Select Committee on Liaison First Report


SESSION 1998-99

Second Report:Sixth Report: Quangos(HC 209)

9 November 1999

Government Reply:First Special Report, Session 1999-2000, HC 78

14 March 2000


Government Response

Committee Response/Follow-up

Further Government/Other Action

We recommend that that guidance include more detailed guidelines on what sort of body it is appropriate to set up as an NDPB, and what is better in some other form (paragraph 14).




We recommend that the Government review the value and purpose of Public Bodies and the quality and presentation of information in it.

We recommend that the Government brings together information about the range of organisations carrying out its policy in a single directory (paragraphs 20 and 21)

Government accepts need to review document



We recommend that when commencing a Prior Options Review, the review team should invite responses via the department's and the body's web sites (paragraph 31).




We recommend that the Reports which result from Prior Options Reviews should normally be published, by being placed on the web site of the body concerned, or of the department (paragraph 31).

Accepted in respect of executive NPDBs



The recommendation that the Comptroller and Auditor General audits all executive NDPBs is one which the Public Accounts Committee may wish to consider and to take forward in due course; but it is one which seems to us to be a useful contribution to the aim of drawing together and simplifying the systems of accountability for public bodies as a whole (paragraph 39).



Lord Sharman is conducting a review of accountability

We recommend that it be normal practice for Ministers to circulate to Select Committees minutes of meetings they have held with NDPBs (paragraph 43).

Ministers should consider in each case whether the minutes of formal meetings which they have with NDPBs should be circulated to the relevant departmental Select Committee.



Departments should be told to inform Select Committees of the existence of a quinquennial review, and to invite Select Committees to contribute their views to the review (paragraph 44).




We urge Select Committees to take advantage of the undertaking to make as much information as possible available to Select Committees (paragraph 44).

We recommend that the Cabinet Office stimulates experiments and research in systems of consultation by NDPBs which allow for more sustained and closer contact with members of the public affected by their work than is permitted through annual or occasional open meetings or publications; and that it also collects together and evaluates such experience as has already been gathered on consultation with members of the public (paragraph 54)

Noted with pleasure; many NDPBs holding some form of open meeting or inviting the public to contribute to their thinking in other ways.

Broadly supported. The Government. The Cabinet Office is in the process of evaluating its guidance on written consultation.


New guidance was published in late 2000

We do not believe that local authorities can or should act as an effective system of accountability for NDPBs. Nevertheless, it is essential for all NDPBs which have an impact on the work of local authorities to cultivate good relationships with them, and to listen to their legitimate concerns (paragraph 55).




Much more could and should be done to ensure that local bodies conform to the spirit of the Nolan Committee's proposals, and do not limit their approach to accountability to a bare compliance with whatever requirements are placed on them by regulations or codes of practice (paragraph 60).




We recommend that the Committee on Standards in Public Life review the implementation of the recommendations of its Second Report, on local public spending bodies (paragraph 60).



Lord Neill replied on 21 January 2000 that it was too early to return to the Committee's second report

We recommend that the Cabinet Office consider ways of spreading accountability best practice throughout local quangos (perhaps by an extension of the functions of the Modernising Government Unit) (paragraph 60).

Rejected as unnecessary



We recommend that funding bodies should make it a condition of funding agreements that local bodies in receipt of funds should be willing to appear at least annually before a scrutiny committee of the appropriate local authority (if one exists) to present its Annual Report. NHS Trusts should be obliged by the Department of Health to do the same (paragraph 67).

Rejected as unnecessary



We would support any extension of the Comptroller and Auditor General's remit in auditing local public spending bodies (paragraph 69).

Rejected as creating unnecessary duplication



We believe that a regional structure of accountability would provide an ideal structure for the monitoring and oversight of many quangos which operate on a local or regional basis (paragraph 71).

To be decided when the future structure of local/regional government is established



Bodies (such as the General Medical Council) which perform functions of the importance to the public should be included in the more coherent system of accountability we recommend (paragraph 75).




We welcome Dame Rennie's open-minded approach to her new responsibilities, and expect shortly to see the results of her reflections on independent assessors, political affiliation, her remit, and more broadly on how people gain access to public appointments (paragraph 79).



Dame Rennie replied on 26 January that she had overtaken a comprehensive review into the role and effectiveness of the Independent Assessors

We recommend that individual appointments made by the Prime Minister, and other Ministers, or on their advice, should come within the remit of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (paragraph 81).




We would expect that the "map" of the Government for which we have called in this Report would include individual appointments as well as appointments to bodies, and we recommend that the Government reflect in its response to this Report on why the two are treated differently (paragraph 81).

Accepted in principle



 We recommend that the Government, and the Committee on Standards in Public Life re-examine this question of removing a large number of appointments from Ministerial control and giving them to an independent Commission(paragraph 90).



Lord Neill replied on 6 March that the issue was important but that in the absence of compelling evidence of bias in the appointments process it was not one to which his Committee should turn its immediate attention.

We recommend that, in order to permit Committees to take evidence from the person nominated by Ministers to lead an executive NDPB, departments should, as a matter of routine, inform Select Committees that the Minister is minded to appoint a certain individual to be Chairman or deputy Chairman of the NDPB, and when the proposed appointment would take effect. It would be understood that the Committee would have a certain period (perhaps a month) before the appointment took effect during which it could take evidence from the prospective appointees if this seemed to be appropriate and useful, and comment on the appointment if it wished to do so (paragraph 92).




As a minimum, we believe that all appointments to NDPBs should be advertised on the body's web site, or the web site of its parent department for a specified period (paragraph 97).

Accepted insofar as practicable


We would expect that Dame Rennie's review of the process of making public appointments will show up clearly the barriers to bringing in people from less traditional backgrounds to compete for appointments to public bodies, and will act as a spur to further discussion of those barriers (paragraph 97).



Dame Rennie replied on 26 January that her guidance requires all departments to consider how best to publicise appointments taking into account the principle of proportionality. She does not require all appointments to be advertised. She recognises, however, that the web is likely to become a valuable and effective source of candidates and will consider and support any government initiatives in the area.

It is important that the system of public appointments should be kept under review to ensure that the quality and number of candidates do not decline because of over-regulation; but any attempt to relax the system before there is clear evidence of that would be premature (paragraph 101).



Dame Rennie replied on 29 January that the Committee on Standard in Public Life had also raised this issue with her and she had agreed to look at the current procedures

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