Status of non-departmental public bodies, executive agencies and non-ministerial departments
Produced in partnership with Carl Gardner of Head of Legal
Status of non-departmental public bodies, executive agencies and non-ministerial departments

The following Public Law guidance note Produced in partnership with Carl Gardner of Head of Legal provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Status of non-departmental public bodies, executive agencies and non-ministerial departments
  • Non-departmental public bodies
  • Advisory NDPBs
  • Executive NDPBs
  • Tribunal NDPBs
  • Other NDPBs
  • Executive agencies
  • Non-ministerial departments
  • Criticism of current classifications of public bodies

This Practice Note discusses the nature and status of three types of public bodies: ‘non-departmental public bodies’ or ‘NDPBs’, executive agencies of government, and non-ministerial departments. What they have in common is that they are part of government, but are not themselves traditional government departments headed by ministers (although in the case of executive agencies, they are a part of such a department). They are often said to operate ‘at arm’s length’ from government.

Rarely, a public body can fall into more than one of these categories. Treasury Solicitor’s Department is classified by Cabinet Office as both a non-ministerial department and an executive agency (although the annual report does not say of which department).

To take one central government department as an example, the Department for Education works with nine agencies and public bodies including two non-ministerial departments (Ofqual and Ofsted), three executive agencies, one executive NDPB and two advisory NDPBs.

Non-departmental public bodies

A non-departmental public bodies (NDPB) is a body which fulfils some function in the process of national government but is not a government department or part of one. The NDPB classification is not a legal classification but an administrative classification which successive governments have used to identify those public bodies that operate at arm’s length from ministers, but for which ministers are ultimately accountable.

There are four types of

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