§ Mr. William Ross
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps she will take to ensure that persons she appoints to public bodies reflect the various communities, political parties and religious denominations in Northern Ireland; to how many such bodies she makes appointments; and what is the statutory basis which requires her to ensure that her appointments reflect different groups and bodies. 
§ Mr. Paul Murphy
All the Northern Ireland Departments, including the Northern Ireland Office, fully endorse the Guidance issued by the Commissioner for Public Appointments, Sir Leonard Peach, that all public appointments should be governed by the overriding principle of selection based on merit, and on the basis of merit, to ensure that their bodies, as far as possible, reflect the composition of the population of Northern Ireland. There are 148 bodies featured in the cabinet office publication "Public Bodies 1997" to which the Departments make appointments. None of the bodies have a statutory base which requires appointments to reflect various communities, political party and religious denominations.