Background to the report

Non-executive directors (NEDs) are crucial to the effective running of government. They are individuals who sit on governing boards of government departments and arm’s-length bodies, including non-departmental public bodies and government companies, to provide external expertise. They provide strategic leadership, scrutinise performance, promote transparency and take a long-term perspective.

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Departments and their ministers are primarily responsible for appointing their own non-executives. Cabinet Office has oversight of the public appointments process and provides support and guidance to departments. It maintains the Governance Code, which sets out the process of making a regulated public appointment and collects data on the appointments process across government. In some cases, the Prime Minister’s office is involved in the appointments process. For example, where the Prime Minister is responsible for making the appointment or has an interest in it.

Scope of the report

This report covers the appointment and experience of NEDs of government departments and public bodies. It does not cover other types of public appointment. In this report we focus particularly on regulated appointments, as this is where Cabinet Office has a defined oversight role.

We consider the experience of NEDs once appointed to their roles, including the training and induction they are provided with and how their skills and experience are utilised by government. We do not examine or report on the value for money of the appointments process. We do not consider the wider governance structures of the organisations to which they are appointed.


NEDs make an important contribution to the running of government, providing an independent perspective, expertise, and challenge where needed. However, the government must do more to ensure the best quality of candidates are recruited. This includes fixing the often long and drawn-out appointments and re-appointments process, which poses risks to the quality and diversity of boards, as well as to the governance of those organisations when vacancies are not filled.

Cabinet Office’s new system is a positive step towards identifying where delays are occurring in the system and addressing them, as well as tracking the quality of candidates and the diversity of NEDs across government. Once Cabinet Office has put in place clear mechanisms to analyse the data and ensured that departments are consistently using the new system, this data should enable more transparency and better decision-making, allowing some long-standing issues with the public appointments process to be addressed.


Publication details

Press release

View press release (2 Feb 2024)

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