Institute welcomes Liaison Committee report on public appointments

A House of Commons Liaison Committee report has recommended a range of changes to the system for scrutinising public appointments, many of them suggested by the Institute.

In March, the Institute set out a package of 15 recommendations in the Balancing Act report. In particular, the report proposed grouping appointments into three "tiers":

  • Posts over which Parliament should control the appointment process
  • Posts where Parliament should have an "effective veto power" over around 25 top-tier public appointments
  • A number of posts where select committees could hold pre-appointment hearings if they wish.

The Institute's Director, Lord Adonis and Akash Paun, Senior Researcher, appeared before the Liaison Committee to discuss the research and recommendations in the report.

In its own report this week, the Liaison Committee referred extensively to Lord Adonis' appearance in front of them and to the Balancing Act report. They recommend that:

  • About a dozen appointments are effectively joint appointments between Parliament and the Executive, confirmed by a vote of the House of Commons and with a parliamentary lock on dismissal. These are posts where holders exercise key constitutional functions, regulate the activities of Ministers, or protect citizens from the Government
  • For another two dozen or so posts, Parliament should exercise an "effective veto" over appointments: in other words, Ministers would be required to justify any decision to reject a committee's recommendation, and in the case of disputes the decision might be taken to the floor of the House. But committees and Ministers should also be able to negotiate where committees have concerns about the preferred candidate for the job, before they make a report, and select committees should be involved right from the start in designing the jobs, with more information given to them about the recruitment process and field of candidates
  • For other posts, committees could choose whether or not they scrutinise the appointment. 

Welcoming the report, Lord Adonis said: "It's encouraging that the Liaison Committee has taken on board the recommendations set out in Balancing Act because it is crucial that, in making these key appointments, ministers are accountable to Parliament. Because transparency and openness are now the default positions for government, it is essential to their legitimacy that they expose their choice of candidates to wider scrutiny. We hope that Ministers will take these recommendations seriously and agree for Parliament to exercise an ‘effective veto' where there is a difference of opinion on an appointment".