§ Mr. Robert McCartney
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland which staff appointments in(a) her Private Office, (b) the Northern Ireland Office and (c) the Northern Ireland Civil Service are subject to her personal choice. 
§ Marjorie Mowlam
Appointments made in the Northern Ireland Office and Northern Ireland Civil Service are made on the basis of merit and through fair and open competition.
As Secretary of State I do not engage in the process by which staff in the Northern Ireland Office and the Northern Ireland Civil Service are selected for appointment. However, my approval is obtained before some selections for appointment are finalised. These posts include those at NI Permanent Secretary level, some in my Private Office (as recommended by Dr. Maurice Hayes in his 1997 report on "Staff Deployment in the NICS"), where the nature of the work and the working relationship involved make it appropriate to do so.
The post of Head of the NI Civil Service and the three most senior posts in the NIO are subject to approval by the Prime Minister.