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UK Parliament – Controlling the Executive through Appointments

The Government makes a little under 4000 appointments each year to Public Bodies such as Natural England or the BBC or the Chief Executive of the Prisons Agency or the Ambassador to South Africa.

This is organised through the Cabinet Office and provides a large system of patronage in the hands of the Prime Minister and Ministers, although there are now standard selection procedures for most of these.

Until recently Parliament had no say in this, though MPs could ask questions about the process. In 2007 the Government agreed to a three year experiment in pre-appointment hearings by Select Committees to 60 positions.

The Liaison Committee looked at the experiment and decided that it had worked well and proposed more powers to Committees including the ability to reject a candidate and an ability to look at a wider range of appointment than the list the Government had limited them to, but the Government refused to accept this, though scrutiny of appointments still continues.

Pressure from Parliament continues. George Osborne agreed in 2010 that the Head of the Office for Budget Responsibility would have to have Select Committee approval.

The Treasury Select Committee has argued that they should approve the appointment or dismissal of the Governor of the Bank of England and that appointments that were disputed between Select Committees and Ministers should be referred to the whole House of Commons.