Clause 54 - The Appointments Commission

Health Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:15 pm on 10th January 2006.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Secretary of State for Health

I do not want to engage in a long discussion about the Appointments Commission. I understand, to a limited extent, what is intended, and I welcome it. It should establish greater independence as to appointments across many NHS functions. However, I want to be sure, as we begin consideration of the next few clauses, about the nature of the process that the Government are entering into.

In particular, I am looking for a sense of the basis on which the Government will appoint the Appointments Commission, as it were—what sort of criteria they are looking for, and when and how they propose to go about the task. There is also the matter of foundation trusts, but that is in a separate clause and it might be simpler to leave it until later. At present I am really interested in the process of transfer between the NHS Appointments Commission and the new Appointments Commission, as well as the opportunities that that will give Ministers for recasting the membership of the Appointments Commission, or alternatively the extent to which the existing NHS Appointments Commission structure may continue into the new body.

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

This and the other clauses are relatively uncontroversial, but in some ways they reflect the current workings of the NHS Appointments Commission. Hon. Members may be aware that in its 2003 report the Public Administration Committee said that other Government Departments could benefit from its skills and expertise. Therefore, the clause establishes a new body, the Appointments Commission, as an executive non-departmental public body and abolishes the NHS Appointments Commission, which the new body will replace.

The Secretary of State will appoint the chairman and non-executive members of the board. The chief executive and executive members will be appointed by the chairman and non-executive members. The members themselves will appoint a vice-chairman. At least one, but not more than four, of the non-executive members must be appointed to the health and social care appointments committee. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman in more detail about the different transitional arrangements, if that will help.

Obviously, the appointments by the Secretary of State must be made in a transparent and open way that is fully in line with appointments by Secretaries of   State in other Departments. However, the setting up of the new body provides scope for other organisations across Whitehall, but also the foundation trusts, to which we shall come later, to use its services. I hope that that reassures the hon. Gentleman. I shall write to him in more detail about transitional arrangements.