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Role of the Commissioner

The Commissioner for Public Appointments regulates appointments made by ministers to senior positions in public bodies.  Those who make public appointments subject to regulation by the Commissioner are required to follow the Governance Code on Public Appointments and the Principles of Public Appointments published by the Cabinet Office.  The Commissioner can investigate complaints about appointments processes within his remit. 

Establishment and development of the role

The Commissioner and the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments were both established in 1995, on the recommendation of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.  There has been a continuing debate about the appropriate role of ministers in the public appointments process. 

Review of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, by Sir Gerry Grimstone. 

The Review in 2016 proposed new appointments principles and processes which emphasised the importance of ministerial responsibility.  The Government responded favourably to the findings.  The then outgoing Commissioner, Sir David Normington, was highly critical about the cumulative effect of Grimstone’s proposals and the Committee on Standards in Public Life also raised concerns. The Government consulted with the newly appointed Commissioner, Peter Riddell, as the Governance Code was being drafted, taking on board some of his suggestions. Developments since 2017 in the application of the Code and in the process of further opening out public appointments are considered in this paper. 


William Shawcross was appointed to the post of Commissioner in September 2021. The Rt Hon Peter Riddell CBE  held the post from March 2016. His original five year appointment was extended from March-September 2021, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

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