Examination of Witness (Questions 500-519)|
THURSDAY 25 APRIL 2002
500. That was what you were talking about in
the first instance.
(Ms Glover) Yes. They are not hugely known about.
We have 1.28 million listeners across the week, and not one single
person phoned in or sent an e-mail saying, "I am going along
to one" or "I know one is happening and I am getting
involved in it."
501. Can I ask you more about the barriers you
spoke of earlier? Some of them have been touched on but others
must relate to the fact that people do not do as much voluntary
work and public work as they used to. All the voluntary bodies,
political parties, the Red Cross, St John's Ambulance, the traditional
voluntary organisations are suffering hugely from a lack of new
members in particular coming on board and they have an ageing
population; everyone tends to be old and getting older. People
are interested nowadays in joining the National Trust and other
things where you send in your money and get back a quarterly magazine
which tells you what other people are doing, but if the point
of the organisation is to go to meetings or whatever it is, people
just do not want to do it, they have better things to do with
their time. I suspect that is a big element in this. I do not
know, perhaps I should have asked the Minister, but I suggest
it does tend to be older people who are putting themselves forward.
502. I think it probably is. The most positive
e-mails we got last night were from two gentlemen who had recently
retired who were looking for something to do with their time,
to presumably put the suit back on and get back to being involved.
I am sure you are absolutely right, there is a sense of, "What
am I going to get back from the way I am spending my precious
leisure time and does it have any kind of pay cheque attached
503. Earlier generations must have kicked around
parallel thoughts like that, yet they thought there was such a
thing as a public service ethos, or whatever they called it. I
am always surprised at the number of people who write to me and
say they do not want to do jury service and could I get them off.
I write back and say no, I do not think people should get off,
but people are more inclined to try and opt out of those bits
of the system which are compulsory.
(Ms Glover) Yes. It is an enormous thing to get round.
There are several kinds of high-falutin ways of getting round
it. If employers cared more about the way their employees were
spending their leisure time and you were rewarded in some sense,
or your standing went up, because you were prepared to get involved,
that would be a good thing. There is no earthly way any of us
sitting in this room are going to facilitate that change over
night. I think there is a sense of public duty and public service
which has been dulled by cynicism as much as anything in the last
ten years or so, and it is about tapping into that and hearing
more stories about why it would count. I was very interested by
the question which was suggested we might talk about today, about
whether or not payment is a way forward. You are never going to
be able to pay enough money to make people turn out if they do
not ultimately want to do it. I do not think that is going to
be helpful at all. Certainly in terms of women, I think you are
going to have to look at ways of
504.covering their costs?
(Ms Glover) Yes, but almost more than covering costs;
it is going to be about child care and about more things than
a railway ticket to somewhere.
505. Does it matter enormously if the society
in which we live does not seem to care about this? Does it matter
we do not have a broader representative spread? One of the things
I was surprised about when we started was to learn that these
public bodies oversee the spending of £24 billion. A lot
of that is retained and has to be spent on certain areas but nevertheless
they are in some important sense responsible for it.
(Ms Glover) For some of them I do not think it matters
at all. If nobody ever joined the British Potato Council again,
would we stop eating potatoes? I do not think we would. The British
Hallmarking Councilhow many monumental decisions have they
made in the last couple of years? I have not heard of most of
these bodies. But then there are things like the Broadcasting
Standards Commission which is important, and it is very important
to have some kind of lay representation on things like that. You
do wonder about what some of these people are actually doing and
how they are spending their meeting times and whether or not there
is any great value involved in what they are doing. I hope the
individual people involved are having a great time and taking
an awful lot from it, but not all of them seem to be pertinent.
506. We did not seem to get much information
from the Government although it seems to be proud of its list.
I believe it is true to say this Committee has produced rather
more detailed accounts of what has gone on in the past but it
was extremely hard work finding out what went in, who they are
and what they did.
(Ms Glover) I can imagine.
Mr Trend: A great proportion of them are under
no sort of supervision appointment at all.
507. A real broadcasting challenge for you would
be to take one of these bodies each night, tonight you could take
the British Potato Council
(Ms Glover) God help us!
508. That is serious public service broadcasting.
You could make it interesting.
(Ms Glover) Yes. Certainly the Home Grown Cereals
Authority could be done on an annual basis. Some of them seem
to be incredibly absurd but then you can understand that the Juvenile
Justice Board is actually a board of some purpose.
509. Do you think this will change in the foreseeable
future, that people will suddenly become more public service spirited?
(Ms Glover) No, I do not, at all. You have to accept
that there is a certain age group of people who might be more
interested. If people are going to take their retirement early
and live longer, then you have a kind of grey workforce who could
still be employed. If you want to get the 25 to 35 year olds involved,
you have an uphill struggle, particularly women who have had kids
who are the child carers. I certainly do not have any immediate
solutions but talking about it more and seeing more people who
do it might just help a little.
510. I rather feel obliged to ask some questions.
Just homing in on something you said and highlighted very well,
women have got to want to do these jobs. As I know, it took me
a very long time to achieve my ambition, and it was mainly because
I was so determined because I wanted to do it so much. This comes
to the hub of it. Why on earth does somebody want to be on a quango?
They have bad names, they sound nasty. Do you think there is an
image problem here? We can make jokes about the Potato Council
but the very term "quango" sounds second-rate, politicians
tend to be derogatory about them, having more of them is a bad
thing in general. I am wondering if we need to look at this whole
(Ms Glover) Yes, they have a very bad reputation,
which is why I think people immediately switch off and think,
"I do not want to be a part of that, it is part of the waste
of government, part of the waste of society, there are all these
bodies floating around which may at some stage seek out some kind
of political influence. Whether we should have it or not, it is
just a group of people getting together to waste their own or
each other's time." So I think there is an image problem.
Why does anyone want to join one? There are obviously lots of
reasons and lots of very good quangos. It seems extraordinary
that within that one term you do have the British Potato Council
and you do have something as important as the Juvenile Justice
Commission doing very different things. I automatically assume
the British Potato Council is something about making an awful
lot of money for potato farmers actually, it may well be about
many other things, but that is the way I see it, as a money-making
thing, whereas the Justice Commission is a public service thing.
So I think there is a big image problem because they are all bandied
together under one term.
511. Other than what you are doing, which I
think is super, how can the media improve the image?
(Ms Glover) I think the individual bodies have to
do that themselves rather than one person, one minister, trying
to attract all people to all things. You do not hear very much
from any of these bodies about the lay people who are involved
in them at all or any kind of influence they might have or anything
great which they have brought to the table. An awful lot of people
assume that things like the Broadcasting Standards Commission
is all about people in broadcasting, who all know each other.
They probably do not assume you could get involved in that yourself.
I think it would have to be up to those individual bodies to talk
more about the normal people who have come to their table. But
it is a very hard one to do. I do not mean to use a lay term but
it is not a very sexy thing to talk about on the radio. This is
our way of making it interesting, by me getting involved in it
and me coming here, and that is not going to happen very often.
512. I think your approach is excellent. We
all know what the barriers are and obviously they are being chipped
away at gradually over time, but I think with quangos it is actually
people not wanting to do it, probably through lack of knowledge
as well. I want you to elaborate a little more on the e-mails
you had from the men who responded, because there is no reason
why the response should not be the same from men and women if
the women were interested enough. I think it is lack of interest.
(Ms Glover) One that we had last night was from a
gentleman called David in Middlesex. "Dear Fi, I would be
very grateful if you could put my name forward when you appear
before the Select Committee later today . . .", so, Dave,
I am putting you forward, ". . . As strange as this may sound,
I care deeply about society and the future of our nation. The
problem is, that it is so hard to find a way of putting these
feelings into action. I'm interested in politics and current affairs,
but have always been reluctant to get involved in politics because
of the partisan and overly confrontational nature of the process.
People may joke about quangos but, in all honesty, they are an
effective way of involving those outside of politics in the decision
making process. Best of luck tomorrow . . .", he says.
513. He sounds like a good man!
(Ms Glover) He sounds like a remarkably good citizen,
yes. Then we had one from another gentleman called Dave, "I
once rode a quango down the high street and then the LSD wore
514. I think that sums it up!
(Ms Glover) Brian Crichton sent this one, "I
would be interested in being involved in a quango although I wouldn't
consider myself as an expert in any field. I recently took advantage
of an early retirement package from IBM and am at a bit of a loose
end. I wouldn't look for a salary but would expect expenses to
be covered. PS. What does the Apples and Pears Quango do?"
We were having a discussion about the Apples and Pears Council.
So there is interest, definitely interest. But I think both those
gentlemen are men of a certain age as well who probably would
be able to get involved more easily than other people would.
515. Because I do not read many of them, I am
not aware of the major women's magazines, but perhaps the readers
of those are the sort of age group we need on these bodies. Have
they done any articles on this? Would you know?
(Ms Glover) I read quite a few of them myself and
certainly the women's pages in all the national newspapers, and
I have never seen an article about quangos at all, not once. It
would make an interesting read, one would hope, as long as they
are not all the same type of people who are doing them, and I
am sure they are not, but I have never read a single thing about
516. The sort of articles by women who have
set up their own businesses I always find very interesting. I
questioned Barbara Roche closely about the fact the seminars appear
to be by invitation only, and I have a concern about that because
it is just picking the great and the good and definitely leaving
the stroppy people offI have been left off enough things
over time exactly, I am sure, for that reason. I wonder how we
can break through that. I know she answered it by saying that
it was a starting point and if we can improve the ratios, that
would be good, but the more I think about it, it could be self-perpetuating,
that you get to the target of 50 per cent by only inviting the
people who are in that particular circle at the moment. Would
you like to comment?
(Ms Glover) I do not think it is a starting point,
I think it is a finishing point, because if it is by invitation
only those people are not going to go back to their homes and
talk to a wide and diverse range of other women about how they
spent their day. They will all probably know each other and talk
about it amongst themselves and it will send out exactly the wrong
image to other women about who should be involved. I do not know
where the roadshows are taking place but I rather fear they might
be during working hours at local county halls, or whatever it
is, and, to be honest, you have to go to schools and have a meeting
at 3.30 so the mums who are picking up their kids can just pop
in and have a chat and find out a bit more information. You have
to go to places where you are going to be finding the kind of
people who are not automatically applying at the moment, and that
cannot be by invitation only at all. It is not a helpful way to
start an initiative.
517. I would like to make one more point. Something
I try to pick up on is bringing more women into politics, which
I have rather dedicated myself to do within my party. My feeling
is that though, when you do not get something, the hurt for men
and women must be the same, I have the feeling that women are
more likely not to apply again, not to try again with that same
level of hurt. That is a very sexist thing to say but I think
it is something quite important to talk about. We touched on how
you would feel if you were not offered anything but I am wondering
if this is something you can offer to your listeners, that you
really have to be very determined and very thick-skinned as a
woman to get through all these barriers, and if you do get rebuffed
at the end of the line it is actually very painful. I feel very
protective of other people about this.
(Ms Glover) Certainly if I do not get selected for
anything I will think it is my fault. I will think it is because
I have not done enough and I did not have enough qualifications
to put down. I do think perhaps men might think, "What a
terrible system, all these stupid bodies, they didn't pick me."
There is a certain type of woman who I am sure would feel exactly
the same but I think it is a good point. I certainly would not
bother trying again, I would say, "Right, I am not that type
of girl, I'll keep out of it, it's for other people."
518. There is the old story about a couple going
into an interview, the man will focus on all the things he can
do, whereas the woman will say, "I cannot do that, I cannot
do that", and that is my fear about this, that once rejected
it is really hard to keep going. You might have been rejected
for all sorts of reasons at a local level, so if you could pick
up on that in your work I think it is incredibly important.
(Ms Glover) I think that is why it would be helpful
to know a little more about what all these bodies are expecting
in a very practical sense, what it does involve doing, how many
hours are spent at the meetings, do you then get out and about,
do you help form the decisions, so you can get a better picture.
If you want women certainly who are thinking of returning to work
after they have had a familyand it was suggested that some
women might view this as a way of returning to work and I completely
disagree with that, because work does imply you give your time
and someone pays you, hopefully quite handsomely for it, and this
certainly would not be thatyou have to give people a better
picture of exactly what it is they are walking into, so they can
work out whether or not they do feel comfortable with it, confident
about it and suitable for it.
Chairman: We bleed too, you know!
519. As a matter of interest, do you have any
idea of the geographical spread of Five Live? You said "Dave
from Middlesex". Is Five Live going out throughout the whole
of the UK including Northern Ireland?
(Ms Glover) It certainly is not, although after midnight
it is going out on Radio Scotland and Radio Cumbria as well.