Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence



  1.  In January 1999 the Government published a White Paper, Modernising Parliament: Reforming the House of Lords. This proposed:

    —  the creation of Royal Commission to examine and make recommendations about the future composition of the House of Lords, and

    —  as part of the interim arrangements for a transitional House the establishment of an independent non-statutory House of Lords Appointments Commission.

  2.  The Appointments Commission[12] was set up in May 2000 as an advisory non-departmental public body, with the following remit:

    —  to recommend to Her Majesty non-political persons for cross-bench life peerages, a role previously undertaken by the Prime Minister; and

    —  to vet the suitability of all nominations to life peerages, until then the function of the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee.


  3.  In assessing nominations the Commission was asked to take account of:

    —  the merits of the individual and her or his capacity to make an independent contribution which will enhance and sustain the effectiveness of the House within the constitutional framework; and

    —  the impact of an individual's nomination on the composition and balance of the House as a whole, in relation to the range of expertise, experience and outlook and the spread of gender, age, ethnic background and geographical representation.

  4.  The Commission was further asked:

    —  to publicise the general qualities being sought and the information required to support a nomination;

    —  to actively invite the public and suitable organisations to submit names; and

    —  to establish processes for attracting and assessing potential nominees which were open, transparent and reflect best practice.

  5.  In September 2000, the Commission launched its search for nominees. The Commission:

    —  set out its processes and the selection criteria against which nominees would be assessed in an information pack and on its website;

    —  invited members of the public to nominate themselves;

    —  briefed the national and regional media, wrote to some 10,000 organisations and organised four seminars, in Belfast, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Manchester; and

    —  set a closing date of 17 November for the first round of nominations.

  6.  The selection criteria, which were drawn directly from the Commission's remit, are:

    —  a record of significant achievement within the nominee's chosen way of life that demonstrates a range of experience, skills and competencies;

    —  an ability to make an effective and significant contribution to the work of the House;

    —  the time available to make an effective contribution within the procedures and working practices of the House;

    —  some understanding of the constitutional framework, including the place of the House of Lords;

    —  outstanding personal qualities, in particular integrity and independence;

    —  a strong and personal commitment to the highest standards of public life; and

    —  independence of any political party.

  7.  By 17 November the Commission had received 3,166 nominations, by post, fax or the Internet. Between November and March these were subject to a rigorous six-stage sifting process.[13] In response to an invitation from the Prime Minister— who has reserved to himself the timing of any announcement and the number of peers to be appointed— the Commission announced its first list of 15 nominees on 26 April.

  8.  The Commission's recommendations, which were made on merit, include:

    —  a wide range of experience and expertise (eg a world authority on palliative care, an expert on youth and social exclusion, a top British businessman, a former Trustee of Oxfam, an eminent member of the Chinese community, two prominent scientists and a leading educationalist); and

    —  four women, four individuals from an ethnic minority background and four individuals working outside London and the South East, in Scotland, Wales, Liverpool and Yorkshire.


  9.  The Commission was asked to vet nominations to life peerages, including political nominations, for suitability. This would include a scrutiny of any political donations (as had been endorsed by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in its report on the funding of political parties).

  10.  The Commission interpreted its role, as had the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee, to vet nominations for peerages for propriety. While it was clearly the task of the Commission to take a view of the suitability of nominees for the cross-benches, it decided that such a role would be inappropriate in relation to those nominees put forward by the political parties to represent them in the House. In line with convention, the Commission's remit does not extend to those individuals who are appointed to the House of Lords to take on ministerial responsibility.

  11.  Since the Commission was established in May 2000 it has considered two groups of people in carrying out its vetting role:

    —  the individuals it recommended for appointment as non party political independent peers; and

    —  other nominees for appointment to the House of Lords, the great majority of them being working peers.


  12.  The Commission has fulfilled the remit given to it by Government, and in doing so has devised an open, transparent and meritocratic appointments system. In a recent PQ the Prime Minister endorsed the approach taken by the Appointments Commission (attached at Annex A). He also confirmed that the Commission would continue its role pending the establishment of a statutory Commission.

  13.  In continuing its role, the Commission will:

    —  welcome nominations at any time so as to be ready to make recommendations when the Prime Minister requests them. This means that the Commission is unlikely to run again a major recruitment exercise - as it did for the first round of nominations - with a fixed closing date and the expectation of a large number of nominations;

    —  encourage more women, people from an ethnic minority background and those outside London and the South-East to make nominations;

    —  accept nominations of individuals by other people as well as self-nominations; and

    —  continue to run a meritocratic assessment process, using the same selection criteria as in its first round of appointments.

12   The Commission has a limited remit compared with that proposed for statutory Appointments Commission by both the Royal Commission and the Government. As well as the role given to the current Commission, a statutory Commission would be responsible for maintaining the proportion of independents at 20 per cent of the House, ensuring the balance of the political parties matched the votes cast at the previous general election and making sure the House was broadly representative of British society. Back

13   The Commission published a detailed report on its assessment process when it announced its first recommendations in April 2000. Back

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Prepared 25 February 2002