Sunday, March 19, 2006

Who are the House of Lords Apppointments Commission?

The House of Lords Independent Appointments Commission was established in May 2000 as a non-departmental public body independent of government. It is staffed by civil servants and funded by the Cabinet Office. It normally has 7 members (6 currently) , 3 representing the political parties and four independents. The four independent members were selected by a panel chaired by the then Cabinet Secretary, Sir Richard Wilson. The Commission is chaired by Dennis Stevenson, a crossbencher in the Lords. Its most high profile member is probably Douglas Hurd, the former Conservative Home Secretary. Its job is to recommend non-party-political peers and to vet the nominations made by the political parties (since March 2005 it has also vets individuals added to the honours list by the Prime Minister). But the Commission does not have the power to veto applications (despite the reportage last week that it had "blocked" the nomination to the peerage of several candidates who gave secret loans to the Labour Party). Its role - according to its web-site - is to "draw any concerns" it has to the attention of the Prime Minister ("Prime Minister, we are concerned that this chap has been secretly giving you - sorry, loaning you - large wads of cash..." Of course, the Commisioners were not informed by Blair about these loans, they had to read about it in the newspapers). In other words, the Commission can recommend that a candidate should not be nominated, but not veto the nomination. However, Blair has indicated that he will take their advice - clearly calculating that to overule the Commission would be politically damaging. Back in September 2000 the Commission invited nominations for independent peers. These were labelled in the press as "People's Peers". But when the Commission made its nominations it was pretty much the same dreary list of "the great and the good" - including Sir Herbert Ouseley, who was a member of the panel appointing the 4 non-political Commissioners (In the British wa, he helped appoint them, they helped appoint him).


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