House of Commons Library

Pre-appointment hearings

Published Wednesday, December 20, 2017

This Commons Library briefing paper outlines the role that select committees play in assessing the suitability of the Government’s favoured candidates for a number of public appointments.  It sets out the guidance for their operation before summarising key hearings of interest, where a committee has raised doubts about the suitability of a candidate.  It also includes information about the introduction of the present system of pre-appointment hearings and highlights research about their effectiveness.

Jump to full report >>

Since June 2008 House of Commons select committees have routinely held pre-appointment hearings for a number of public appointments. The current system of pre-appointment hearings was introduced in 2008 as part of the Government of Britain reforms led by the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

Pre-appointment hearings to date

There were a total of 96 pre-appointment hearings between July 2007 and December 2017. 

Of these, there were five occasions where a committee made a negative assessment of the Government’s preferred candidate.  For three of these, the appointment went ahead in any case (the Children’s Commissioner, the Director of the Office for Fair Access and HM Chief Inspector, Office for Standards in Education).  In one case, the appointment did not go ahead (Her Majesty’s Inspector of Probation). In another, the candidate withdrew from the appointment process after a negative report was issued by the select committee (Chair of Monitor).

There have also been situations where committees have had an impact on an appointment without producing a negative assessment of a candidate.

Calls for changes to the process

There have been some calls for changes to the pre-appointment hearings process, including suggestions that there should be greater parliamentary involvement in a small number of appointments.

Background information

For background information, international comparisons and a detailed discussion of the issues raised by the introduction of pre-appointment hearings, see Library Research Paper 08/39 Parliamentary Involvement in Public Appointments

Commons Briefing papers SN04387

Author: Lucinda Maer

Topics: Central government, House of Commons, Non-departmental public bodies, Parliament, Public administration

Share this page

Stay up to date

  • Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to Email alerts Commons Briefing papers

House of Commons Library

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.