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Policy Timeline

 

The Long View

1968 – The Fulton Report (called for fundamental review following the growth of public bodies).

1979 – Pliatzky Report (cosmetic structural reforms, plus more guidance).

1986 – Ibbs Report (led to the creation of executive agencies).

2002 – Alexander Report (found total confusion between executive agencies and NDPBs).

2003 – Haskins Review (focused on rural delivery but led to rationalisation process and the creation of Natural England).

2004 – Warner Review (‘reconfiguring he Department of Health’s ALBs’).

2004 – Gershon Review (suggested the need for some public bodies to be amalgamated).

2009-10 – Smarter Government Programme (reduction of ALBs by over 120; pledge to save £500m).

2010 – Coalition Government Public Bodies Reform Programme (The Coalition Agreement sets out the intention to ‘reduce the number of quangos’, followed by a review of all public bodies and the development of an ambitious reform programme from this – with 200 abolitions, 120 mergers, 176 retain and reforms, and a plan for triennial reviews of all remaining bodies. The Public Bodies Act receives royal assent in December 2011, providing ministers with powers to reform or abolish statutory bodies).

 

In-Depth Policy Timeline

2009

08 September – In opposition, David Cameron commits a Conservative government to undertaking a review of all quangos. Introduces three tests:

  1. Does the public body undertake a precise technical operation?
  2. Is it necessary for impartial decisions to be made about the distribution of taxpayers’ money?
  3. Does it fulfil a need for facts to be transparently determined, independent of political interference?

→ Key reference: David Cameron: Cutting the Cost of Politics.

December – Smarter Government programme stated there was ‘scope for reform’ to ALBs and announces the abolition of 120.

→ Key reference: HM Government, Putting the Frontline First: Smarter Government.

 

2010

March – Labour government publishes plans for a fundamental review and new rules to prevent the proliferation of ALBs.

  • Proposes VFM assessments before any body created, sunset clauses in all legislation, tighter relationship with parent departments, and to ‘conduct a cross-Whitehall exercise to assess whether a one-off Bill to tidy up outdated legislation and enable obsolete bodies to be wound-up would be worthwhile’ (p.23).
  • Savings of £500 million by 2012-13 projected, and six more bodies added to the abolition list.

→ Key reference: HM Treasury: Reforming Arm’s Length Bodies

13 April – Conservatives publish General Election manifesto with commitment to (inter alia) ‘cut the number of quangos’ and ‘examine the case for giving select committees the power to prevent increases in quangos budgets’. The Liberal Democrats did not make any broad commitments for quangos in their manifesto, but did highlight some specific bodies.

→ Key reference: Conservative Party, An Invitation to Join the Government of Britain

20 May – Coalition Agreement published. An explicit commitment to ‘reduce the number of quangos’ (p.16).

→ Key reference: HM Government: The Coalition: Our Programme for Government

25 May – Queen’s Speech highlights: ‘The cost of bureaucracy and the number of public bodies will be reduced’. The accompanying Cabinet Office documentation refers to plans to introduce a Public Bodies (Reform) Bill.

→ Key reference: HM Government, Queen’s Speech 2010

June – Cabinet Office publishes Structural Reform Plan. Plan includes a commitment to ‘reduce the number and cost of public bodies by abolishing or moving into government departments all public bodies except those that pass government tests’.

→ Key reference: Cabinet Office: Structural Reform Plan

10 June – Francis mayde announces a review of all public bodies to the House of Commons. Review based upon the three tests introduced by David Cameron in September 2009 (see above).

→ Key reference: HC Deb. 09 June c313.

July – Institute for Government (IfG) publish report on arm’s length government. Report warns against playing the quango numbers game, and recommends a more coherent and explicit classification system.

→ Key reference: Institute for Government: Read Before Burning: Arm’s Length Government for a New Administration

01 July – Cabinet office publishes details of all non-departmental public body (NDPB) employees earning more than £150,000. Announcement contextualised in transparency agenda and PB reform programme.

27 July – Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) questions Oliver Letwin and Francis Maude. Ministers agree to give PASC a role in approving new or re-organised ALBs (see Q69).

→ Key reference: HC 397, Work of the Cabinet Office

14 October – Coalition Government’s proposals announced following a review of 901 bodies: 192 to be abolished; 118 merged into 57; 171 to be substantially reformed while maintaining current status; 40 listed as still ‘under consideration’. Liam Byrne’s (Labour) response: ‘In March I told the House that 123 quangos would need to close, and from first glance at this statement it appears that two thirds of the 192 ALBs that need to close are those that I announced in March’.

→ Key reference: Cabinet Office, Public Bodies Reform – Proposals for Change

20 October – Further announcement were made by individual departments following the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

28 OctoberPublic Bodies Bill introduced to the House of Lords. It spent nine days in committee, three in report, before its second reading took place on 09 May.

04 November – House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution publishes critical report.

→ Key reference: HL 51 Public Bodies Bill, Sixth Report of Session 2010-11.

09 November – Second Reading debate in the House of Lords, lasting eight hours.

Key dates: In committee on 23 November, 29 November, 01 December, 14 December, 21 December, 11 january, 28 February, 07 March, and 09 March. Three days spent on report: 23 march, 28 March and 04 April.

14 December – Government defeated in the House of Lords 266/165 on an amendment to remove the Chief Coroner and associated officers from the Bill.

→ Key reference: Library Standard Note, SN/5721, Abolition of the Office of Chief Coroner.

 

2011

07 January – PASC publishes highly critical report on the government’s plans.

→ Key reference: HC537, Smaller Government: Shrinking the Quango State, Fifth Report of Session 2010-2011.

11 January – House of Lords Committee Sixth Sitting.

→ Key reference: HL Deb. 1295

21 January – Joint Committee on Human Rights report.

→ Key reference: HL 86, Legislative Scrutiny: Public Bodies Bill

January – Quarterly status check reveals 24 non-statutory and 1 statutory bodies now abolished.

→ Key reference: Public Bodies Reform Quarterly Status Check.

17 February – Government announces that the Forestry Commission will be taken out of the Bill.

→ Key reference: Library Standard Note, SN/5734, The Forestry Commission

28 February and 07 March – House of Lords Committee sittings (seventh and eighth).

→ Key reference: HL Deb. c.797; c.1363

7-8 March – Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Parliamentary Briefing on Public Bodies Bill. Concerns raised over the ministerial powers to be conferred by the Bill and the impact they have on bodies concerned with human rights which should be independent and able to hold government to account. Recommends EHRC reform is not formally a part of the Public Bodies reform process.

→ Key reference: EHRC: Parliamentary Briefing: Public Bodies Bill

March – Government responds to critical PASC report (see above). Suggests £2.6 billion in cumulative administrative savings over the spending review (direct savings). Total public spending channelled through public bodies will drop by £11 billion by 2014-15. If the savings for each year of the CSR are taken into account, this will lead to £30 billion no longer being channelled through them.

→ Key reference: Cm. 8044, Government Response to HC 537

28 March – House of Lords Report Second Sitting. Government defeated on an amendment to take the Youth Justice Board out of the Bill, 225/162.

→ Key reference: HL Deb. c977.

April – Quarterly satus check reveals tha 45 non-statutory and 1 statutory bodies have now been abolished.

→ Key reference: Public Bodies Reform Quarterly Status Check, April 2011.

10 MayPublic Bodies Bill introduced to the House of Commons.

19 May – PASC publishes further evidence.

→ Key reference: HC 909, Public Bodies Bill – Written Evidence, Session 2010-12.

June – Publication of Triennial Review Guidelines.

July – Quarterly status check reveals 46 non-statutory and 3 statutory bodies have now been abolished.

→ Key reference: Public Bodies Reform Quarterly Status Check, July 2011.

12 July – Second Reading in the House of Commons.

→ Key reference: HC Deb. c.212.

September – Public Bodies Committee sittings: first and second, 08 Sept; third and fourth, 13 Sept; fifth and sixth, 15 Sept. Proposed amendment to remove ECHR from Bill defeated in Commons (9/11).

→ Key reference: HC Committee Debate, sixth sitting, Public Bodies Bill, c.199-215.

19 October – PASC reports Sir David Normington’s plans to reform the public appointments system and Whitehall’s plans to esbalish a new Centre of Excellence.

→ Key reference: HC 1389, Public Appointments: Regulation, Recruitment and Pay, Fourteenth Report of Session 2010-12.

October – Quarterly status check reveals 50 non-statutory and 3 statutory bodies now abolished.

→ Key reference: Public Bodies Reform Quarterly Status Check, October 2011

14 December – Cabinet Office Ministerial Statement. Updated list of proposals for the reform of public bodies and guidance to support the broader programme. First wave of triennial reviews announced.

→ Key Reference: Cabinet Office, Public Bodies Reform – Proposals for Change, December 2011

19 DecemberPublic Bodies Bill reveives Royal Assent.

→ Key reference: Public Bodies Act 2011

 

2012

19 January – First Public Bodies Order laid before parliament (abolition of National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts). This is the first time the parliamentary order makes use of the Public Bodies Act.

→ Key reference: The Public Bodies (Abolition of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) Order 2012

20 January – National Audit Office VFM Rport published.

  • Puts the costs for abolishing the 22 bodies at £830 million and not the £425 million proposed by ministers when they launched the reform agenda.
  • ‘Insufficient grasp’ in departmens of costs – questioned whether will improve accountability.

→ Key reference: National Audit Office, Reorganising Central Government Bodies

January – Quarterly status check reveals 52 non-statutory bodies and 4 statutory bodies now abolished.

→ Key reference: Public Bodies Reform Quarterly Status Check, January 2012

April – Quarterly status check reveals 59 non-statutory bodies and 14 statutory bodies now abolished.

→ Key reference: Public Bodies Reform Quarterly Status Check, April 2012

24 April – Public Accounts Committee report published. Report raises some concerns over the likely efficiency savings to be gained from
the reforms, and highlights the need for the Cabinet Office to ‘give departments a clearer lead on issues common to all reorganisations… and to challenge departments on their progress in managing costs and realising the asserted benefits of reorganisations’.

→ Key reference: Public Accounts Committee: Reorganising Central Government Bodies: Seventy-Seventh Report of the Session 2010-2012

July – Quarterly status check reveals 60 non-statutory and 4 satutory bodies now abolished.

→ Key reference: Public Bodies Reform Quarterly Status Check, July 2012

16 July – Government responds to PAC report. It highlights that the £2.6 billion savings figure incorporates wider efficiency savings from bodies that will continue to exist, but acknowledges that the cost of reform is still unclear.

→ Key reference: HM Treasury Treasury MinutesGovernment responses on the Seventy Fifth, the Seventy Seventh, the Seventy Ninth to the Eighty First and the Eighty Third to the Eighty Eighth Reports from the Committee of Public Accounts: Session 2010-12

October – Responsibility for public bodies reform transferred from Francis Maude to Nick Hurd (Minister for Civil Society).

December – Cabinet Office publishes Public Bodies 2012 report, which claims an overall reduction in public bodies of 220, made up of more than 130 abolitions and more than 150 bodies merged into fewer than 70.

→ Key reference: Cabinet Office – Public Bodies 2012

 

2013

January – Quarterly status check reveals 81 non-statutory and 55 statutory bodies now abolished.

April – Quarterly status check reveals 83 non-statutory and 62 statutory bodies now abolished.

17 April – National Audit Office report on the work of the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group is published, which describes the benefits realisation framework implemented by the Cabinet Office to help identify the £2.6billion savings figure.

→ Key reference: National Audit Office – The Efficiency and Reform Group

July – Quarterly status check reveals 83 non-statutory and 63 statutory bodies now abolished.

December – Public Bodies 2013 Published.

→ Key reference: Public Bodies 2013

 

2014

February – Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) launched and inquiry into the accountability of public bodies.

→ Key reference: PASC inquiry into the accountability of public bodies

March – Progress on Public Bodies Reform Document published.

→ Key reference: Progress on Public Bodies Reform Progress on Public Bodies Reform

July – Public Bodies Reform Strategy Published.

→ Key reference: Public Bodies Reform Strategy Document Public Bodies Reform Strategy Document

November – Public Administration Committee – First Report

‘Who’s accountable? Relationships between Government and arm’s-length bodies’

→ Key reference Public Administration Committee – First Report ‘Who’s accountable? Relationships between Government and arm’s-length bodies’

November – Administrative Classification of Public Bodies: Review

This looked at whether the current classification system is fit for purpose. Evidence was gathered on the current system and views were sought from individuals and organisations affected by it.

→ Key reference Administrative Classification of Public Bodies: Review

November – Progress update published.

→ Key reference: 2014 Progress Report

November – Public Bodies 2014 Published

Key Reference: Public Bodies 2014

 

2015

May – UK General Election

December – Public Bodies 2015 Published

→ Key reference: Public Bodies 2015