Appendix: Government Response |
The Government welcomes the Public Administration
Select Committee (PASC)'s report, Who's accountable? Relationships
between Government and arm's-length bodies,
published on 10th November 2014.
The reform of Public Bodies has been a priority for
this Government. Within weeks, the Coalition Government established
comprehensive and rigorous central oversight of Public Bodies.
Lack of control in the preceding years allowed the number and
remit of public bodies to proliferate unchecked. The most urgent
drivers of reform were to rationalise the landscape and seek efficiencies
to make public bodies more responsive, capable and to increase
The Government believes it has made significant progress
in the three and a half years since the Public Bodies Act received
Royal Assent in 2011. The National Audit Office (NAO) described
the programme as the biggest reform of Public Bodies in a generation.
Programme successes include:
· over 95% of planned abolitions and mergers
are now completed; reducing the number of public bodies by over
290by abolishing more than 185 and merging over 165 bodies
into fewer than 70;
· the functions of over 75 bodies have been
brought closer to democratically elected representatives, improving
accountability. Furthermore, some organisations have been moved
outside the public sector under innovative delivery models, increasing
funding from alternative sources and engaging public support in
· in total the Public Bodies Reform Programme
has achieved cumulative administrative spend reductions as at
March 2014 of £2.0bn since 2010, the programme is now on
track to exceed cumulative spend reductions of £2.6bn by
the end of March 2015. Full details of the reforms are available
Since 2010, the Government has also taken substantial
steps to improve the levels of transparency around the size, expenditure
and membership of Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPB). The Public
Bodies annual report, first published by the Cabinet Office in
1980 has been significantly expanded into its current forma
single transparent source of top-level data on all NDPBs, Executive
Agencies and Non-Ministerial Departments. 'Public Bodies 2014',
the most recent publication is available at:
It contains an annual progress update of the Public
Bodies Reform programme, including: savings achieved; work to
improve sponsorship across government; and, the Triennial Review
As the Committee recognises, reform has not always
been easy. The Government believes that strong progress has been
made on its flagship Triennial Review programme and on creating
a sponsorship specialism to build a cadre of knowledgeable and
experienced sponsors across departments. As a result of this work,
sponsorship is now recognised as a separate and distinct specialism
in its own right sitting within the government policy profession.
The Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have led
the development of a Sponsorship Competency Framework and an accompanying
suite of learning materials. They have also established a Cross-Whitehall
Sponsorship Peer Network which meets quarterly. This is well attended
by over fifty sponsors from across departments. The understanding
and appreciation of the effectiveness of these levers in transforming
the public bodies landscape is gradually deepening. However, challenges
remain around how best to embed learning and best practice and
build internal capacity to enable departments to work with their
bodies in the most effective and efficient ways.
The Government agrees with the Committee that there
is still more to be done to drive administrative and cultural
change throughout the Public Bodies' landscape. This is why the
Government is implementing its refreshed Public Bodies Reform
Strategy, published in July 2014. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-bodies-reform-strategy.
The Strategy builds on the success of the 2010 reforms and the
first Triennial Reviews. It sets out how the Government will continue
its work to make public bodies more efficient, accountable and
effective, and covers a wide range of actions the Government will
take between 2014 and 2017 to achieve this. In particular, it
includes clear commitments to ensure:
· the administrative classifications process
is fit for purpose. The Government has already begun a review
of the existing system, and will publish a progress update on
taking forwards findings and recommendations in the summer;
· stronger, more strategic relationships
between public bodies and departments through improved sponsorship
capability and capacity are encouraged. Working together with
key stakeholders (Cabinet Office, the Public Chairs' Forum (PCF)
and the Association of Chief Executives (ACE)), the Government
agreed, in November 2014 a "Successful Sponsorship"
document. This sets out a joint approach to sponsorship that aims
gets the best value from the relationship and maximises both ALB
and departmental delivery. The content has also been endorsed
by a range of Senior Civil Servants across departments who are
involved in sponsorship; and
· regular, rigorous review of the form and
function of public bodies, through Triennial Reviews. The Triennial
Review programme has been developed to test that public bodies
exist for a clear purpose, deliver the services their users want,
maximise value for money for the taxpayer and do not outlive their
useful purpose. Having learned from the first round of triennial
reviews, the Cabinet Office revised the Triennial Review guidance
was published in summer 2014, together with year one of the agreed
timetable to review 361 bodies over the next three years. The
revised guidance places a far greater emphasis on the role of
Triennial Reviews in delivering efficiencies and directs departments
to approach reviews proportionately, clustering similar bodies
into a single review where practicable.
The Government welcomes both the recognition and
the steers that the Committee provided and is keen to take the
arm's-length bodies agenda further over the coming years. The
Government has set out detailed responses to each of the Committee's
Responses to recommendations
PUBLIC BODIES IN THE UK: A TAXONOMY
1. We recommend the Government adopt a taxonomy
of public bodies such as that proposed by the Institute for Government
but with more detail to provide for all circumstances, which sets
out the legal status of each type and how it is held accountable.
All public bodies should be included in one or other category.
There should be consistent naming conventions.
This simple step, which would improve transparency and accountability,
should accompany a new online 'Directory of Governance' of annual
reports, budgets, minutes of meetings, and other information of
value to the public. There is a huge opportunity for the Government
to make the British state more transparent and understandable.
The Government notes that the Committee finds that
the classification of Public Bodies is an important issue deserving
of more attention. The Government recognises that there are issues
with the current classifications process. This was indicated in
the Public Reform Programme Strategy, published in July 2014.
The Government has already commenced a review of the classification
of public bodies, in line with this thinking. Its focus is on
the administrative classification system and it will assess how
the current system is functioning. It is important to note that
the scope of this project does not extend to other systems of
classification, such as the National Accounts Classification,
except insofar as there are areas of overlap with the administrative
system of classification.
As part of this review we are undertaking an appraisal
of the existing classification framework. This will include an
assessment of the level of consistency the framework achieves
in categorising public bodies, looking at key characteristics
such as governance, accountability, legal status, function, control
versus independence, funding and staffing. We will also assess
the process by which departments set up new bodies, examining
areas such as knowledge, guidance and practice.
To launch this review the Government published a
discussion paper on 6 November, inviting individuals and organisations
affected by the current classification system to respond. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/administrative-classification-of-public-bodies-review
In particular, we requested relevant information
on whether or not the classification system was fit for purpose,
and whether there were potential improvements that could be made.
We notified PASC on the publication of the paper, as well as a
range of stakeholders.
The Government is now undertaking an analysis of
the responses and testing emerging findings with key stakeholders,
including the Institute for Government (IfG), PCF and ACE.
We will be examining the full range of possibilities
for improving the system. These could include smaller changes
to procedure through to far-reaching structural reforms. We may
identify some improvements which could be implemented without
further review. Any significant changes would be likely to form
the basis of more detailed policy development and consultation.
Our approach throughout will be pragmatic so that any proposals
for change should demonstrably deliver practical benefits. When
this review has been completed, we will share conclusions and
recommendations with key stakeholders, including IfG, PCF and
ACE, working closely with them to implement the recommendations.
The Government believes that the Public Bodies series
of annual reports fulfils the intention behind the recommended
Directory of Governance. Each year the Cabinet Office compiles
a directory of top-level data for arm's length bodies, including
but not limited to details of expenditure, which department is
accountable for the body, whether the body publishes an annual
report and whether the minutes of meetings and/or the meetings
are held in public. The entry for each body contains a link to
that body's website so that annual reports and other public documents
can be found conveniently. Public Bodies 2014 also details the
Government's progress in reforming arm's length bodies and can
be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-bodies-2014.
Quarterly updates of the data set will also include further transparency
indicators, measuring the availability of information on websites.
THE GOVERNMENT'S PUBLIC BODIES REFORMS TO DATE
2. Triennial reviews should also apply to
executive agencies, non-ministerial departments, public corporations,
and NHS bodies. The Cabinet Office should produce central guidance
and support on the principles that underpin triennial reviews
and the aims of the process. Rather than being viewed as a threat
by public bodies, triennial reviews should be focussed on the
quality of the relationship between a public body and its sponsoring
department, which is the more significant factor determining accountability.
The Government welcomes this Committee's support
for the Triennial Review process. The review process was introduced
in 2011 specifically to cover NDPBs. To date, this has resulted
in 120 NDPBs being reviewed, of which 40 were recommended for
abolition, and two for substantial reform.
In line with its Public Bodies Reform Strategy 2014-2017,
the Government has recently updated its central guidance (Triennial
Reviews: Guidance on Reviews of Non-Departmental Public Bodies),
reinforcing the principles and requirement for how departments
should conduct these reviews. This guidance has drawn on lessons
learnt from the reviews that have taken place since 2011. The
new guidance does contain additional requirements for departments,
however, the Government rejects the Committee's suggestion that
Triennial Reviews might become 'Christmas trees on which more
and more additional aims are hung, intended to right all wrongs.'
The new Triennial Review requirements build upon the founding
principles of Triennial Reviews and are natural evolutions following
the experience of Reviews to date. They include a greater focus
on the importance of efficiency, savings and innovation in delivery,
in line with the wider government strategy to deliver further
savings from efficiency and reform in the next parliament, as
published in December 2014.
The Government agrees that the relationship between
a public body and its sponsoring department is a crucial one.
A key requirement of the second stage of a Triennial Review is
to examine the control and governance arrangements that are in
place, including the relationship between the NDPB and its sponsor.
Government has already taken steps to establish sponsorship as
a specialism and build capability within departments. However,
the Government accepts that more should be done, which is why
we have agreed a further programme of actions in accordance with
As the Committee notes, the Cabinet Office has embarked
on a process of examining and reviewing the range of public body
classifications. The Government intends to consider the question
of the scope of the Triennial Review Programme in the light of
any recommendations on classification that are made following
The Government supports the principle that all
central government bodies with a national remit should be
subject to on-going challenge and scrutiny. Cabinet Office guidance
(Executive Agencies; guidance for Departments) already requires
executive agencies to be reviewed regularly and the Department
of Health has already incorporated special health authorities
into its Triennial Review programme.
SPONSORSHIP OF PUBLIC BODIES BY GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS:
THE IMPORTANCE OF RELATIONSHIPS
3. The oversight and accountability arrangements
for NHS England should be kept under review by select committees,
the National Audit Office, and others.
NHS England's accountability
It is for select committees and the NAO to determine
their part in keeping the oversight and accountability arrangements
for NHS England under review. The Department of Health has clear
accountability arrangements for NHS England, but will continue
to develop these arrangements to improve accountability and transparency,
and will review its Framework Agreement with NHS England during
Accounting Officer Statement
The Committee expressed concern about the length
of time between the last Accounting Officer system statement and
the most recent one which was published in October 2014. (Paragraph
The 2014 system statement provides further information
on the role of the Department's Accounting Officer in relation
to the NHS, public health and adult care and support arrangements
after April 2013. Two previous versions were published, one in
January 2012, and another in September 2012 to reflect the reformed
system following the passage of the Health and Social Care Act
The scale of changes to the health sector, and in
particular the establishment of new health bodies, required careful
consideration in terms of the new accountability arrangements.
The Department of Health wished to ensure that not only did it
accurately set out these arrangements in the statement, including
DH's role as "Steward" of the system, but that there
was also close consultation with the key bodies within the reformed
health system. This has ensured that the revised statement, published
on 10 October 2014, is a shared statement between all of the key
Accounting Officers in the health system. The Department already
had the accountability statement mentioned above; the updated
version of the statement does not identify any changes to the
fundamental principles of accountability arrangements and gives
greater clarity to roles and responsibilities within the new system.
Complex and evolving accountability arrangements
The Committee stated that while accountability
should not be in any doubt, the current arrangements for NHS England
are 'extremely complicated and still evolving'. (Paragraph 38)
It is legitimate that the accountability relationship
is evolving as NHS England is still a relatively new organisation.
Good accountability structures will continue to be subject to
an on-going discourse, and in the health system lines of accountability
must take account of the considerations of a wider variety of
stakeholder interests. Current accountability arrangements for
NHS England are consistent with those for the Department's other
Arm's Length Bodies, including regular accountability meetings
that NHS England has with the Secretary of State and the Senior
Departmental Sponsor at which it is robustly held to account.
The new health and care system, and its lines of
accountability, rest on the firm legal frameworks of the Health
and Social Care Act 2012. Knowing who is accountable for what
is important. That is why there is a clear Accounting Officer
statement, as well as a publicly available Framework Agreement
between the Government and NHS England which ensures that both
parties abide by the new regulations. The current Framework Agreement
with NHS England was published in 2014 and is the result of extensive
engagement between the Department and NHS England to ensure that
it is a shared statement of the critical elements of the relationship.
The Framework Agreement is a cornerstone of productive and accountable
relationships between NHS England and the Department. This framework
will be reviewed in 2015 and, in line with the commitment in the
original Framework Agreement, a protocol will be developed around
the provision of clinical advice. This will add further to transparency
and clarity in the new system.
The Committee has conveyed the view of some that
'since the disbanding of the NHS Appointments Commission in 2010,
there has been a gap in identifying and encouraging high quality
applicants from across the community to apply for non-departmental
public body board positions.' (Paragraph 52)
Since the abolition of the Appointments Commission
announced as part of the reforms to Public Bodies in 2010, (formally
abolished in 2012) public appointments to the Department's arm's
length bodies have become the responsibility of the Secretary
of State for Health.
The Secretary of State for Health makes the appointments
of the Chair and Non-Executive Directors to NHS England, and these
are conducted in accordance with the code of practice of the Commissioner
for Public Appointments.
Public appointments must be made on merit. This means
that the interview panel should provide Ministers with a choice
of appointable candidates whose skills, experience and qualities
meet the needs, as determined by the Minister, of the public body
or statutory office in question. It is then for Ministers to determine
merit and make the final appointment.
The Department works closely with Ministers and the
Centre for Public Appointments in the Cabinet Office to explore
networks and attract good candidates including from diverse backgrounds.
Diversity statistics for individual campaigns are reported to
Ministers throughout each campaign and on a bi-annual basis to
the Centre for Public Appointments. These bi-annual figures are
published by Cabinet Office and by the Commissioner for Public
Appointments in his annual report.
4. As the public bodies reforms continue,
the Cabinet Office should commission research to show which controls
are effective and increase accountability, so it can discontinue
those which undermine trust and value for money. (paragraph 42)
The Government does not agree that controls undermine
trust and value for moneyin fact, controls have saved huge
amounts. The spending controls framework is set by HM Treasury,
and informed by the principles set out in Managing Public Money.
Further information on the controls framework is available within
Consolidated Budgeting Guidance. From 2010 the Government introduced
a new set of spending controls covering specific categories of
expenditure. The Treasury delegated operation of some of the controlsin
areas such as consulting, ICT, recruitment, marketing and propertyto
the Cabinet Office. Introducing central oversight by means of
those controls, radically improving management information, and
incentivising efficient operations have been crucial. In 2013-2014,
departments working with ERG and the Treasury saved £14.3
billion compared to 2009-2010. The spending controls delegated
to the Cabinet Office delivered around 60% of those savings. These
controls will remain crucial for the delivery of efficiency savings
in the next Parliament. Detailed guidance on this subset of controls
is available at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cabinet-office-controls/cabinet-office-controls-guidance-version-32.
The Review of Financial Management in Government,
published in December 2013, considered the controls framework
in detail and provided recommendations for improvement. As part
of this, the Cabinet Office is working closely with HMT to improve
the effectiveness of the controls regime and ensure closer alignment
between processes and teams.
5.a. Each department should set as a goal the
improvement of its relationships with arm's-length bodies, via
discussions, seminars and training. Departments should report
in their annual reports on the effectiveness of their sponsorship
of arm's-length bodiesa key skill we are examining in our
inquiry on Civil Service skillsand the next Civil Service
Reform Plan update should report on progress overall in improving
The Government supports effective sponsorship of
arm's length bodies (ALBs) by departments and already has measures
in place to report on the relationship between them. Under the
Alignment (Clear line of sight) Project (2009) the Government
introduced improved arrangements to consolidate performance and
financial reporting of all ALBs within their sponsoring department's
annual report and accounts. This included extending the Estimates
boundary to ALBs bringing their expenditure plans within the scope
of parliamentary approval affording departments' full financial
responsibility for their ALBs.
A requirement already exists for departments to prepare
a governance statement, published within its annual report and
accounts, as a combined statement for the core department and
all entities within its reporting boundary. This comprehensive
statement by the Principal Accounting Officer, covers risk management
and corporate governance. It also encompasses the oversight of
its ALBs and provides an explanation of how the department has
ensured the satisfactory use of resources granted, including those
to locally governed organisations. A further requirement provides
for departments, where necessary to produce an accountability
systems statement on their website, describing accountability
for distribution of grants to local government, schools or similar
local organisations. The Government does not set a template for
the governance statement and does not consider it necessary to
mandate departments' inclusion of further reporting of effectiveness
of sponsorship relationships, as sufficient arrangements are already
Through its status as a specialism within the policy
profession, capability is improving in the area of sponsorship
of ALBs. The Government will consider whether to include progress
on improving sponsorship in future updates to the Civil Service
Reform Plan when those updates are being produced.
5.b. Sponsorship of arm's-length bodies must be
seen as a vital skill set in the Senior Civil Service, or it will
continue to be seen as second class. The Cabinet Office should
build upon the new 'Sponsorship Specialism Competency Framework'
but this must be supported by effective training on how to be
an effective sponsor. (Paragraph 43)
The Government agrees strongly with the committee's
recommendation, and would go further to say that sponsorship should
be regarded as a vital skill set across the whole Civil Service,
not exclusively in the Senior Civil Service. Forming stronger,
more strategic relationships between public bodies and departments
through improved sponsorship capability and capacity is a key
element of the Cabinet Office's 2014-17 strategy for Public Bodies
Reform. To this end, the Government already has a follow-on programme
of work to further embed and raise the profile and professionalism
of sponsorship across government. This builds on the excellent
work that's already been undertaken to establish sponsorship as
Since late 2013, sponsorship has been recognised
as a separate and distinct specialism in its own right and sits
within the government policy profession. Cabinet Office has developed
the Sponsorship Competency Framework which the committee refers
to. This is available on the Civil Service Learning website, and
is part of a suite of learning materials for the sponsorship specialism.
We have good anecdotal evidence that sponsors find the Framework
useful when reviewing objectives, considering development needs
or developing vacancy information.
Working with departments, the Cabinet Office has
developed a Cross-Whitehall Sponsorship Peer Network. Quarterly
meetings are well attended by over fifty sponsors across departments.
This MoJ-led network has been running for over two years and provides
a great opportunity for sponsors to share experiences, best practice
and resolve problems.
The network provides the opportunity for structured
development and learning through sessions based both on departmental/wider
Government initiatives and requests from sponsors. It has also
promoted the sharing of information and approaches between departments
on a more informal one-to-one basis. The Government also plans
to publish by summer 2015 a list of the senior responsible sponsors
for all of the ALB's featured in 'Public Bodies'. This will better
enable navigation of the ALB landscape, increase transparency
and enable sponsors to contact each other more easily to share
Earlier in 2014, Catherine Lee (MoJ Director-General)
took on the role of Cross-Whitehall Sponsorship Champion. Her
stated aim as Sponsorship Champion is to 'build effective and
supportive sponsorship relationships, strengthen sponsors' capability,
and make best use of our collective talents to help maximise delivery
for both ALBs and their Departments.' Working together with key
stakeholders (Cabinet Office, the PCF and the ACE the "Successful
Sponsorship" document a "joint approach to sponsorship"
that gets the best value from the relationship and maximises both
ALB and departmental delivery, was agreed in November 2014.
"Successful Sponsorship" consists of a
statement of intent and a detailed plan of actions for key stakeholder
groups to take forward over the next twelve to eighteen months.
Departments play their part by identifying relevant leads, encouraging
attendance at sponsorship events and seeking to develop open relationships
with sponsored bodies. ALBs play theirs by engaging openly with
sponsor Departments, working to ensure there is a shared vision
for the ALB and identifying and sharing good practice. Progress
will be reviewed regularly with Cabinet Office, PCF and ACE colleagues
and departmental representatives. The content has also been endorsed
by a range of Senior Civil Servants across departments who have
There are many examples of good practice from across
government, for example, the Department of Health (DH) has set
standards for sponsor teams and requires internal audit periodically
to assess performance against those standards. DH has a dedicated
sponsor team in place for each of its ALBs and as well as encouraging
sponsors to take up relevant Civil Service Learning training.
It also provides an in-house development programme to support
sponsors develop the necessary skills, expertise and knowledge
to perform effectively.
The Government agrees with the Committee's recommendation
that effective training needs to be offered to all sponsors across
In spring 2014, the Cabinet Office designed a bespoke
one-day workshop 'Sponsorship of ALBs' which provides clear guidance
on the fundamentals of good sponsorship. It's our aspiration to
train all sponsors in the fundamentals of sponsorship over the
next two years. To date over one hundred sponsors from departments
have undertaken the training, most recently attending courses
in November and December 2014 and further roll out is already
underway for 2015. We have been encouraged by the positive engagement
of Chairs and Chief Executives of Public Bodies in these courses.
We further identified a need for additional, bespoke
training in distinct areas such as commercial models, advanced
financial and efficiency tools and governance to better enable
our senior sponsors to service and challenge their ALBs. The Public
Bodies Reform Team in the Cabinet Office is currently finalising
this programme of further training, ready for roll-out from spring
6. The Cabinet Office, which publishes a list
of regulated public appointments, should also publish a list of
unregulated public appointments and set out the rationale by which
some appointments are regulated and some are not.
In the interests of transparency the Cabinet Office
should ensure that the sponsoring department clarifies who is
involved in a public appointment, at what stage, and whether they
advise or decide. This means publishing new factual information
in greater detail than is currently available, including an explanation
of the rationale for these arrangements. (Paragraph 54)
The Government is satisfied there is clarity over
the public appointments that fall within the remit of the Commissioner
for Public Appointments. The full list of regulated bodies is
set out in the Schedule to the Public Appointments Order in Council
2014. As part of its commitment to transparency, the Government
is committed to updating the Schedule annually.
Since the establishment of the Office of the Commissioner
for Public Appointments (OCPA), it has always been the case that
the Commissioner's remit does not extend to all appointments.
This includes, for example, judicial appointments, departmental
non-executive directors and short term, ad hoc reviewers. There
are no plans to alter the Commissioner's jurisdiction.
The ultimate responsibility and accountability for
public appointments rests with Ministers who take the final decision
on who is appointed to the board of a public body. Ministers are
involved at all stages of the process. As part of the process,
the OCPA Code of Practice requires that a selection panel is established
to oversee the appointments process. All selection panels will
include an independent member who will be separate from the department
and from the public body. For Chair appointments, selection panels
are chaired by an OCPA assessor.
The role of the selection panel is to assess candidates
against the selection criteria and determine those candidates
that are appointable. It is for Ministers to determine who is
best placed to undertake the role from the list of appointable
candidates put forward by the selection panel.
7. The Cabinet Office should publish the reasons
for ending the presumption in favour of default reappointment
and review the wisdom of the new arrangement. To address the issues
raised by Sally Morgan, departments must make clear to appointees
at the outset whether their appointment is intended to be for
one or more than one term. (Paragraph 55)
It has never been Government policy that reappointments
to the Boards of public bodies are "default". In 2005,
the Cabinet Office guidance to departments ('Making and Managing
Public Appointments') clearly stated that "no re-appointment
is or should be seen as automatic or a foregone conclusion".
This is in line with the OCPA Code of Practice, which states that
appointing Ministers take decisions on all reappointments, which
can only be made on the basis of a satisfactory performance appraisal
and the relevant legislation relating to the post. It is therefore
incorrect to refer to ending the presumption of default reappointment
as a "new arrangement".
Reappointments require the consent of the Minister.
They should be considered on a case by case basis and are not
Opening up a greater number of appointments to fair
and open competition provides an opportunity to encourage greater
diversity on the boards of public bodies. It also ensures that
the particular needs of the body at the time of a potential reappointment
are considered and an assessment of the specific skills, ability
and experience required of the board as a whole is undertaken.
This ensures that the most appropriately skilled and talented
individuals are appointed to the boards of public bodies. It remains
the case that Ministers are able to make reappointments if they
consider this to be the best option for a public body. This may
be necessary, for example, to ensure continuity throughout a period
of change for a body.
The Government therefore does not believe that it
would be appropriate to give an indication to candidates at the
outset of an appointment whether they are likely to be reappointed.
8. Organisations making public appointments must
take responsibility for seeking out able people from under-represented
backgrounds and groups, as well as making the application process
straightforward and fair. The Cabinet Office in turn should strengthen
its public appointments diversity plan, holding arm's-length bodies
to the same ambitious standards and firm steer as in the Civil
Service Talent Action Plan. (Paragraph 56)
The Government agrees with the Committee that to
be truly effective public bodies should bring together a mix of
people with different skills, experience and backgrounds. Significant
steps have already been taken to improve the application process
for public appointments to attract a talented and diverse field
of candidates, including:
· the use of CVs and covering letters, rather
than requiring candidates to complete application forms;
· placing a new emphasis on ability, rather
than long standing experience, ensuring roles are open to all
those with the skills and ability to do the job in question;
· ensuring that job specifications are concise,
simple and as accessible as possible; and
· increasing awareness of public appointments
through a central online advertising resource, as well as use
of social media.
The Government has an ambitious aspiration that 50%
of new public appointments should be offered to women by the end
of this parliament. The latest figures show that good progress
is being made. New female appointments were at 44% for the first
six months of this financial year, this is an increase from 39%
in 2013-14 and 37% in 2012-13.
However, the Government is not complacent and agrees
that there is more to do in order to increase diversity on the
boards of public bodies. It will continue to work with Departments
and the Centre for Public Appointments to improve diversity in
9. The Cabinet Office needs to demonstrate greater
internal consistency, stability and internal collaboration in
public appointments. Responsibility for public appointments policy
lies in its Propriety and Ethics Division, while responsibility
for the governance of public bodies lies in the Efficiency and
Reform Group. The Cabinet Office should bring together the role
of the Centre for Public Appointments and the Public Bodies Team,
to encourage a more coordinated and coherent policy in this area.
The establishment of the Centre for Public Appointments
in the Cabinet Office has improved the support and guidance provided
to departments across Whitehall who are managing appointments
processes. The Centre for Public Appointments has also focussed
specifically on diversity and on advising departments of the steps
to widen the pool of candidates applying for vacancies. In addition,
the Public Bodies Team have a role in advising the Minister on
the governance arrangements of public bodies, including the structure,
composition and skills of boards.
Officials in the Centre for Public Appointments work
closely with the Public Bodies Team to ensure that there is a
consistent approach to public bodies. However, the two teams fulfil
different functions and there are no plans to bring them together
as this would lose the benefits of their wider working within
their respective reporting lines. Both teams report to the Minister
for the Cabinet Office.
BODIES ACCOUNTABLE TO PARLIAMENT
10. Parliament should provide clear information
on its website on which public bodies it holds directly accountable.
The Information Commissioner and HM Inspectorate of Prisons should
be more fully independent of Government and should report to Parliament.
The Information Commissioner, Commissioner for Public Appointments
and the Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life should
become Officers of Parliament, as the Parliamentary and Health
Service Ombudsman and the Comptroller and Auditor General already
are. (Paragraph 64)
The Government thanks the committee for this recommendation.
However, the role of Parliament in providing clear information
on its website, about which public bodies it holds directly accountable,
is a matter for Parliament.
The majority of bodies which report to central government
are NDPBs and they are subject to Triennial Reviews which consider
whether the Body should continue in its current form or whether
another model is more appropriate. In some instances they will
include consideration of a direct line of reporting and accountability
to Parliament. There are no plans to alter these arrangements.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is currently
subject to a Triennial Review which launched on 25th November
2014. The review will identify and examine the Offices' key functions
of and consider the best way its functions can be delivered. It
will consider to whom the ICO should report, including the option
of reporting to Parliament. We cannot pre-empt the outcome of
The Government greatly values the work of HMI Prisons
and fully recognises the importance of maintaining independence
from the MoJ. The Justice Select Committee Report on the budget
and structure of the MoJ (2012) called for particular arrangements
to be made to reflect the HMI Prisons's watchdog status. Ministers
listened to the Chief Inspector's concerns and the following arrangements
have been put in place since 2012 to strengthen both the actual
and perceived independence:
· a website independent from the Ministry
· separate geographical location from the
Ministry of Justice following departure from their previous location;
· greater delegation to recruit staff directly.
We are confident that the governance arrangements
now in place adequately reflect the unique watchdog status of
The role of the Commissioner for Public Appointments
was created by the Public Appointments Order in Council 1995 following
recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (under
the chairmanship of Lord Nolan). The Commissioner for Public Appointments
is appointed by the Queen, and is independent of Government. In
2011, Sir David Normington, GCB, was appointed to the dual role
of Commissioner for Public Appointments and First Civil Service
Commissioner. The Civil Service Commission has been subject to
a Triennial Review which has been published. The Government will
consider conducting an independent review of the Commissioner
for Public Appointments.
The Rt Hon Peter Riddell completed a Triennial Review
of the Committee on Standards in Public Life in February 2013.
The Review considered the role and status of the Committee, including
its relationship with parliamentary select committees, and concluded
that it should retain its current NDPB status. This recommendation
was accepted by the Government.
11. Many written parliamentary questions are addressed
to non-ministerial departments. These should be replied to by
the non-ministerial department in the name of the Chair of the
relevant select committee. This would increase accountability
directly to Parliament and enable the MP answering the question
to send a proposed answer back if they consider it unsatisfactory.
The Government does not accept this recommendation.
Ministers are accountable to Parliament for the work of all Departments.
A minister of that department answers for the Non Ministerial
Department's business in parliament.
The 2006 Public Bodies guidance states that: "Where
a question or letter relates to the day to day operation of a
sponsored public body, the matter should be referred to the Chief
Executive Officer (CEO) of that body for reply. Ministers may
therefore respond to PQs by saying they will ask the relevant
CEO to write to the questioning MP".
12. Accountability documents should be free from
jargon and set out in simple and graphic form. Each government
department must improve its written statements on accountability
arrangements, to make them clear, understandable, and up to date.
To achieve this, the statements should be written in plain English
with simple organisational charts showing lines of accountability.
The Cabinet Office should oversee this work and report on progress
in its annual reports. (Paragraph 73)
The Government agrees with the Committee that accountability
documents should be presented clearly and up to date. The Cabinet
Office and HMT have no plans to take on additional reporting requirements.
Accountability arrangements are set out in a variety of ways:
A Framework Document is a bilateral statement of
the working relationship and accountability arrangements between
a department and its arms-length body. Accountability system statements
set out a department's accountability and assurance arrangements
over widespread networks, such as exist for health, local government
Departments and other central government bodies are
already required to include a Governance Statement within their
annual report which covers accountability and assurance arrangements.
All of these documents are normally available on the relevant
The Cabinet Office and HMT have policy oversight
relating to the governance and financial management of arm's length
bodies, and provide a wide range of guidance to that effect. Departments
are welcome to raise any specific queries on framework documents
with the Cabinet Office and HMT, who will advise as to best practice
(including use of language and clarity of wording). The Government
invited PASC to raise any unclear statements with the Cabinet
Office and HMT, who will advise on whether they need to be reworked
13. In the interests of transparency, each public
body should publish an up-to-date statement of their accountability
arrangements in their annual reports and on their websites,
like those published by government departments. The Cabinet Office
should oversee and report on progress on this. (Paragraph 74)
The Government notes this recommendation. A statement
by Accounting Officers published within the annual report and
accounts forms an integral element of the accountability arrangements
in place, reporting by way of a governance statement. This statement
describes how the Accounting Officer has fulfilled his or her
personal responsibility to manage and control the resources in
his or her organisation and is prepared with the board's support.
The Cabinet Office has no plans to take on additional
reporting requirements. A large body of information on transparency
and accountability is already collated by Cabinet Office as part
of its Public Bodies reports. Details as to whether a body publishes
annual reports, the date of their last annual report and a link
to their website are contained in Public Bodies 2014 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-bodies-2014).
The Cabinet Office oversees this process and works
with departments to encourage the publication of annual reports.
94% of NDPBs now publish a report (as of 30 June 2014).
14. The Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council
was absorbed into the Ministry of Justice in August 2013 but nonetheless
published an annual performance report for 2013-14. This should
be the case for others: the operating units of government departments
should produce annual reports and accounts, to enable both ministers
and Parliament and the public to hold them to account. The Cabinet
Office should ensure transparent information is published on the
effectiveness of functions, wherever these functions are performed.
With good management information, this should be straightforward.
The Government wishes to correct the Committee on
its understanding of the status of the Administrative Justice
and Tribunals Council. (AJTC) The AJTC was not 'absorbed' back
into the Ministry of Justice; it was abolished on the basis that
its functions could more properly be performed by the Ministry.
In June 2014, the Ministry of Justice produced a report called
the Annual Administrative Justice and Tribunals Performance Report,
2013-2014. This was not an AJTC report, but rather it was a report
by the department.
The Government does not accept the Committee's recommendation
that the operating units of government departments should produce
annual reports and accounts. The Government believes this would
not be a helpful addition to the existing accountability and reporting
arrangements of public bodies as reporting arrangements are already
extensive and include all individual ALBs and Trading Funds. Performance
reporting on effectiveness is now published in government departments'
annual report and accounts, covering the activities undertaken
within the department. Moreover, in line with the recommendations
of the Review of financial management in government, the Government
is working to further improve management information available
to departments. The departmental Minister(s), the Permanent Secretary
as Accounting Officer and Senior Responsible Officers for major
projects are accountable to Parliament.
15. As in meetings of local authorities, members
of the public should have the right to film, blog and tweet during
public meetings of arm's-length bodies. Ministers in sponsor departments
should hold public bodies to account for failing to hold public
meetings or publishing the minutes of their meetings, and provide
an explanation of how this is being addressed in departmental
annual reports. (Paragraph 76)
The Government notes this recommendation, and supports
the principles of openness and transparency and encouraging public
interest and engagement in decision making. Local authorities
are formally mandated to open up their meetings under the Openness
of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014. However, ALBs are
not covered by this legislation and as fundamentally different
types of bodies are not formally required to do so, however, they
are encouraged to open up their meetings in a variety of ways
where possible to enhance public engagement and trust.
When ALBs hold public meetings, they should be encouraged
to allow filming, blogging and tweeting if appropriate, and provide
reasonable facilities to enable them to do so as far as is practical.
However, individuals and organisations intending to record and
/ or report on a public meeting are asked to notify the relevant
ALB in advance of the meeting, and when recording or reporting
in a meeting should respect any requests from external contributors
or members of the public to the meeting to suspend recording while
they are speaking and not record them.
Recording would also not be allowed in certain circumstances
· when the meeting has agreed to formally
exclude the press and public due to the nature of business discussed;
· if there has been a public disturbance
or if the meeting has been suspended; and
· if the Chair determines that it has not
been possible to obtain informed consent from a person with known
learning disabilities or mental health issues: or parental consent
for a young person speaking.
The Government further believes further formal reporting
mechanisms are unnecessary as the Public Bodies Team in the Cabinet
Office already collects regular data on which ALBs currently hold
public meetings and publishes its findings as part of 'Public
Bodies 2014,' a single transparent source of top-level data on
all NDPBs, Executive Agencies and Non-Ministerial Departments.
'Public Bodies 2014', the most recent publication is available
16. Chairs of public bodies should be able to
ask for a letter of direction from the relevant minister, in the
event that they feel their public body is being required to do
something that is not value for money. This should be copied to
the Chair of the relevant select committee. (Paragraph 77)
The Government thanks the committee for their recommendation.
It is perfectly reasonable for Chairs to challenge policiesparticularly
on the basis of whether they are capable of being implemented.
The Accounting Officer (AO) of a public body must assess whether
a proposed course of action represents value for money. Value
for money is one of the key tests that AOs must apply in order
to fulfil the financial stewardship that is integral to their
role as AO. It should be noted that the AO must consider value
for money for the public sector as a whole, not just for the organisation
in question, otherwise one part of the public sector might be
incentivised to benefit at the cost of the whole.
Should the AO of a public bodynormally its
Chief Executivetake the perfectly proper view that he or
she is being required to do something that does not represent
value for money (or indeed does not meet any of the other AO tests
of regularity, propriety and feasibility), then the AO should
approach the sponsor department's accounting officer (the Principal
Accounting OfficerPAO). Should the PAO agree with the AO's
value for money assessment, then a direction should be soughtfrom
the Minister to the AO, if it is a requirement of the Minister,
or from the Chair of the public body to the AO, should it be a
situation where the Board and the AO have taken differing views.
The AO should then proceed to implement the proposal in accordance
with the direction. Directions should be copied to the Comptroller
and Auditor General (who would normally copy it to the Committee
of Public Accounts), and must be published. Managing Public Money
provides guidance on Ministerial directions. Directions need not
be seen as a nuclear option.
2 As above Back