MS08: Royal Commission on Public Appointments

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Simon Godwin
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MS08: Royal Commission on Public Appointments

Post by Simon Godwin »

Madam Speaker,

With your leave I rise to make a statement regarding the Royal Commission on Public Appointments that I have commissioned.

Now, I am sure there will be significant debate on this statement, and I welcome such debate, and many will criticise my actions on this Inquiry but as I said during the leadership contest and during my Downing Street speech I take this issue very seriously. I was not willing to rush into setting this inquiry up with the possibility of getting its remit incorrect, and then with the presentation of opposition legislation I did not think it appropriate to initiate an inquiry when the House may have legislated another. That would have been a significant waste of time and money - something the Chancellor would not have forgiven me for.

As the Public Appointments Bill is now set to fail in the House I feel it is now appropriate to announce the Royal Commission on Public Appointments. As many in the House will know a Royal Commission is the most powerful of inquiries that the Government can initiate. It is fully independent from the executive branch of Government and includes certain powers such as subpoenaing of witnesses, taking evidence under oath and requesting documents. This Madam Speaker is a significant improvement on the legislation presented by the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

The Royal Commission on Public Appointments has been asked to assess and analyse the systemic weaknesses of the public appointments system, and to recommend alternative methods of appointment which promote accountability, meritocracy, and democracy. The Commission will have completed independence from the Government, will report to Parliament not to Cabinet, with an interim report to be delivered within one year and the final report to be delivered within two years. Madam Speaker, this is another improvement on the proposed legislation as the Commission will report back to us much faster with their findings and recommendations.

I am also pleased to announce that the noble Lord Norton of Louth has agreed to serve as Chair of the Royal Commission. Lord Norton is a renowned author and academic and is widely seen across the political spectrum as the United Kingdom’s greatest living expert on Parliament. I am certain that all members will agree that with Lord Norton at the helm of this commission no stone will remain un-turned and the pursuit of truth will be paramount.

Madam Speaker, finding the truth and ensuring that the appointments system in the United Kingdom is open, transparent and democratic is the overriding aim here. While many may castigate me for not jumping at the first piece of legislation that came to the House, or even the second, I do not believe it to be appropriate to rush in head first and make mistakes that could have a lasting impact on the constitution of the United Kingdom. If that upsets or annoys people, then that is something I am more than willing to bear, but I believe that when this Royal Commission makes it report to Parliament our appointments system will be stronger and survive the tests of time to come.

I commend this statement to the House.
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Re: MS08: Royal Commission on Public Appointments

Post by Will Croft »

Madam Speaker,

Let me begin my remarks by confirming that the Opposition supports the Government's decision to finally call for an independent inquiry. As we did through our legislative proposal, the Conservative Party has consistently made clear that we support the holding of a comprehensive and truly independent inquiry into reform of the public appointments system. While I believe that doing so through an act of Parliament would have enhanced the real and perceived legitimacy of the inquiry, the Opposition has no intention of opposing the one that has been ordered by the Prime Minister.

The reality of this situation, Madam Speaker, is that the Government had to be dragged kicking and screaming into addressing this serious national issue. The Prime Minister and her Government lined up to vote in favor of protecting the Member for Hartlepool, when any reasonable person could see that his appointment represented the worst of cronyism in British politics. After claiming to be interested in working to develop a cross-party solution to this issue, they outright refused to work with the Opposition and indeed any other political party in order to come up with a plan. They sat on their hands, ignored the opportunities presented to them, and failed in their duty to work meaningfully on the behalf of the British people. While the Prime Minister will no doubt hope that today's announcement of an inquiry will serve as a victory lap for her Government, in reality it serves to perfectly underline New Labour's tendency to put politics above the public good.

The Prime Minister is patting herself on the back for doing the bare minimum, and only after extreme pressure was placed on her by the Opposition at that. Because while I believe this inquiry will result in meaningful change, I also believe that there are a number of steps we could've already taken to address the obvious legal issues within the status quo. We know that the Commissioner needs more authority. We know that the Commissioner needs to be funded and housed independently of the Government. And crucially, I believe that the Prime Minister knows these things to be true as well! Why she refuses to act on them, Madam Speaker, remains a mystery to this House and the British people. It leaves me and many others to conclude that her actions on this issue have been rooted not in sound policy making, but in political consideration for how to best come out on top.

I look forward to the results of this inquiry, and today commit the Conservative Party to holding the Government accountable to implementing all of the recommendations that will be put forth by Lord Norton. But I will also say this. This entire issue has served to highlight how, despite being under new leadership, this Government will continue to act in a way that serves their personal political interests without any regard for the impact their actions have on the British people. Parliament had the chance to make real reforms to public appointments months ago, and we were stopped from doing so by a Prime Minister who has very little interest in doing what is right if in doing so she fails to score a political win. The British people deserve better, Madam Speaker, and my party will continue to work tirelessly in order to prove we are capable of providing just that.
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Re: MS08: Royal Commission on Public Appointments

Post by Barclay A.A. Stanley »

I thank the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister for her statement. The House will now move on to other matters.
Lt. Col. Sir Barclay A.A. Stanley, Rtd., KBE
Member of Parliament for Macclesfield

Armed with nothing but a pint of gin, Sir Barclay went to battle against the forces of Communism, Socialism, and Liberalism.
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Re: MS08: Royal Commission on Public Appointments

Post by Blakesley »

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