Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 520-539)



  520. Can you tell the geographical spread of the e-mails you get? Is there any specific area which is more vocal, such as London and the South East?
  (Ms Glover) There are large pockets of the UK where are AM coverage is not very good, so the North East of England suffers hugely. It is very hard to tell from the e-mails but we definitely have a big South East audience late at night, and certainly Liverpool and across the Midlands, and we do get a lot of calls from Scotland after midnight too, but it is very difficult to tell, it does depend on the topic.

  521. I was wondering whether some of this is based on where you are. If you are in the slightly more affluent South East, you may feel, "I have a bit more time, a bit more money, maybe I can do this", whereas if you are in, say, Liverpool, just as an example, you may not be quite as well off and you may be thinking, "Can I really afford to do this". Do you think there is, not a class stigma but a financial stigma, which is something which puts a lot of people off, that they are not going to be able to cope with it?
  (Ms Glover) Yes, I would agree with all those things. When we originally talked about quangos off the back of Barbara Roche's interview, the only calls or interest we did get did mention cost and expenses, and that has come up again and again, people want to know whether or not they would be paid for it. I suspect an awful lot of people think they cannot afford to give up the time.

  522. From your listeners, do you feel that is regionally based? We obviously have our own little areas which are our constituencies, we do not look at the larger scale very much. Do you get that feeling from what you are getting back from e-mails, that there is a regional base to this?
  (Ms Glover) I am sure there is, yes. I do not know where Brian Crichton came from but I am sure that in the more well-off areas you are undoubtedly going to get more people who think they have the time to give up to do it.

  523. There are 30,000 appointments and they are very centralised by and large, the Prime Minister has enormous patronage, the Cabinet Office appoints 5 per cent and there have been 36 appointed since September of last year which they are responsible for. Do you think it is too centralised? Do you think it puts people off when it is seen as a centralised thing, with the Prime Minister giving peerages in the House of Lords and all the rest of it? Do you think this gets people thinking, "I am not grand enough"?
  (Ms Glover) Yes.

  524. They think, "If there is somebody like an MP, he is not going to pick me"?
  (Ms Glover) Yes, I think people think that more and more. In fact about a week after we did the original conversation about quangos, we were talking about people's peers and in fact the Glover programme may well nominate and support an application for a people's peer over the coming year. People definitely think it is something from which they are excluded on the basis of the central power.

  525. We have the BBC and they have regional programmes, very good regional and county programmes sometimes—and I actually know what that Potato Council does—
  (Ms Glover) Is it good?

  526. It is very good because it actually looks after blight and things like that.
  (Ms Glover) So it is important.

  527. If your chips were black, you would be a bit upset. They also monitor the varieties.
  (Ms Glover) This is one of the things we need to know about the Potato Council.

  Mr Liddell-Grainger: Regionally, for you in London, it is irrelevant, but for me in Somerset it is very important because a lot of people do depend on the potato harvests. I wonder if there is a regional way of doing this, so you could put it out, say, on the BBC, "The Potato Council is looking for people in your area—are you interested?"

  Kevin Brennan: "Would you like to be Mr Potato Head?"

Mr Liddell-Grainger

  528. Exactly, there you are. "Mr Potato Head of Middlesex". It is almost quite interesting. What do you think?
  (Ms Glover) I think that would definitely be a way forward. As I have said, I have never opened a local newspaper and seen any kind of reference to a local body that is relevant to people's lives in that area which needs local people. You must want local people because they are going to come with the expertise that you need. I am not going to get picked for the British Potato Council off the back of the things I have said about them today, but also because there is no relevance for me in Dalston.

  529. It does not stop civil servants being experts on nothing, I can assure you. So you may well end up on the British Potato Council, you should be very careful what you say.
  (Ms Glover) I think the regional aspect must be very important, but that is presumably part of the motivation which is behind the roadshows which are going on at the moment.

  530. We have talked a lot about e-mails and e-networks today. I do not know what the difference is between telephone calls and e-mails as percentages.
  (Ms Glover) We probably get as many e-mails as phone calls because obviously they are spread throughout the day, people do not have to wait until we are on air.

  531. I do not know about the others but I am getting more letters by e-mail—do you see that as another way, so that when you apply you can say, "My e-mail address is" and the quango can say, "Actually these are the ones looking, we will e-mail it straight through"?
  (Ms Glover) I think it would be very helpful. You can put so much more information on the website than is currently available, which people can access when they feel like it, at odd moments when they have some free time, which is much easier than the great big things which came through my letter box last week. I think e-mails and the website must definitely be the way forward. It does make it easier in terms of replying and responding. If that list of who is looking at the moment were actually up somewhere on the website, I am sure just out of curiosity people would keep returning to it.

  532. On the form were you asked how much time you could give?
  (Ms Glover) No. Or was I?

  Mr Liddell-Grainger: The reason I am asking—I do not know if you are a mum but I know my wife, she has got three kids and her time is set between when she can and cannot—

  Chairman: Presumably you have got three kids too!

Mr Liddell-Grainger

  533. I only see them at weekends! During the week they are her responsibility. There isn't much I can do about that. This place is not one of the great kids' playgrounds.
  (Ms Glover) The Single Parent Advisory Council I am sure are looking—

  534. I shall join it immediately! Do you think if you were asked how much time you could give, that would help? A lot of things are time-specific, I suspect. Do you think that should be included?
  (Ms Glover) I think that would be a superb idea actually. From a woman's point of view, that is one of the offputting things as well. There is that doubt, "I have no idea when I would be called or when I would be expected." Even if it gives specific hours, "Can you give up two evenings a month between 6.30 and 8.30? Are you available during the day?" Those kind of questions definitely are not asked at any stage in the process and they would be very helpful.

  535. What were you asked about your ethnic background?
  (Ms Glover) I was asked the pretty statutory form-filling "Asian, Other, White"—

  536. Did they ask if you were Welsh, Scottish, English?
  (Ms Glover) No, it did not have a national breakdown.

  537. It was purely whether you were black, Chinese or whatever?
  (Ms Glover) Yes, as far as I can recall, with the "Other" box as well.


  538. There is a bit of paradox here, is there not, because if you look at the very local level, women keep things going. I am not talking about Ian's home but more generally. If you look at school governing bodies, there are a quarter of a million school governors in this country and certainly on the parental side overwhelmingly these are women. If you go to tenants groups, drug action groups, all these groups at a local level, it is women who keep them afloat as well as the traditional volunteer organisations. You may say that is because they feel there is a more immediate local relevance or because it is more easy to do because it fits in with the rest of life more easily, but you can see why the Cabinet Office think, "If we can get these people involved at that level, how can we get them in a sense to move up a bit". That is the challenge, is it not?
  (Ms Glover) It is, but I think one of the reasons why you get so many women involved in those kind of things is because women's desire for change is often very strongly based around their children and their families and the need to do something that they feel they are capable of changing. I think with some of these bodies they just think, "I would not make any difference to them", or, "That does not really need changing". There is a perception, as Annette was saying, that quangos are airy-fairy, over there, not really doing very much, whereas your local school needs you and you will help out because it matters to your kids.

  539. If we talk about this in terms of public duty, it all sounds a bit worthy and dull and less interesting than listening to Radio Five. It is a bit like a community sentence, either you go to Holloway for a year or you get three years on a quango. If you approach it in that spirit, it is not going to be a great turn on for people, but if you say, "These people are running your lives, these people are making decisions about your lives every day, shouldn't you get involved", would that help?
  (Ms Glover) I think people would become engaged by it. They just need more information made readily accessible to them. They need to hear from more people who have done it, lived through it, and do not say, "I would rather have gone to Broadmoor for a year" or whatever. It is an image problem, is it not, which Government is no stranger to.

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