Sunday, 4 September 2011

Pre-appointment Hearings

In the United States a large number of appointments are subject to confirmation hearings. In the UK there is no similar requirement, but in recent years Select committees have experimented with "pre-appointment hearings". The Liaison Committee has today published a report on these hearings which says -

"we recommend a number of changes to the system as it stands.
 The list of posts to which the procedure applies should be refined. We propose, for the purposes of further discussion, a three-part list. Posts in the first tier are those we consider to be of sufficient constitutional significance as to require a process which is effectively a joint appointment by Government and the House of Commons. Posts in the second tier are those which we propose should be subject to an enhanced and improved version of the current process, and which should be subject to an "effective veto" by the House of Commons or its committees. For posts in the third tier we propose that a pre-appointment hearing should be at the discretion of committees.

The procedure for pre-appointment hearings should be refined to provide for:

greater consultation between Ministers and committees at the outset of the recruitment process on the definition of the post and the criteria for selection;

more information to be provided to committees in advance of hearings about the field of candidates from which the preferred candidate has been selected;
 a recognition that it may be appropriate for the Chair of a committee to discuss privately with a Minister any reservations the Committee may have about a candidate before issuing its report and before the Minister proceeds to a decision;
 a resolution of the House of Commons confirming appointments in certain cases.