Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 960 - 979)



  960. The definition is the same here. This Parliament has the same definition of five years.
  (Professor Rees) Of activity, office holding or seeking office. It is a very small number.

  961. You are trying to have us believe that the circumstances are different, that everyone is more friendly or cooperative and it does not really matter, but it does, or it could.
  (Professor Rees) I am losing your point, I am ashamed to say.

  962. I think you have a much less transparent system.
  (Professor Rees) A less transparent system because a question is asked about political activity in the last five years?

  963. No; because the Minister is involved in the appointing, and so is the Assembly, and the affiliation is known. People appointed under Sir William Wells's system do not know the affiliation at the time that they make the appointment, although they can tell you afterwards.
  (Professor Rees) Affiliation is not known. Political activity in the last five years is known, and there is an enormous difference there.

  Mr Trend: I may be wrong about this but I think political activity in the last five years would debar you anyway.


  964. Let us just try to get to the bottom of this. In Wales you have this wonderful cross-party way, but let us assume the allegation was made that the parties were simply carving up public appointments themselves in a cosy way.
  (Professor Rees) It could not be done.

  965. That is extraordinary. Why could it not be done?
  (Professor Rees) Because you have the independent assessors operating there. Ministers are basically presented with a nominated candidate. If it is a very big appointment, they might chair the panel or be on the panel, but for the most part, the name comes through the system, which ministers are not involved in, and they say yes or no at the end. I cannot ever remember a minister refusing a candidate that has come through the system that they are not involved in. I do not know of one.

  966. If they were to say no, what would happen then?
  (Professor Rees) They would go to the list of candidates that have been deemed by the process to be above the line, and they would presumably choose one of those. But those candidates have come through the system, assessed on merit, with the independent assessors, and deemed above the line—maybe not the first choice—but that is what would happen. If they could not select one from the candidates that are deemed to be above the line, the process starts again.

  967. That is the quality control. Let us get right to the bottom of Michael Trend's question, which is that we were hearing with the NHS Appointments Commission that although there is no knowledge of any political activity at all in the appointments process, unlike the Welsh situation, for reporting processes, for Dame Rennie purposes, this information is collected, so that she can report on it. Are you saying that the collection is not taking place in Wales?
  (Professor Rees) I would want that checked out with the National Assembly Public Appointments Unit, but my understanding is that affiliation is not collected at any stage, only political activity within the last five years. That is what is on the form.

Mr Liddell-Grainger

  968. In your Motivation of Public Appointees: A Scoping Exercise, July 200 you come up with lots of recommendations about things that should be looked at in studies. I counted 14; how many of these have been gone through?
  (Professor Rees) I do not know that any of them have.

  969. None at all?
  (Professor Rees) This was a scoping exercise at the invitation of Edwina Hart, the Chair of the Equality of Opportunities Committee at the time, and Dame Rennie Fritchie, with a view to identifying possible ways forward to look at this whole issue of motivation and what motivates people, and what does not motivate people who are not motivated, which is more difficult, and so on and so forth. What has happened since then is this has been considered and some of the specific recommendations—they were not packaged—

  970. I accept that.
  (Professor Rees)—Some of the recommendations have then been built into the action plan (which I think may have been tabled this morning) which is in the process of being signed off by the Assembly. It has been agreed by the Equality of Opportunities Committee and I think it is with the First Minister now who has to sign it off, and some of those proposals are built into this plan to move them forward.

  971. Are they the proposals you want to see? I have had a look through them and they are very wide-ranging in what has been suggested. Are you happy with what has been referred to? I do not think we have seen the action plan but it says in here "not publicly available".
  (Professor Rees) It was on the web page on 6 March.

  972. So that is the thing we have got.
  (Professor Rees) The current version, which I tantalisingly have here, is amended so slightly that really the one that is tabled is pretty much it. For some of the scoping exercise ideas, as I understand it from Dame Rennie Fritchie, there had not really been much thought on this topic about motivation in public appointments before so this is a very first exercise, casting bread upon the waters, and getting some reaction to see what people think might be worth pursuing, building on some of the things that we know about volunteering, for example, which is related but different, and some things we know about those who already present themselves for public appointments. So a few of those things have been picked up in the action plan and, as I understand it, once the First Minister has signed this off they will be developing that. £80,000 has been set aside for the Public Appointments Unit for the coming year to implement some of those studies and other actions that are identified in the plan.

  973. I totted this up and it comes to 59,000 quid just in yours, excluding ones that you have not costed.
  (Professor Rees) But you would not do them all.

  974. Is there data on a lot of this? There are things in here that I thought there might be some data on—"Commission questions about active citizenship ... in a regular omnibus survey", "consultation with organisations that assist formally in the recruitment process", "telephone interviews with equality agencies", "focus groups from a selected cross-section of current public appointees"; all of this is readily available anyway, is it not?
  (Professor Rees) No.

  975. None of it?
  (Professor Rees) No. This is the thing. It is a very new area to explore.

  976. Focus groups have been kicking around for quite some time now.
  (Professor Rees) Not on this particular topic.

  977. You are saying public appointees should be stratified by the three tiers, to identify key prompts and motivations for volunteering. Dame Rennie came in front of us and talked about volunteering and the motivation behind that and the lady from Radio 5 talked about that.
  (Professor Rees) This was commissioned, as you can see—

  978.—in 2001.
  (Professor Rees) Exactly and so obviously things have moved on since then but actually there is precious little information on this, particularly on systematic social science—and I am a systematic social scientist. Obviously there are journalist reports and interviews you can read about that but, no, there is no systematic proper research on those kinds of things.

  Mr Liddell-Grainger: Alright.

  Chairman: It is a good job Ian is not on the panel evaluating this application.

  Mr Liddell-Grainger: We would be here all day.

Sir Sydney Chapman

  979. It is 15 months since you presented this report. In that intervening period is it your experience that there has been an increase in the number of applications to public bodies?
  (Professor Rees) I feel nervous about answering that question, Sir Sydney, because I do not have the data. The data could easily be obtained from the Public Appointments Unit of the National Assembly for Wales. All I can say is that increasing numbers of applications is not necessarily a brilliant measure because in the early days when these appointments were opened up to the public, when the terms of reference were described in hopelessly broad terms, the entire population felt that they would be eligible and applied and you would have ridiculous numbers of people applying for a post when three-quarters of them were ineligible, although their ineligibility was not clear from the job description. If you improve the description of the post so that only eligible people apply to it, you would expect a reduction in the numbers, so with the professionalisation of the system you would expect them to reduce in numbers. At the same time, if you are trying to promote diversity, you want more eligible people from more diverse backgrounds to apply. So my argument is that the number of applications is a very crude measure. What one really should be looking at is the number of eligible applications and while I do not have those statistics—they are obtainable—my impression is from my independent assessor work that the numbers of eligible applications is going up and the proportion of eligible applications to the whole is increasing, and these are good signs. This is my impression.

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