Pre-appointment hearing: The Chair of the House of Lords Appointments Commission - Political and Constitutional Reform Contents


1  Report


Introduction

1. The Cabinet Office notified us on 13 May 2013 that it intended to recruit a new Chair for the House of Lords Appointments Commission, to replace Lord Jay, whose five-year term comes to an end in September. We were offered the opportunity to carry out the pre-appointment hearing for this post, which we accepted. The pre-appointment hearing for Lord Jay was carried out by the Public Administration Committee. We were offered the opportunity to carry out this pre-appointment hearing because of our interest in House of Lords reform. We are currently carrying out an inquiry into what small-scale reforms to the House of Lords would be likely command a consensus. We are grateful for the opportunity to carry out pre-legislative scrutiny for the post of Chair of the House of Lords Appointments Commission.

2. The Cabinet Office sent us the information pack for candidates, setting out the requirements of the post, and, following the recruitment exercise, they forwarded us the name of the preferred candidate and the candidate's curriculum vitae. These papers are printed as appendices to this Report.

The Chair of the House of Lords Appointments Commission

3. The House of Lords Appointments Commission was established by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in May 2000. The Commission is constituted as an advisory, non-departmental public body with two main functions:

  • to recommend individuals for appointment as non-party-political life peers; and
  • to vet nominations for life peers, including those nominated by the UK political parties, to ensure the highest standards of propriety.

The Commission has appointed 63 individuals to the House of Lords since its inception, eight of whom have been appointed during the current Parliament. The Commission has seven members, including its Chair, all of whom are appointed for five-year terms.

4. We are dissatisfied that we were not able to see the outcome of the Triennial Review of the House of Lords Appointments Commission, which was originally due to be published before the application process began. We and the candidate have been placed in a difficult position as a result and we would like an explanation for the delay.

5. The principal responsibilities of the Chair of the Commission are:

  • to take the lead in consideration of nominations, taking account of the full relevant factors and information;
  • to take the lead role in recommendations in order to give advice and if necessary consider appeals.[1]

6. Candidates for the post were told that they would need to demonstrate:

  • strong leadership and interpersonal skills, with an ability to command respect; and establish credibility with Parliament, Ministers, Commissioners, and key stakeholders;
  • ability to operate effectively and comfortably in the media spotlight as the public face of the Commission; strong communication and advocacy skills, and a personal style that demonstrates authority and inspires trust and confidence;
  • an understanding of, and commitment to, the need to maintain the highest standards in public life in line with the seven principles of public life;
  • a strong familiarity with the internal workings of the House of Lords.

The preferred candidate: Lord Kakkar

THE CANDIDATE'S BACKGROUND

7. Lord Kakkar joined the House of Lords as a Life Peer in March 2010. He is a Professor of Surgery at University College London and a Consultant Surgeon at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. He is also a Director of the Thrombosis Research Institute, and Chair of Clinical Quality at University College London Partners Academic Health Sciences System. He holds a number of other appointments, which are listed in his CV, which can be found at Appendix 1.

OUR EVIDENCE

8. In line with the guidance produced by the Liaison Committee on the conduct of pre-appointment hearings, our evidence session assessed the candidate's professional competence and personal independence. In particular, we questioned Lord Kakkar on the following points:

  • his priorities as Chair of the Commission;
  • his familiarity with the internal workings of the House of Lords;
  • his familiarity with the seven principles of public life;
  • his experience of operating in the media spotlight;
  • the time he has available to fulfil the role;
  • his views on the future of the Commission.

We were impressed by his defence of the levels of integrity required for appointments to proceed.

The Committee's view on the suitability of the candidate

9. We are satisfied that Lord Kakkar has the professional competence and personal independence required for the post of Chair of the House of Lords Appointments Commission. We therefore support his appointment and wish him every success in his new role.


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© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 19 July 2013