Public jobs to be vetted US-style

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American-style confirmation hearings for senior public appointments - like that of the Governor of the Bank of England - could be introduced by an incoming Labour government as part of a sweeping programme of parliamentary reform.

Ann Taylor, shadow leader of the Commons, will today announce, with the approval of Tony Blair, the Labour leader, a six-point plan for parliamentary and Whitehall reform which she will say is designed to enhance the role of the Commons in scrutinising and checking the power of the executive.

Mrs Taylor says the Labour Party plans to consult widely on how Commons select committees could be able to examine some of the most senior of a host of public posts and quango chairmanships on the model of confirmation hearings carried out by US congressional committees. The move could coincide with more staffing help for select committees. The idea was developed by Mrs Taylor when she was Labour's education spokeswoman.

Labour sources were cautious last night about how senior the affected appointees would be and whether they could include figures like the chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation, or the Lord Chief Justice.

But Mrs Taylor will make clear that she wants to start a public debate in a way in which appropriate select committees could be given a role in confirming a range of public appointments. Other points in the plan include:

A new set of rules for ministerial accountability. The issue is being considered in the wake of the Scott report by the Public Services Select Committee.

The loan of civil servants to the Opposition parties - including a Whitehall foreign policy adviser in the Leader of the Opposition's office - as takes place in Western Europe.

New rules on the ethics of Parliament and government to cut out sleaze and a continued role for Lord Nolan's committee in monitoring parliamentary standards.

Enhancement of the role of Prime Minister's questions, including a new half hour session designed for eliciting information from the Government rather than confrontational party point scoring.

Moves to encourage better legislation such as a "first reading" committee to examine bills in draft form; shorter summer recesses and more civilised working hours; and the power to table parliamentary questions in the recess.

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