The Regulation of Ministerial Appointments and its unintended consequences

Felicity Matthews
by Felicity Matthews

The Cabinet Office is currently undertaking a review of the role and remit of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, which is being conducted by Sir Gerry Grimstone.  As part of this review, in September I presented to the Committee on Standards in Public Life the findings of research conducted by Matthew Flinders and me regarding the UK’s experience of public appointments.

Upon the recommendation of the first Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA) was established in 1995 to improve confidence in the system by addressing widespread beliefs that ministerial appointments were not always made on merit.  By closely regulating the appointments within its remit, OCPA sought to ensure that ministerial appointments were made solely on merit, rather than party political loyalties or personal ties.  Indeed, comparative research reveals that the patronage capacities of British ministers are now amongst the lowest in Europe; and that OCPA is an exemplar in terms of promoting probity and integrity.

Nonetheless, whilst the capacity of ministers to intervene in public appointments has been reigned in, the involvement of parliamentarians has expanded through the introduction of pre-appointment scrutiny in 2007; and the relationship Continue reading