James Plaskitt (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions; Warwick and Leamington, Labour)
Let me also say to you, Sir Nicholas, what a pleasure it is to be serving under your chairmanship at our thirteenth sitting. Let us see if I can start off on a good note by reassuring the hon. Gentlemen about why the terms are set as they are.
This part of the schedule deals with the period for which a person can be appointed a member of the corporate trustee. It restricts the period of an individual appointment to a maximum of four years and prevents someone from being reappointed more than once, as a result of which no one can serve for more than a total of eight years.
I wish first to explain that we intend trustee appointments to follow the principles in the code of practice of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. That code suggests that it is in the public interest to limit the length of appointments made by Ministers to no longer than a total of 10 years in order to encourage new blood and new ideas and to give other people the opportunity to serve on public bodies. It states:
“The number of terms an individual may serve and the conditions for reappointment vary...However...the maximum period in office must not exceed 10 years on the same board.”
Although, in the case of the corporate trustee, subsequent appointments will not be made by Ministers, we believe that the good practice of limiting the term of appointment should be included in the Bill. The question to consider when determining the length of appointment is what best serves the needs of the task in hand.
I am sure that members of the Committee have noticed that initial appointments to the Personal Accounts Delivery Authority are for a three-year period. That is standard practice for non-executive appointments and for fixed-term contracts, such as the chief executive, but that difference in approach is also appropriate given the different responsibilities. PADA will be a relatively short-lived organisation when compared with the anticipated longevity of the scheme. The most effective blend of trustee for the longer term trustee corporation will be a mix of new ideas, experience and corporate memory. We have chosen a period of sufficient length to match the responsibilities of the trustee while remaining well within the maximum proposed in the guidelines of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.