Headlines: February 25th, 1998

The Select Committee report on the work of the Public Appointments Commission is highly critical of past achievements and future plans. The Commissioner, Sir Len Peach, is responsible for scrutinising appointments to NHS bodies and the larger national quangos. About 5,000 people are appointed to NHS Boards and some 38,000 to the national quangos. Each year a quarter of the posts come up for renewal and this means that about 40 ministerial decisions on appointments are required each working day.The Select Committee is critical of the impact of the Code of Conduct which has been in operation for almost 2 years. There is particular concern that Board members should be more truly representative of the people they serve. In rebutting the charge that the Code is not achieving this end , Sir Len said it was a premature judgement, because his 1997/98 report will show considerable improvement.

The Commissioner’s plans for the future were described as: “unambitious and complacent.” Sir Len’s response was that any substantial change to his role must await the Government’s consultation exercise on the White Paper “Opening Up Quangos”. He also pointed out that any extension of his responsibilities and changes in procedure must be firmly based on successful experience.

The recent series of adverts for public appointments are a clear indication of change. It is understood that they have brought applications from people who would not previously have been considered for appointment to a public board. Whether this development will be reflected in the actual appointments remains to be seen.