Government Response to the Committee’s Tenth Report: Pre-Appointment Hearings: Promoting Best Practice, and to the Committee’s Twelfth Report: Appointment of Lord Evans of Weardale as Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life

Tenth Special Report

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee published its Tenth Report of Session 2017–19, Pre-Appointment Hearings: Promoting Best Practice, as HC 909 on 17 September 2018, and its Twelfth Report of Session 2017–19, Appointment of Lord Evans of Weardale as Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, as HC 930 on 11 October 2018. The Government’s combined response to both reports was received on 19 November 2018 and is appended to this report.

Appendix: Government Response to ‘Pre Appointment Hearings: Promoting Best Practice’

Government’s Response to PACAC report of their inquiry into “Pre-Appointment Hearings: Promoting Best Practice”, incorporating response to recommendations from Lord Evans of Weardale pre-appointment report

The Government is grateful to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) for its Tenth Report of Session 2017–19 on “Pre-Appointment Hearings: Promoting Best Practice.” The Committee draws a number of conclusions and makes several recommendations, to which the Government responds below.

Recommendation 1

1.Where a committee has concerns about the appointment process, or the policy implications reflected by a Minister’s choice of candidate, it should take evidence from the relevant Minister or officials. It may wish to do this prior to issuing a report on the pre-appointment hearing. We recommend the Liaison Committee guidance is amended to reflect this. (Paragraph 34)

1.1The Government is committed to ensuring that the public appointment process is fair, open and robust, to maintain public confidence and to attract the best candidates.

1.2The Governance Code for Public Appointments (“the Code”) sets clear principles for public appointments, including how departments should conduct the appointments process. Paragraph 7.3 of the Code requires that, at the conclusion of every public appointment, the relevant accounting officer or a senior representative certifies that the appointment has been made in accordance with the Code. The Commissioner for Public Appointments provides independent assurance that public appointments are made in accordance with these principles. The Commissioner has powers to investigate complaints, launch investigations, and audit procedures and practices.

1.3In his evidence to the Committee, the Commissioner gave examples of where he had ensured that Ministers acted in accordance with the Code. He also noted that he has the ability to make public where he has concerns that an appointment is being made contrary to the Code without good reason. This could include giving evidence to a select committee. The Commissioner has, on several occasions, conducted further investigation into appointments where there has been public concern over the process.

1.4Pre-appointment scrutiny by select committees has been a part of the public appointments process since 2008. It has applied to specified appointments, selected against criteria. For these posts, this added level scrutiny of the overall process provides an additional safeguard to verify that the recruitment meets the principles set out in the Governance Code. This is appropriate for appointments where demonstrable independence from government is required and the Government also agrees with the Committee that “Committees should not seek to substitute their judgement on an appointment for the Minister’s, especially on matters of policy”.

1.5Select committees, rightly, have the ability to call Ministers to give evidence in respect to their decisions. Government accepts that, as part of the pre-appointment hearing, this could be to answer questions about the conduct of the process, for which Ministers are accountable. As with other matters, guidance to civil servants on giving evidence to select committees will apply. We agree that it would be helpful for the Liaison Committee’s guidance on pre-appointment scrutiny by House of Commons select committees to reflect this explicitly and will work with the Liaison Committee to align their guidance with ours.

1.6In addition, the Government considers that it should ensure that relevant information about the recruitment process (including appropriately anonymised data) is shared in a standard format with the relevant select committee in advance of the hearing. We will revise our Guidance on pre-appointment scrutiny to reflect this and, in doing so, will consider how to ensure sufficient information about the recruitment process is made available to select committees in written format, in order to provide them with greater assurance on the process as part of their scrutiny.

1.7The current process also enables the relevant select committee to share any concerns over the suitability of a candidate following a pre-appointment hearing, either privately with the relevant Minister, or through its recommendations. This provides an opportunity for the Minister to further consider the appointment and to provide additional information to the relevant Committee where appropriate.

Recommendation 2

2.Committees should be given the right to choose to have a debate on a substantive motion if a Minister ignores a recommendation and where they consider that it merits the attention of the whole House. Committees will be aware that in any debate the strength of their arguments for opposing a candidate, and their fair handling of the pre-appointment hearing process, is likely to be as closely scrutinised as the Minister’s response to them. We recommend that the Procedure Committee should examine how such a process could be written into Standing Orders. (Paragraph 55)

2.1This is a matter of parliamentary procedure, which – as the Committee states in its recommendation – would require a change to the Standing Orders of the House.

2.2There are a number of mechanisms already in place by which Ministers are held to account by Parliament for their actions. These processes allow for the Minister to explain the ecision taken to Parliament and for questions to be fully addressed. The Government therefore does not agree with the recommendation to provide for a new mechanism for instigating debate.

2.3Public discussions about proposed candidates need to be undertaken in a sensitive manner and based on facts. Members of Parliament take very seriously their responsibilities if exercising parliamentary privilege to discuss an individual and their skills, experiences and characteristics. Nevertheless, Parliament will wish to consider very carefully the potential impact of such debates on those considering putting themselves forward for public appointments. As with select committees, we believe that the Committee’s view that “Committees should not seek to substitute their judgement on an appointment for the Minister’s, especially on matters of policy” should also be observed.

2.4Ministers are accountable to Parliament for their decisions, including decisions about the Public Appointments that they make. Ministers should consider any recommendations that select committees make very carefully and respond to those recommendations in a considered manner, explaining their decision.

2.5As part of our review of the Cabinet Office guidance on pre-appointment scrutiny by House of Commons select committees we will consider changes to ensure that there is appropriate time for Ministers to fully consider the Committee’s report before a final decision is taken.

Recommendation 3

3.We therefore recommend the revision of the Cabinet Office list to provide a guide to Departments as to which appointments they can expect to be subject to pre-appointment scrutiny by select committees. Such a list is only useful, however, if it is kept up to date. Once it is agreed that a post should be subject to a pre-appointment hearing it should added immediately. Similarly, the list should be updated to reflect restructuring of organisations, machinery of government changes, and decisions by committees as to which appointments they wish to scrutinise. (Paragraph 71)

3.1The Government recognises the importance of publishing and maintaining an accurate list of the public appointments that are subject to pre-appointment scrutiny. This will give clarity to committees and Government departments and will also ensure prospective candidates understand where pre-appointment scrutiny is part of the recruitment process.

3.2While the majority of additions to the list since it was last published have operated smoothly, we accept that the list should be republished on a regular basis with any updates. This will now take place annually, alongside the regular update to the Public Appointments Order in Council.

3.3Following the Cabinet Office’s wider review of the list against established criteria (as set out in at paragraph 5.3 below) a revised list will be published by the end of this year. In future years, updates will focus on public appointments when bodies are created, wound up, or their roles significantly changed. This should not prevent the relevant select committee and Secretary of State, with Cabinet Office agreement, from agreeing whether pre-appointment scrutiny should apply at the point when the role is created or changed. When it is agreed that a role will become subject to pre-appointment scrutiny, that agreement should be made public by the relevant department.

Recommendation 4

4.The guidance to Departments and the Liaison Committee guidance should make clear that select committees are not bound by the list. Departments should therefore share information early with committees as to forthcoming major appointments that a committee may wish to scrutinise. Committees may also find it helpful to indicate to Departments where current or recent inquiries have suggested to them that they will want to take a closer interest in particular appointments in the future. (Paragraph 72)

4.1It is open to Parliament to call whomsoever it chooses to give evidence in front of a select committee. Pre-appointment hearings work on the basis that the Government makes the name of the proposed candidate public before a final decision has been made by the Minister, thereby allowing the select committee to call the proposed candidate before it. The Government has agreed by convention that when this occurs, the Minister will wait until the committee has taken evidence and published its report. The Minister will then consider the report as part of his or her final decision.

4.2The Government believes that pre-appointment scrutiny rightly focuses on the most significant appointments that Ministers make. We are committed to ensuring transparency and clarity about those roles. As set out below, we agree with the Committee’s recommendation that we should reconfirm the criteria to be used to identify a list of these important appointments. However, the Government strongly believes that whether or not a role should be subject to pre-appointment scrutiny must depend on whether the role meets the criteria. The Government also notes the ability of select committees to call whomsoever they please to give evidence.

4.3The Government is concerned about the Committee’s recommendation for three reasons: proportionality, practicality and purpose.

4.4The criteria that the Government proposes for whether a public appointment made by a Minister should be subject to a pre-appointment hearing by a Select Committee, in effect sets the test for where this additional layer of scrutiny is appropriate. These are roles where a demonstrable level of independence from Government is required of the post holder. Were a Select Committee to be able to dis-apply the criteria and undertake pre-appointment scrutiny of any public appointment, then it could cause a disproportionate level of parliamentary involvement in posts where this may not be appropriate. The Government believes that wide-scale use of pre-appointment hearings across many public appointments could be detrimental to the quality and diversity of those applying for such roles. The criteria also allow for a common approach across select committees, rather than Public Appointments that are made by Ministers in different departments receiving different treatment.

4.5In terms of practicality, where an appointment is subject to pre-appointment scrutiny, the current guidance is clear that departments must engage committees at an early stage in order to for the committee to effectively plan a date for the eventual hearing. Were departments to have to engage with select committees about all of the circa 1,000 Public Appointments that are made every year, or even a smaller subset of those that might be considered ‘major’, it could cause an administrative burden on select committee staff and government. It could also cause delay while there is dialogue between the government and the select committee. Opening up public appointments to as wide a range of candidates as possible also requires clarity for candidates. In order to meet the principles of good governance and candidate care, whether an appointment is subject to pre-appointment scrutiny would need to be made clear before a competition opens. This is so that candidates have a clear understanding of what the recruitment will entail.

4.6In terms of purpose, we do not believe that the change is necessary in order to meet the Committee’s concerns. We recognise the need for flexibility within the system, to enable committees to exercise their right to scrutinise Ministerial decisions as the public bodies landscape changes. We believe that this can be done robustly through rigorous application of the agreed criteria when a body is created or its function changes, regular updates to the list of which roles are subject to pre-appointment scrutiny, and continued use of select committees’ existing rights to take evidence from anyone they chose – including those who have been appointed to public office.

4.7The government will update its guidance to codify the criteria for which Public Appointments are subject to pre-appointment scrutiny (discussed at paragraph 5.3 below) and how the annual refresh of the list will take place. It will also set out an accompanying process for any posts to be added or removed from the list as required when bodies are created or wound up, or responsibilities change. These amendments will be made through agreement between the relevant select committee, the appropriate Secretary of State and the Cabinet Office. We believe that this approach will provide more clarity for candidates and enable departments and committees to plan effectively for hearings.

Recommendation 5

5.The Cabinet Office List will constantly evolve. The Government should therefore agree clear and detailed principles with Parliament that can be applied consistently and transparently by Departments across all posts. These should be based on the principles proposed by the Government to the Liaison Committee in 2011. Clear principles will also help guide Departments as to which appointments that are not on the list may still be of interest to committees and therefore brought to their attention. We recommend that the Government agrees these principles with the Liaison Committee as a matter of urgency, so that they can underpin the review of the Cabinet Office list. (Paragraph 73)

5.1The Government agrees that clear criteria should be used to judge whether or not a public appointment should be subject to pre-appointment scrutiny by the relevant select committee. These criteria should be used to update the list of appointments.

5.2The Government agrees with the Committee’s suggestion of following the principles proposed in 2011. We have written to the Liaison Committee setting out our proposed criteria. We have based them on the principles outlined by Government in evidence to the Liaison Committee in 2011, and only propose making very minor updates to clarify the aspects of independence from Government that are important for these posts.

5.3The criteria proposed for pre-appointment scrutiny of Public Appointments are:

i)“posts which play a key role in regulation of actions by Government; or

ii)posts which play a key role in protecting and safeguarding the public’s rights and interests in relation to the actions and decisions of Government; or

iii)posts in organisations that have a major impact on the lives of the public where it is vital for the reputation and credibility of that organisation that the post holder acts, and is seen to act, independently of Ministers and the Government.”

5.4We believe that these will capture roles where it is important that there is additional scrutiny of the manner in which the government has run the appointment process and the suitability of the proposed candidate (beyond the methods outlined in paragraph 1.2 above).

5.5Subject to finalising the criteria, and following consultation with the Liaison Committee, we will use the criteria to inform a full refresh of the list of public appointments that are subject to pre-appointment scrutiny and publish this by the end of the year.

Recommendation 6

6.The Government’s review should either propose including those appointments suggested by committees in their evidence to this inquiry, (annex B) or set out clearly why they are not. We also support the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the draft Health Service Safety Investigation Bill, that the Chair and Chief Investigator of HSSIB be subject to pre-appointment hearings, in-line with the precedent set by our predecessor Committee. Whether the addition of responsibilities repatriated from the European Union to existing posts means they should now be subject to pre-appointment hearings needs to be considered as part of the review, as well as the status of newly created posts. (Paragraph 74)

6.1As part of the work to refresh the list set out in paragraph 5.5 above, we will consider very carefully whether to include those appointments highlighted by the Committee at Annex B of its report.

6.2The Committee recommends including the Chair and Chief Investigator of Health Service Safety Investigations Body to the list as part of this process and if not provide justification to the chair of PACAC. As the Bill has yet to be introduced and debated by Parliament, the Government believes that it may be premature to make a determination at this stage. However, the Government notes that the current scope of the roles as set out in the draft Bill would mean that it is likely that the criteria in paragraph 5.3 above will be met in respect of the Chair role.

Recommendation 7

7.The Centre for Public Appointments in the Cabinet Office must ensure that Departments are following their guidance. That guidance must be kept up to date, and accurately reflect the Liaison Committee’s guidance to committees on the procedure for pre-appointment hearings. Where necessary extra support should be provided to those Departments who have limited experience in making senior appointments. The Centre should also be engaged in a continuous review of the performance of Departments in discharging their responsibilities to the House with respect to public appointments. We expect the Government to set out in its response its action plan for achieving this. (Paragraph 75)

7.1The Cabinet Office has a very important role in setting guidance on the pre-appointment scrutiny process and ensuring that this is followed effectively. While the majority of pre-appointment hearings have been carried out effectively, we recognise that it is important that full engagement with select committees is essential. Where a department only undertakes a low number of appointments to roles which require pre-appointment scrutiny it is all the more important to ensure that the guidance is adhered to. The role of the Cabinet Office is to provide support, training and guidance to others to help improve understanding of and adherence to the guidance in all Public Appointments across Whitehall. This is an objective set out in the Public Appointments Team’s internal business plan and we will consider whether to include it as part of the Cabinet Office’s Single Departmental Plan next year.

7.2As part of our refresh of the Cabinet Office guidance for pre-appointment scrutiny by House of Commons select committees, we will update the process that is set out for departments to engage with select committees about pre-appointment scrutiny. We are discussing potential changes with the public appointment teams in departments, which has the added benefit of highlighting the guidance. We will also consider how best to ensure the refreshed guidance is followed as part of the update process.

7.3The requirement in the Code at paragraph 7.3 for the accounting officer or senior responsible official to certify that the appointment has been made in accordance with the Code, includes following the requirements for pre-appointment scrutiny where the role is on the Cabinet Office list. This is because paragraph 10.1 of the Code sets out the requirements on Ministers when a post is subject to pre-appointment scrutiny.

7.4In addition, select committees already have the ability to call to the attention of the Secretary of State any areas where, in their view, the department requires improvement in its performance in relation to the process of making Public Appointments or for undertaking pre-appointment scrutiny.

Recommendation 8

8.We recommend that all committees use written questionnaires where possible, and that this practice is reflected in both the Cabinet Office and Liaison Committee guidance, including allowing for sufficient time, at least two weeks, prior to a hearing, for a candidate to fill out and return the questionnaire, and then for the committee to analyse it. (Paragraph 76)

8.1The Government supports the recommendation that written questionnaires should be used, where possible, to ensure both candidates and select committees are well prepared for the pre-appointment scrutiny process. We have seen them used successfully by the Treasury Select Committee.

8.2The Cabinet Office has worked with the committee to trial this questionnaire in its own pre-appointment hearings recently. The experience of the Cabinet Office sponsor teams suggests that the use of a questionnaire is helpful, as it gives candidates the opportunity to set out their views and responses in a clear and considered manner in advance of the hearing. It was also helpful in setting candidates’ expectations for what the Committee was likely to focus on and enable them to be better prepared.

8.3We will explore with the Liaison Committee whether the same questionnaire could be used by all select committees and then finalise any changes to this questionnaire and set it as a template. If the Liaison Committee agrees, then in our refresh of the Cabinet Office Guidance we will require the submission of pre-appointment questionnaires to select committees at least one week in advance of the hearing. We will also consider whether to provide further guidance about how to support candidates to complete the questionnaire.

Recommendation 9

9.We therefore welcome Lord Holmes’s review, and expect the Government to update their action plan to reflect its conclusions. It is clear that some Departments need to do more to encourage people from a more diverse range of backgrounds to put themselves forward for public appointments, and the Centre for Public Appointments should consider how best practice can be shared with those Departments which make fewer appointments. Ministers should also set clear expectations about the diversity of interview panels, ensuring that they draw on a range of advice when making appointments. The Centre for Public Appointments should monitor this systematically. (Paragraph 91)

9.1As set out in the Public Appointments Diversity Action Plan the Government believes that that inclusive and diverse public boards are more effective, better able to understand their customers and stakeholders, and benefit from fresh perspectives, new ideas, vigorous challenge and broad experience.

9.2The Government has made steady progress in terms of gender, with appointments and re-appointments of women at 48% last year (up from 39% in 2013/14). However, there has not been enough progress in respect of ethnic minorities, with the figure only increasing from 7.7% to 8.4% over the same period.

9.3The Action Plan sets out our ambition for at least 50% of all public appointees to be women and 14% to be from ethnic minorities by 2022. On the current performance, further improvement is needed. The Action Plan sets out a number of steps that the Government is taking in order to help realise its ambition.

9.4One of the commitments was to commission a review of the barriers preventing disabled people taking up public appointments. In June the Minister for Implementation, Oliver Dowden CBE MP commissioned Lord Holmes of Richmond MBE to carry out this review. A call for evidence to support the review was launched in September and the review is due to report next month. The Government will consider Lord Holmes’ review carefully and any recommendations that it accepts will be incorporated into a revised Public Appointments Diversity Action Plan, along with an update on progress, as the committee suggests.

9.5The Government recognises the importance of diverse Advisory Assessment Panels is an important step towards improving the diversity of Public Appointments. We are working to ensure that the recruitment process is as simple and open as possible, in order to attract the widest and most diverse group of candidates. This includes publishing details of Advisory Assessment Panels as part of campaigns. The Cabinet Office scrutinises proposed Advisory Assessment Panels and encourages diversity of experience as well as protected characteristics, such as mixed gender. Under the Governance Code on Public Appointments, it is for Ministers to agree the composition of Advisory Assessment Panels and they take issues around diversity seriously.

9.6We will consider whether there is more that can be done to ensure greater diversity of Advisory Assessment Panel membership, including ensuring that their responsibilities are clear, and collecting data on panel characteristics. The Cabinet Office is trialling some changes for its own Advisory Assessment Panels, including requiring gender and BAME representation and issuing a letter of appointment to panel members, setting out their responsibilities. In light of the Cabinet Office’s experience, we will consider whether or not to require this across all Ministerial public appointments when the Diversity Action Plan is updated alongside the response to Lord Holmes’ review.

9.7More broadly, the Minister for Implementation is undertaking a programme of outreach and engagement to raise the profile of Public Appointments, including to harder to reach groups. This includes a reception at No. 10 for BAME candidates, events in the regions – with Birmingham later this month – and an ongoing programme of events in the New Year.

Recommendation 10

10.The Cabinet Office should amend its guidance to Departments to require them to provide anonymised information on the diversity of applicants and shortlisted candidates, as well as the names of the interview panel. In the interim we recommend that committees request this information from their Departments for all future appointments, and where necessary hold Ministers and Permanent Secretaries to account for delivering increased diversity of appointments made by their Departments at all levels. (Paragraph 93)

10.1We agree with the Committee on the vital importance of improving diversity data collection and monitoring across all aspects of Public Appointments. This is an ongoing effort across all Government departments and is included as a commitment in the Public Appointments Diversity Action Plan.

10.2 Collection and analysis of diversity data is an important tool in helping Ministers monitor the diversity of their appointments and holding them to account. Data should also be published regularly so that the Government can be held to account on its progress. There is also a requirement in the Governance Code for Ministers to be made aware of the diversity of the current board and candidates during the decision making process.

10.3 The Commissioner for Public Appointments has an important role to monitor diversity across all new appointments and reappointments made by Departments in his annual report. This provides a complete picture of how each department is performing on increasing diversity and Ministers are rightly accountable for this progress. His latest report was published last month and showed improvements in gender, but not in appointments to those from BAME backgrounds (as set out at paragraph 9.2 above).

10.4 Select committees are provided with detailed information about the appointment process, including the proposed job description and person specification, details of the competition prior to the campaign launching. Committees are also provided with the number of applicants, the numbers shortlisted and interviewed, and the CV and any declaration of interests of the preferred candidate. In practice some departments have already shared information on the diversity of the field in a campaign. However, doing so for every stage of the competition, especially the interview stage, needs to be considered in light of data protection law and the potential implications of small numbers of candidates or declarations which may make candidates identifiable.

10.5 As part of our refresh of the Cabinet Office Guidance, we will consider if departments can appropriately and legally share anonymised diversity data on applicants and shortlists with Select Committees more routinely as part of this process, within the constraints of data protection law.

10.6 The Government notes that select committees can and do raise questions of overall progress on diversity of appointments as part of their hearings on departmental annual reports, which should include public appointments data.

Recommendation 11

11.Parliament’s duty to hold the Government and Ministers to account requires committee scrutiny of preferred candidates to be robust and searching. This is central to building public confidence in appointees. Sometimes this will be uncomfortable for candidates, and Ministers need to ensure that applicants understand this from the start of the recruitment process and are properly prepared and supported. Committee staff should also work actively alongside departmental officials to ensure that candidates are prepared properly for the nature of the hearing, including making any reasonable adjustments that are necessary to reflect a candidates specific needs. (Paragraph 95)

11.1 The Government agrees with the Committee about the importance of ensuring that candidates are properly prepared for and understand the requirements of a pre-appointment scrutiny hearing. This is an important part of ensuring that such a hearing is a positive element of the appointment process and that candidates which Ministers propose are able to give the best account of themselves.

11.2 We note, and support, the Committee’s comments on the responsibilities of Ministers, Departments, Chairs, Members and Committees staff in ensuring candidates understand the process from the start, are properly prepared and supported prior to the hearing and treated with courtesy and moderation during the hearing. We will work with the Liaison Committee to ensure that the support that the Government provides to candidates fits with the approach that select committees take in engaging with candidates, including their approach to reasonable adjustments. We will consider if any changes to the Cabinet Office Guidance are required to effect this.

11.3 Where a role is subject to pre-appointment scrutiny, the current Guidance sets a clear requirement for all publicity material to include a notice to candidates. As part of our refresh of the Guidance to departments we will explore how to strengthen the Guidance on ways in which departments can support candidates in preparing for a Committee hearing, including making any Parliamentary requirements clearer at the start of the process.

Appendix: Government Response to ‘Appointment of Lord Evans of Weardale as Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life’

1.Such failings reduce the opportunity for the Committee to carry out its scrutiny of these important public appointments. This is unacceptable and raises wider concerns about the Cabinet Office’s competence in carrying out routine administrative business. We expect the Cabinet Office to provide us with an action plan as to how it intends to prevent these systematic failures from continuing. In the future, the Committee may invite the responsible senior officials to explain in person why further administrative failings have occurred.

1.1The Minister for Implementation, Oliver Dowden CBE MP, wrote to the Chair of the Committee, Sir Bernard Jenkin MP, on 20 August setting out steps that the Public Appointments Team in the Cabinet Office was taking to improve the Cabinet Office’s own approach to appointments.

1.2In light of the committee’s concerns, the Cabinet Office has carried out further work to learn lessons from the previous Public Appointments. Our assessment is that shortcomings have generally been procedural in nature, but that in each case a fair and open competition has been successfully held. Nonetheless, the Cabinet Office sets the standard for public appointments and holds Departments to account against these standards. It is therefore paramount that we are seen as the ‘gold-standard’ in how we oversee and manage our own Public Appointments.

1.3Therefore, the Cabinet Office has created an Arms-Length Body Support Team to co-ordinate and support all of Cabinet Office’s public appointments to its’ organisations. This will report to the Chief Operating Officer of the Cabinet Office, who will take responsibility for the Cabinet Office’s own appointments, including diversity.

1.4The team will have the following responsibilities:

1.5A key part of the team’s work will be to ensure that any future public appointments for Cabinet Office bodies are undertaken to the required standards. The team will ensure the following are in place:

1.6Interim members of the team are in place and we will shortly launch a recruitment exercise to fill the roles on a permanent basis. The team will work closely with existing teams that sponsor the respective ALBs and those teams will continue to provide the policy input, including to Public Appointments processes. The team will begin its work in relation to a number of forthcoming Public Appointments, including to the House of Lords Appointment Commission, the UK Statistics Authority and Boundary Commission England.

2.Although we support Lord Evans as a qualified candidate for the role, we are concerned that he will be the seventh consecutive man appointed as permanent chair of the CSPL since its creation. We also note that all three preferred candidates we have seen in pre-appointment hearings in the past month have been white males, as have all the Cabinet Office’s preferred candidates seen by this Committee since the 2015 election. In our report on the appointment of the new chair of the House of Lords Appointment Commission we concluded that the diversity of senior public appointments made by Cabinet Office Ministers is an issue the Committee will keep under review. We expect Ministers to demonstrate that they are actively seeking to make appointments from the widest possible pool of candidates and increasing the diversity of the people appointed to senior public positions. In its response to this report we request an update from the Cabinet Office on the steps it is taking to achieve this, and its progress on public appointments that the Committee has not scrutinised in pre-appointment hearings.

2.1Diversity of the Cabinet Office’s own public appointments is important and Ministers in the Cabinet Office take it very seriously. The overall number of public appointments that the Cabinet Office makes annually is low (between 8 and 18 in the last three years) and declarations for protected characteristics other than gender are even lower. Therefore work is needed to ensure attention is paid to increasing declaration rates and placing great emphasis on the need to encourage a diverse field for every single appointment.

2.2The Cabinet Office ALB Support Team has developed an initial action plan to improve Equality and Diversity which includes:

2.3Further improvements will be considered to improve diversity of candidates and appointments in light of any recommendations from the Lord Holmes review.

Published: 30 November 2018