House of Commons Library

The Commissioner for Public Appointments

Published Tuesday, April 26, 2016

This Commons Library Briefing Paper sets out the role and remit of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. It summarises the findings of the recent Grimstone Review of the public appointments system and initial responses to its recommendations. It also briefly sets out information about the establishment and development of the role.

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Role of the Commissioner

The Commissioner for Public Appointments regulates appointments made by ministers to senior positions in public bodies.

Those who make public appointments subject to regulation by the Commissioner are required to follow the Code of Practice on Public Appointments. 

The Commissioner can investigate complaints about appointments processes within his remit.  Independent Public Appointments Assessors provide independent scrutiny during the appointments process.

“Better public appointments”: the 2016 Grimstone Review

On 23 March 2015 the Government announced a review of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. The Review, which was published in March 2016, was carried out by Sir Gerry Grimstone. 

The Review included new appointments principles and processes which emphasised the importance of ministerial responsibility. 

The Government responded favourably to the findings.   However, the outgoing Commissioner has been highly critical of the report and the Committee on Standards in Public Life has also raised concerns. 

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee has taken evidence on the Grimstone Report and the implications of its recommendations for the public appointments process.

 

Post-holders

In March 2016 the Government announced that its preferred candidate for the post of Commissioner for Public Appointments was Rt Hon Peter Riddell, the then Director of the Institute for Government.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee held a preliminary pre-appointment hearing with Peter Riddell on 21 March 2016 with a second hearing on 12 April.  The Committee endorsed his appointment but stated that "the endorsement was not unqualified".

The Committee also recommended that in future the appointment of the Commissioner should be subject to a resolution of both Houses of Parliament.

Establishment and development of the role

The Commissioner and the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments were both established in 1995, on the recommendation of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

There has been a continuing debate about the appropriate role of ministers in the public appointments process. 

Commons Briefing papers SN03368

Author: Lucinda Maer

Topics: Central government, Non-departmental public bodies, Public administration

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