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Volume 451: debated on Monday 6 November 2006

27. What recent steps have been taken on the appointment of a new chairman of the Electoral Commission; and when such steps were taken. (99172)

The chairman of the Electoral Commission, like the other commissioners, is appointed by Her Majesty, following an address from this House. The appointment of the current chairman, Sam Younger, expires on 18 January 2007. I can announce that on 18 October Mr. Younger was offered a further period of office, to expire on 31 December 2008, subject to the statutory consultation required of the registered leaders of certain political parties and the agreement of this House. Mr. Younger accepted that offer on 27 October and the statutory consultation of party leaders was initiated on 30 October.

I am heartened by that reply and to learn that Sam Younger’s appointment has finally been sorted out. It is in the interests of all of us that such appointments are made in good time, and I was a little concerned that this one might not have been. Will the Committee consider examining the procedure for appointing the chairman with a view to ensuring that such appointments are made in good time in future?

Approaching first reappointments on the basis of a satisfactory performance appraisal reflected the approach of the code of practice for ministerial appointments to public bodies and Cabinet guidance on making public appointments. You, Mr. Speaker, invited Sir William McKay, a former Clerk of the House, to carry out an appraisal and consulted the Speaker’s Committee. As a result, it was unanimously decided that Mr. Younger should be invited to accept a further term. I note the other points that my hon. Friend has made.