Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Cabinet Office (PAP 56)


  There is a wide range of public bodies. Some are well known within Parliament and have a high profile in the media and with the general public. Others are less well-known but all of them have an impact on the way that citizens live, whether they are concerned with the delivery or development of public services or they play a part in helping to define policy on issues of public concern.

  Since 1997 the Government has taken various steps aimed at promoting awareness of what individual public bodies do and at making them more open and accountable. Summary information on all public bodies, including their responsibilities, is set out in an annual publication, Public Bodies. The latest edition, Public Bodies 2001, was published in February 2002 and is available at the Public Bodies website (

  Public Bodies also includes some information on the people appointed to serve on the bodies concerned, including their remuneration. While their individual roles may vary widely, along with the skills, experience and expertise required for the different appointments concerned, they all have a vital role to play in ensuring that the body to which they are appointed fulfils its terms of reference and achieves its objectives. This is perhaps the most obvious reason why the overriding principle in making appointments to these bodies is that selection is made on merit. Clearly, a pre-requisite is that Ministers are in a position to select the best of all potential candidates when making public appointments.

  This is why the Government remains committed to the principle that women and men should hold an equal proportion of all appointments, and that more appointments should be held by people from ethnic minority backgrounds and disabled people. What matters most is what skills and abilities people have and what qualities they as individuals would be able to bring to the work of the public body concerned.

  Against this background, the Government's initial views on the Issues raised by the Select Committee and the specific questions set out in its consultation paper are set out in the Annex to this Memorandum. However, these are initial views only and the Government will consider carefully the Committee's eventual conclusions on the issues it has raised.

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