House of Commons Library

The Commissioner for Public Appointments

Published Thursday, November 30, 2017

This Commons Library Briefing Paper sets out the role and remit of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. It summarises the changes made to the public appointments system since the 2016 review conducted by Gerry Grimstone. 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 Governance Code on Public Appointments and the Principles of Public Appointments published by the Cabinet Office.  The Commissioner can investigate complaints about appointments processes within his remit. 

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. 

“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 proposed new appointments principles and processes which emphasised the importance of ministerial responsibility.  The Government responded favourably to the findings.  However, the outgoing Commissioner was highly critical about the cumulative effect of Grimstone’s proposals and the Committee on Standards in Public Life also raised concerns. The Government consulted with the newly appointed Commissioner as the Governance Code was being drafted, taking on board some of his suggestions.


The Rt Hon Peter Riddell CBE is the fifth Commissioner and has held the post since March 2016.  Prior to appointment of Peter Riddell, Sir David Normington had held the posts of both Commissioner for Public Appointments and Civil Service Commissioner since 2010.  


Commons Briefing papers SN03368

Authors: Lucinda Maer; Georgina Ryan-White

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

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