Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420-439)|
ROCHE MP, MR
MP AND MS
THURSDAY 25 APRIL 2002
420. Scottish appointments. There are too few
women, too few disabled people and too many from the central belt.
As a Scot I can understand that because I come from the Borders
and that has always been a complaint. On that sort of trendand
I will come on to regional assemblies in a minutehow do
you get round a problem like that? You cannot dictate to a Scottish
Parliament that they have to change but you see there is a problem.
(Mr Leslie) That is devolution. We are here to talk
about those issues that come under the ambit of Westminster accountability
and Westminster ministers. The Scottish Executive have their own
policy and approach and are accountable for their own policies.
421. There are a lot of things that are not
devolved such as foreign policy and defence and under the Ministry
of Defence there is an enormous amount of appointments which you
keep your beady eye on, I trust, which do come under the Scottish
situation. I am not going to talk about Wales because Kevin will
do that. There is a Parliament that you have still got to vote
appointments into. Are you able to put your model forward?
(Mrs Roche) Where they are devolved responsibilities,
as Chris says, that is devolution. One would hope and also one
would expect that what the Parliament will do would be perhaps
to look at what we are doing. We obviously keep in touch. It may
well be that they will perhaps decide to look at some of the same
practices we have followed on diversity. We would welcome that,
of course we would.
(Ms Ghosh) Of course Dame Rennie, to whom you have
obviously already talked, is fully involved in all the arrangements
for setting up the new separate Commissioner for Public Appointments
in Scotland. She is fully seized of the importance because she
believes so strongly in her own procedures.
422. That is precisely why I was asking the
question. Will you back Dame Rennie? I was hoping you would come
up and say, "Yes, we will back Dame Rennie all the way".
I want to come on to regional assemblies. I come from the West
Country. We are looking for ethnic minorities in Bridgewater and
we have not got many and we are stuck. I am a Scot and we have
the Cornish so there is not a great deal to choose from. How are
you going to build them into regional assemblies, the RDAs, etcetera,
which are speaking for vast areas of this country with enormous
diversity. If you take the West Country and turn it on its end
you get the Scottish borders.
(Mr Leslie) I think you are going to be one of the
first in the queue at the Vote Office for the White Paper.
423. I am and I am also going to be there for
the Civil Service Act but I am still waiting.
(Mr Leslie) It will be out in due course, of course.
The point you are making, though, is that if there are bodies
for which we are responsible
424. Very much so.
(Mr Leslie)That we try and get the best reflection
possible of those people on the ground locally, those communities
that are served and using the services of those public bodies.
We have got to find a way of reflecting that. I do not know Bridgewater
that well. I am sure there are a whole range of different people,
dare I say men and women as well in Bridgewater who may be able
to serve on public bodies and we should be encouraging them to
425. It goes slightly deeper than that. Since
you have been very kind and mentioned it, if you look at the West
Country, we have Objective 1 and Objective 2 but Objective 1 is
purely to Cornwall and there is a real feeling that there are
resources going in there and representation from one particular
area which is too much for the rest and therefore the rest is
being slightly discriminated against because of one particular
part of our region. How do you get round that sort of feeling?
(Mrs Roche) It is not easy. I was quite involved in
the discussions over structural funds when I was DTI Minister.
I negotiated the deal on behalf of the UK. It is difficult whenever
you are talking about the regions. Of course you will get different
bits of the region which feel they do not get their share of the
cake and the trick in this, of course, is to make sure you have
processes where you try and involve as many people as possible.
I think the RDA in your region has been very successful and has
managed to marry quite a lot of these different things together.
I completely understand some of the issues there have been.
Mr Liddell-Grainger: I am not sure that business
in the South West would agree with you. I think they feel the
Chairman: This possibly takes us slightly beyond
our remit, fascinating though it is.
Mr Liddell-Grainger: To an extent. We are talking
about appointments to public bodies.
Chairman: We are talking about appointments
to public bodies.
426. And this is a public body and I am trying
to get down to representation and how representation is set. I
am not quite sure I have got that. I was flicking through this
report and I am confused as to what you are trying to achieve.
There is an interesting one here where I did notice in the Cabinet
Office in 2005 you are going to have 53.9 per cent of women. Are
you discriminating against men in 2005? Is it going to go the
(Mrs Roche) That is our prediction if we added the
numbers of women in the WMC and the EOC. We had the Women's National
Commission and the EOC and that is our prediction for the way
that the figures were going. At the end of the day what we are
after very simply is the best people for the job. That is what
we expect. What we want to appoint is the best people for the
job. The difficulties with our procedures and the lack of awareness
means that we do not get the best pool of talent. What the research
shows is that they do pretty well in an objective and open process.
The problem is because of lack of awareness people do not put
their names forward.
427. Which departments of government are really
doing the business on this and which are lagging behind?
(Mrs Roche) Health has done pretty well, has it not?
(Mr Leslie) A lot of the trends on diversity go from
local to regional to national and the local and regional tend
to be more diverse. We need to look at those national strategic
public bodies. That is where I personally feel the focus for attention
428. But the bodies that sit under which department
are doing better?
(Ms Ghosh) There are these super tables here.
429. Just give us the verdict.
(Ms Ghosh) Indeed, as the Minister mentioned, the
Department of Health does do well with 54 per cent men 46 per
cent women for example. That sort of figure reinforces the point
that the Minister made earlier that we do comparatively very well
where women (in this particular case) can see a close connection
between the situation and the scope of the body. So, for example,
National Health Service bodies which will come under that DOH
figure will do extremely well. Women see an instant connection
and also there is the relative visibility of those bodies locally.
Whether this department does well and that department does not
so well may to some extent be a function of this very fact of
visibility and women wanting to make a difference in areas where
they feel they have a role.
430. Who does badly?
(Ms Ghosh) The Export Credit Guarantees Department
does extremely badly.
431. That is boys' stuff, is it?
(Ms Ghosh) Moneywomen cannot cope with finance
so that must be the answer there! As I say, all these figures
are readily available here. The Treasury does not do very well.
Perhaps that has got the same problem there.
(Mr Leslie) I feel I should defend the Treasury.
(Ms Ghosh) OFTEL does not do terribly well, DEFRA
does not do terribly well.
(Mrs Roche) The Treasury will be noted. Its card is
(Ms Ghosh) I am only quoting from very publicly available
figures and they include ethnic minority and disability figures.
(Mr Leslie) The point that we were making is do not
forget that the Treasury will not have a lot of public bodies
that are locally and regionally based. Because they tend to have
disproportionately more of the national strategically based bodies
they will therefore reflect those same difficulties that most
other departments in the country have. For those bodies where
the appointments are supposedly seen to be requiring particular
qualifications or particular specialisms those are the ones where
we need to put more effort into achieving diversity.
Chairman: Your apologia would have been noted
in the right quarters. There will be bells in a minute that will
ring twice, if you can just stop talking while the bells ring
for the note takers and then we will proceed after. But until
they ring, Kevin Brennan.
432. I apologise to our guests, the bells do
not mean it is the end of the lesson, we have got to carry on
after them. I was interested, Barbara, when you spoke earlier
on and you said that officials really only get involved with names
and things at the end of the process.
(Mrs Roche) Ministers.
433. Sorry, I beg your pardon, ministers only
get involved at the end of the process. I find that quite surprising.
In terms of really important public appointments do ministers
not have a meeting with officials at the beginning of the process
and not just in order to discuss the criteria, as you said earlier
on on the record, but also for ministers to perhaps suggest maybe
(Mrs Roche) It can happen.
(Mr Leslie) It can happen. The point is that because
ministers are ultimately accountable to Parliament for the appointments
that they make they have, of course, the freedom and ability to
look around and pick the best people who they feel are there to
do the job, so in certain circumstances they might want to look
at general criteria alone, in other circumstances they might want
to suggest that people put themselves forward, it is on a case
by case basis really.
(Mrs Roche) It is difficult because so much depends
on the appointment that you are talking about. In the main you
may be thinking about the criteria. If it is just a thing that
is coming up the whole time you may not be looking at criteria
at all if it is a regular appointment to a public body where in
some cases you will have two or three people retiring and some
other people going on, it really may just be at the end of the
process. Then you will be looking at not only the three places
that you are replacing but what the body looks like with it. Sometimes
you will be looking at a mix of experience and new blood coming
434. I just wanted to clarify that point.
(Mrs Roche) It does happen.
435. I do not think there is anything wrong
with it, incidentally. I was surprised when you said that earlier
on because I would have assumed that it would happen.
(Mrs Roche) It sometimes does happen but very often
a lot of these appointmentsI hate to use the word routine
because they are doing important thingsare fairly routine
appointments into numerous important but worthy bodies. Clearly
if you are doing something that is new and something quite high
profile then you might be looking at it slightly differently.
I would say it was the exception rather than the rule but it does
436. Ten per cent of cases? I am talking about
(Ms Ghosh) It would just be a guestimate. Obviously
the key thing from our point of view is that wherever the suggestions
come from, and when it is a high profile appointment lots of people
may know about it and ministers might get suggestions from parliamentary
colleagues, in each case there will be an open invitation, that
is a key requirement of Dame Rennie's rules, and what we are most
interested in is that wherever the initial pool of applicants
comes from the right procedures are followed thereafter in terms
of making it entirely fair and open.
437. Obviously things have changed hugely from
the days when the Secretary of State for Wales would ring up his
mate and ask him to become Chairman of the Welsh Tourist Board
and that sort of thing. As I said, I emphasise, I think it is
entirely natural that happens and if people said it did not happen
I would find it difficult to believe. Is there sufficient protection
now within the system to ensure that officials do not simply take
that as meaning that that is who the minister wants to appoint?
(Mr Leslie) I think there is and I think Dame Rennie
Fritchie as Commissioner for Public Appointments, enforcing her
Code of Practice, together with the role of the independent assessors
who work in the individual departments are really rigorously making
sure that is the case.
438. So she would know?
(Mr Leslie) She would report if there was any issue.
439. She would know. The official would actually
record the conversation and she would be aware of the fact that
a minister had been the one who had initiated that name as a suggestion.
(Mr Leslie) I think that the appointment process is
quite clearly set out from those applications that arise to the
drawing up of the shortlist, the interview process, to the actual
appointment process. The independent assessors and the Commissioner
are able to monitor those statements.
(Mrs Roche) In my experience officials are certainly
very well aware of the proprieties and what the process has to
be because in a sense they are accountable for their own actions
through this process as well. Again, in my experience, so are