those who gave evidence and the House of Commons Department of Information Services, in particular the House of Commons Library's Parliament and Constitution Centre, for their assistance.

4. During our evidence, several of our witnesses raised concerns about the increasing number of holders of ministerial and quasi-ministerial posts. These issues have been raised with us during other inquiries and we intend to address them in a short report soon.

1   Public Administration Select Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2009-10, Outsiders and insiders: Outside Appointments to the Senior Civil Service, HC 241 Back

2   For example: Public Administration Select Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2000-01, Special Advisers: Boon or Bane?, HC 293; First Report of Session 2003-04, A Draft Civil Service Bill: Completing the Reform, HC 128-I; Tenth Report of Session 2007-08, Constitutional Renewal: Draft Bill and White Paper, HC 499 Back

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