APPOINTMENT OF NEW HMCI
RESPONSE FROM GOVERNMENT TO THE FOURTH
REPORT FROM THE EDUCATION AND SKILLS COMMITTEE, SESSION 2001-02
Letter to the Chairman of the Committee
the Minister for School Standards
I am responding to the Committee's Fourth Report
of Session 2001-02, Appointment of New HMCI, which was published
on 2 July.
I am grateful for the Committee's comments about
David Bell and the appointment process. As you know the Government
has welcomed the recommendation of the Modernisation Committee
regarding major appointments. We take seriously the contribution
of your Committee to all aspects of education. We have not closed
our minds to further change but we are not persuaded by your proposal
for involvement in the appointment of HMCI.
The process by which David Bell was selected for
appointment as HM Chief Inspector of Schools reflected the twin
principles of Ministerial accountability and selection on merit
which apply across Government. The Secretary of State is responsible
for the recommendation that she made, on behalf of the Government,
to Her Majesty in Council and she is accountable to Parliament
for her decision. In reaching that decision, she took advice from
a selection panel. The selection process, including the work of
the panel, was conducted in accordance with the guidelines of
the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.
We continue to believe that the appropriate role
for Parliament in the appointment of HMCI is that of scrutiny,
holding the Secretary of State accountable for her decision. To
involve the Select Committee directly in the process leading to
that decision would raise issues about the lines of accountability
which are currently very clear.
I would like to correct a statement in paragraph
15 of your report. While we are concerned that disclosing the
names of unsuccessful applicants might dissuade some people from
applying for the post of HMCI, we have neither expressed nor formed
a similar view about the likely effects of Parliamentary involvement
in the selection process.
In that context, I note the comments in paragraph
14 of the report about the membership of the selection panel.
In selecting the panel, we need to strike a balance between keeping
it to a reasonable size and the desirability of having various
interest groups represented on it. I can assure you that we will
look closely at this, and at the Committee's other comments, when
we next come to determine the detailed arrangements for the selection
31 July 2002