Cabinet Office
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New legislation introduced to enable Quango reforms

The Public Bodies Bill, which will ensure the necessary legal framework is in place for the Government to carry out its public bodies reforms, has been published in Parliament today. 

Earlier this month, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, summarised plans to substantially reform hundreds of public bodies as part of the Government’s commitment to radically increase the transparency and accountability of all public services and enable the Government to operate in a more efficient way.

The Bill will enable the reforms to public bodies to be implemented where legislation is needed.  It is necessary because some bodies that are due to be reformed were set up in legislation, so new powers are needed to be able to abolish or merge them, transfer or devolve their functions, or reform the way they operate. 

In addition, the Bill contains a schedule listing a number of public bodies which were part of the review process and which would need legislation to make any reforms to them in the future. The list includes bodies for which there are no plans to reform. This is to ensure that, if the Government wishes to make changes to these bodies in the future following further review processes, the necessary legal framework will already be in place. 

The Public Bodies Bill is an enabling bill which means it will not itself make any changes to public bodies. It will:

  • Create a legal framework that will enable Government departments to implement the majority of public bodies reforms that require legislation and that are not already covered in other departmental bills.
  • Create legislative powers which give ministers the ability to abolish or merge bodies; modify a body's constitutional or funding arrangements; or transfer its functions elsewhere.
  • Give Secretaries of State the necessary powers to take forward changes to their bodies in secondary legislation when they are ready to do so.

The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude said:

“We promised we would restore political accountability for the decisions that affect people’s lives and bring in a new age of transparency in Government. The quango reforms I set out earlier this month show just how serious we are about doing just that. Today’s Bill shows we are ready to make these changes quickly. We believe the responsibility for difficult and important decisions should lie with ministers, not unelected quango officials, and we plan to implement the changes as rapidly as possible.”

On the 14 October the Government announced proposals to reform 481 bodies. Of that total 192 will cease to be public bodies and their functions will either be brought back in government, devolved to local government, moved out of government or abolished altogether. Another 118 public bodies will be merged down to 57 and a further 171 will be substantially reformed. 

In those cases where public bodies remain at arm’s length from the Government, work will continue to ensure they become more open, accountable and efficient. All of the retained bodies had to meet one of the three tests: performing a technical function; requiring political impartiality; or needing to act independently to establish facts.

Notes to Editors

  1. A copy of the Bill can be found at: www.parliament.uk/business/bills-and-legislation/
  2. Public bodies that are due to be reformed, and need legislation, are listed in one or more of the Bill’s six principal schedules, according to the reform that is planned (abolition, merger, modification or transfer of functions).  Ministers can only propose a particular change to a body if it is specifically listed in the appropriate schedule.
  3. The schedules in the Bill correspond to clauses in the Bill.  The clauses give ministers powers to make orders in secondary legislation to undertake the following specific reforms:

    - Clause 1: to abolish a body
    - Clause 2: to merge bodies
    - Clause 3: to modify the constitutional arrangements of a body
    - Clause 4: to modify the funding arrangements of a body
    - Clause 5: to modify or transfer a body’s functions
    - Clause 6: to delegate a body’s functions
  4. Schedule 7 lists all of the bodies that were subject to the Public Bodies review which would require legislation to affect any possible changes in the future.  Whilst bodies listed in Schedule 7 could be subject to future use of the Bill’s powers, inclusion in this schedule does not necessarily signal that reform is planned.   It is envisaged that some of these bodies’ functions would be excluded from future use of the Bill’s powers.  This would apply to an economic or network regulatory function, for example, where the risk associated with the potential use of the powers could impact on regulatory stability or the cost of capital.  For bodies that are rightly independent from Government, such as broadcasting corporations, inclusion in Schedule 7 should not be construed as an attempt to undermine this independence. 
  5. A number of other planned reforms will also be taken forward within departmental bills, where they are scheduled for this session.
  6. The full list of reforms to the Government’s public bodies, announced on 14 October, can be found on the Cabinet Office website: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/
  7. The following table summarises the number of bodies that are proposed for reform:
  1. Where proposed changes have implications for the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Government will continue to work closely with them to develop and implement changes.
  2. ‘Quango’ is not an official classification. Within government, ‘quango’ has traditionally been defined as meaning ‘non-departmental public body (NDPB) NDPBs can be:
    1. Executive NDPBs, e.g. grant or service delivery, regulatory or training providers; or
    2. Advisory NDPBs, e.g. scientific committees or pay review bodies;
  3. This reform process covered HM Government’s NDPBs and also considered other statutory bodies, such as some non-ministerial departments and some public corporations, bringing the total number of organisations covered by this process to 901.
  4. The announcement on 14 October included all announcements made since the election, such as the abolition of the Regional Development Agencies and the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency.  It included changes which the previous Government had proposed but had not implemented and which this Government is confirming, such as selling the Horserace Totaliser Board (the Tote), reducing the number of Advisory Committees on Justices of the Peace, abolishing the Agricultural Dwelling House Committees and Agricultural Wages Committees and the Hearing Aid Council.
  5. Some of the proposals in the 14 October announcement are subject to legislation, impact assessment, and/or consultation, where appropriate.
  6. A final decision has still not been taken on the status of a number of public bodies and they are currently listed as “under consideration”.  This means that:
    1. It is being considered by a wider formal review of that policy area which has yet to be completed;
    2. A final decision on whether and/or how to reform has not been made.  This may be because, for example, it is linked to wider service reforms.  Where options are still being considered, it may be the particular way in which an organisation operates, rather than the overall status, which is being assessed.
  7. The October 14 announcement relates to the status of the Government’s public bodies.  All of the public sector, including public bodies, will need to undergo further reforms and efficiency measures as a consequence of the Spending Review.  Those public bodies that are expected to maintain their current status may be subject to significant changes in their budget and structure as a result of this process.  The Spending Review was announced on 20 October: for more information please contact HM Treasury Press Office directly.
  8. For questions about the public bodies review process, please contact the Cabinet Office Press Office.  For questions about individual bodies, please contact the relevant departmental press offices.
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