Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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Government rejects calls to improve accountability of Whitehall’s non-executive directors

The Government has rejected calls by MPs to strengthen the accountability and transparency measures governing Whitehall’s non-executive directors (NEDs), a role designed to provide independent scrutiny and oversee the work of Government departments.

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Image credit: Tyler Allicock/UK Parliament

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s report, published in June, called for the Government to be more transparent about the recruitment processes for non-executives and the influence they wield in Government.

In its response, published today, the Government rejected calls to update the corporate code governing the role to provide clarity on the types of skills and experience it looks for when appointing NEDs, as well as further recommendations aimed at increasing transparency around the role.  

The Government also defended the appropriateness of appointing individuals with political or personal connections to ministers to the roles, and ignored calls to reinstate NEDs independence, which ministers removed from the corporate code governing the role. 

The Committee welcomes areas where the Government agrees with its recommendations, including to: 

  • publish a list of NEDs by department on GOV.UK; 
  • externally regulate appointments; and 
  • report data on diversity of NEDs including by ethnic minority. 

Chair's comment

Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Chair, William Wragg MP, said:

“It is disappointing to see that the Government has failed to take seriously our main recommendations to clarify the role of non-executive directors in Government. In its response, there is a prevailing sense of unwillingness on the part of the Government to commit to reforming or replacing the outdated governance code.  

“The Government has even refused to take greater responsibility for monitoring compliance with the existing code, leaving the public in the dark about recruitment processes, potential conflicts of interest, or questionable appointments of non-executive directors to government roles.  

“While the Government has agreed to implement a small number of the Committee’s recommendations, the need for further reform remains. This Committee maintains that there ought to be greater transparency and accountability in the appointment and activities of those in a position to work closely with our policymakers.” 

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