Peter Riddell lined up to succeed David Normington as public appointments watchdog

Outgoing director of the Institute for Government think tank due to take over from Sir David Normington at watchdog ensuring ministers fill top public jobs on merit

By Matt Foster

17 Mar 2016

Peter Riddell, the outgoing director of the Institute for Government think tank, has been lined up to succeed Sir David Normington as head of the watchdog overseeing the way people are recruited to top public posts – as Normington warned his successor "may have his work cut out".

The Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments was established in 1995, and aims to ensure that ministers only appoint people to key jobs in non-departmental public bodies, including regulators and NHS trusts, on merit.

Riddell – who has an extensive journalistic career including stints at The Times and The Financial Times and is also a regular columnist for CSW – announced on Monday that he would be stepping down from the IfG in the summer. 

Peter Riddell to step down as Institute for Government director
"Serious questions" over shake-up of public appointments process, says outgoing watchdog Sir David Normington

It has now been confirmed that Riddell will appear before MPs for a pre-appointment hearing for the CPA post on Monday. The outgoing IfG director has said he is "honoured" to have been nominated.

If his appointment is approved by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (Pacac) Riddell will succeed Normington, who has held the post alongside that of First Civil Service Commissioner for five years and who last week said there were "serious questions" over the future direction of the watchdog.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Normington said he welcomed the announcement that Riddell had been lined up to succeed him.

But he added: "I know Peter to be a person of integrity and independence who will want to ensure that public appointments are made on merit. I fear he may have his work cut out."

Normington's concerns over the CPA follow the publication of a Cabinet Office-commissioned review of its work.

The review, carried out by Sir Gerry Grimstone – chair of insurance firm Standard Life – called for a "significant shift" in the public appointments process to a "principles-based approach that will allow more flexibility and streamlined regulatory processes".

But Normington said that while he welcomed the government's committment to discuss the changes with his successor, he had questions over whether the plans handed too much power to ministers, and said they could "remove the checks and balances" on public appointments recommended the influential anti-sleaze report carried out by Lord Nolan in the 1990s.

The government has chosen to once again split the CPA post from the job of regulating senior civil service appointments, after merging the two jobs in 2011.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock said he was "delighted" to unveil Riddell as preferred candidate for the CPA post.

"Over many years, first as a journalist, then at the IfG, Peter has demonstrated insight, judgement and integrity," the minister said. "He has the expertise and character to make an excellent Public Appointments Commissioner and I am very pleased to recommend his appointment."

Update: This article was amended on March 17 to make clear that the CPA itself has not confirmed Riddell is the preferred candidate, only that he is set to face a pre-appointment hearing on the role

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