The Commissioner for Public Appointments

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2015-16 Annual Report and BBC Board Appointments (26 October 2016)

Peter Riddell, the Commissioner for Public Appointments, today published his Annual Report for 2015-16. The report details the work of his office in regulating Ministerial appointments to Boards of Public Bodies to ensure they are made on merit after a fair and open process.

Peter also today published a letter to the new Chair of the House of Commons Culture Media and Sport Committee outlining the process for regulating the appointments to the BBC Board, of which the Chair position has been advertised today.

In the foreword to his Annual Report, Peter said:

“This year has been a period of change, controversy and uncertainty in public appointments. The government appointed review of public appointments, led by Sir Gerry Grimstone, recommended increasing ministers’ roles in appointments, and making the process more transparent. My predecessor Sir David Normington raised concerns about the overall impact of the Grimstone proposals potentially weakening both the position of the Commissioner and the checks and balances on the exercise of ministerial patronage envisaged by Lord Nolan’s report in 1995.

“This controversy, reinforced by public hearings and a report by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the House of Commons (PACAC), has been the background to my first few months as Commissioner. The Government has accepted  the thrust of the Grimstone proposals, in particular that ministers, rather than the Commissioner, should issue the Governance Code and that the Public Appointments Assessors should be abolished.

“Within this context, since taking up post I have had extensive discussions with the Cabinet Office on their draft Code and also the transparency regime proposed by Sir Gerry Grimstone to allow competitions for appointments to be followed in real time. I am confident that the government will commit to consulting me on the appointment of Senior Independent Panel Members and for any exemptions to the Governance Code.

“At the time of writing, the final form of the government’s Code has not been published. Given the major changes in government in July, and, in particular, of the minister responsible for public appointments, this is hardly surprising and may have the welcome side-effect of allowing more time for preparations ahead of the introduction of the new regime.

“Meanwhile, public appointments are continuing to be made as usual with no interruption, and few problems, and regulated under the existing regime. Indeed some key national appointments such as the Chairs of the new BBC Board and of Ofsted are to be made under the existing Code.

“My main conclusion after nearly six months in office is that, as important as the wording of the government’s Code will be, what matters most will be the spirit in which it is interpreted by ministers and departments. A fair and open system will work if everyone involved wants it to work that way- and, in particular, that independent assurance is preserved that the key principles of appointment on merit are maintained. There are risks, of course, as Sir David Normington has pointed out. I am fully aware of them, and will highlight any abuses.”

Peter also called for a ‘stock take’ of the diversity of the Boards of public bodies:

“Accurate data are particularly important to me since I have a specific remit to champion greater diversity, building on the progress made under Sir David Normington. The Commissioner has few levers since Ministers ultimately decide who gets appointed. However, I can try to influence expectations and monitor how departments handle applications. I will be discussing proposals with government both to encourage more applications for appointments from under-represented groups and to reduce perceived barriers in the approach and behaviour of departments, such as the form and length of application forms and the composition of interview panels. “

Peter also published a letter to Damian Collins confirming that the appointments to the new BBC Board would be made under the existing Code of Practice and that the selection panel will be chaired by an independent Public Appointments Assessor, Sir Peter Spencer.

The Commissioner’s annual report can be downloaded from here.

Statistics in the report were published in August 2016 in the Annual Survey of Ministerial Appointments and Reappointments .

 

Notes to Editors

 

  1. Media enquiries about the work of the Commissioner for Public Appointments should go to Maggie O’Boyle on 07880 740627.
  2. Peter Riddell was appointed as Commissioner for Public Appointments on 20 April 2016.
  3. The Commissioner for Public Appointments regulates the processes by which Ministers in the UK and Welsh Governments make appointments to the boards of national and regional public bodies.
  4. For more information about the work of the Commissioner go to: http://publicappointmentscommissioner.independent.gov.uk
  5. The post of Commissioner for Public Appointments was created in 1995 following a report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by Lord Nolan.
  6. The government has announced its intention to change the way that appointments to public bodies are made and regulated by the Commissioner following a review of public appointments led by Sir Gerry Grimstone. For more information: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/better-public-appointments-review-of-the-public-appointments-process.

 

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