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Non-departmental public body

 

In the United Kingdom, non-departmental public body (NDPB) is a classification applied by the Cabinet Office, Treasury, the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to quangos (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations). NDPBs are not an integral part of any government department and carry out their work at arm's length from ministers, although ministers are ultimately responsible to Parliament for the activities of bodies sponsored by their department.

These bodies consist of boards which advise ministers on particular policy areas. They are often supported by a small secretariat from the parent department and any expenditure is paid for by that department.

These bodies usually deliver a particular public service and are overseen by a board rather than ministers. Appointments are made by ministers following the Code of Practice of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. They employ their own staff and are allocated their own budgets.

These bodies have jurisdiction in an area of the law. They are co-ordinated by the Tribunals Service, an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice, and supervised by the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council, itself a NDPB sponsored by the Ministry of Justice.

NDPB differ from executive agencies as they are not created to carry out ministerial orders or policy, instead they are more or less self-determining and enjoy greater independence. They are also not directly part of government like a non-ministerial government department being at a remove from both ministers and any elected assembly or parliament. Typically an NDPB would be established under statute and be accountable to Parliament rather than to Her Majesty's Government. This arrangement allows more financial independence since the government is obliged to provide funding to meet statutory obligations.

In March 2009 there were nearly 800 public bodies that were sponsored by the UK Government. This total included 198 executive NDPBs, 410 advisory bodies, 33 tribunals, 21 public corporations, the Bank of England, 2 public broadcasting authorities and 23 NHS bodies. However, the classification is conservative and does not include bodies that are the responsibility of devolved government, various lower tier boards (including a considerable number within the NHS), and also other boards operating in the public sector (e.g. school governors and police authorities).

This concern led to the formation of a Committee on Standards in Public Life (the Nolan Committee) which first reported in 1995 and recommended the creation of a "public appointments commissioner" to make sure that appropriate standards were met in the appointment of members of QUANGOs. The Government accepted the recommendation, and the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments was established in November 1995.

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