Public Appointments Commissioner

Oral Answers to Questions — Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st March 2001.

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Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)

The Commissioner for Public Appointments, Dame Rennie Fritchie, regulates ministerial appointments to public bodies within her remit. Her work and advice are highly regarded and respected by the Government.

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

The Minister knows that it is a year since the Government faced swingeing criticism from the Commissioner for Public Appointments about the practice of stuffing national health service trust boards and health authorities with Labour crony appointments. In the 12 months since then, they have continued that practice in their appointments to the new primary care trust boards. Dame Rennie Fritchie has been—

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. That does not sound like a question. If the hon. Gentleman agrees to ask one quickly, I shall allow him to continue.

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

I shall indeed be quick. Dame Rennie Fritchie's inquiry into the practice as it relates to primary care trusts will be concluded at the end of the month. Will the Minister ensure that the report is produced very early in April, so that the Government cannot sweep it under the carpet?

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)

What an extraordinary statement from a party that appointed a three-times failed Conservative candidate as chairman of the Yorkshire health authority—that was its approach to public appointments. The Labour party has co-operated with the Commissioner for Public Appointments and accepted her recommendations. If the hon. Gentleman reads the text of the report, he will see that the Government's appointment of local councillors reflects the proportion of councillors on the ground.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)

That is what the report says, unlike when the Conservatives were in government and they put their friends and their friends' wives into every appointment going.

Photo of Tony Wright Tony Wright Labour, Cannock Chase

I think it is recognised that the Commissioner for Public Appointments is doing a good job and I hope that she will soon be reappointed. However, what matters is which public bodies are covered by her remit. Will my hon. Friend ensure that new public bodies automatically come under her remit unless there is a good reason why they should not?

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office)

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. The Government have extended the number of appointments covered by the commissioner to more than 30,000. We always consider whether new bodies are appropriate for the Nolan process. However, bodies that are established quickly for specialist purposes and last for only two or three months are not appropriate for it.