Examination of Witnesses (Questions 377-379)|
ROCHE MP, MR
MP AND MS
THURSDAY 25 APRIL 2002
377. Could I call the Committee to order and
welcome our witnesses this morning. This is part of our inquiry
into public appointments and patronage, although we may stray
into other Cabinet Office territory and I cannot guarantee that
we shall not. We are delighted to have Barbara Roche, who is the
Minister of State, Christopher Leslie, the Parliamentary Secretary,
and Helen Ghosh, who is Director of the Central Secretariat. Barbara,
did you want to say something by way of introduction?
(Mrs Roche) Thank you very much. I will
be brief but if I may set the scene on some of the things you
would like to discuss with usalthough of course there may
be other things that you may want to put to us. Just to say that
Chris Leslie and I work in the Cabinet Office supporting the Deputy
Prime Minister across the full range of his responsibilities.
I know you have already had a copy of the PQ which sets out those
duties in some detail. In addition, as Minister for Women and
Chair of the relevant Cabinet sub-committee (DAEQ) I hold responsibility
for co-ordinating equality across Whitehall, implementing Article
13, and also the co-ordination of cross-cutting equality issues.
Chris Leslie oversees in particular the work of the public bodies
and public appointments team, which is a branch within the Central
Secretariat of the Cabinet Office. We are supported today by Helen
Ghosh from the Cabinet Office who is the Director of the machinery
of government and propriety, public bodies and public appointments.
Can I also mention to the Committee at this point that today especially
I have come armed with reinforcements in that I am accompanied
by a number of young women from the Wood Green District Rangers
and Hornsey School for Girls. The reason why they are here today
is that today is "take our daughters to work" day. It
is organised by Girl Guiding UK and also the Guide Association,
so it seemed particularly appropriate today to bring them along
to this Committee and I am certainly on my very best behaviour!
378. Can I on behalf of the Committee extend
a particular welcome to our guests.
(Mrs Roche) The reason why it is absolutely appropriate
is because we are trying very much to encourage more diversity
and more young women into public life and to do more education
in this area. I thought this was a wonderful opportunity.
379. A little unfair on those of us who have
not got daughters.
(Mrs Roche) Indeed. I cannot claim, by the way, parental
responsibility for them! We do very much welcome the Committee's
inquiry. We are very much open to change and new ideas and recommendations
in this area. We look forward to your report. Our aim is to see
more representation of women and men in public appointments. We
also want to see pro rata representation of ethnic minority groups
and certainly increased participation of people with disabilities.
We want to look at any constraints and any barriers on this. Why
is this important? I think it is important because when we look
at our public bodies, very much I believe, that those public bodies
are about improving all our public services and it is difficult
to argue that our public services can be improved if we do not
see all sections of our society there and represented. That goes
for different age groups as well. We are pleased about this opportunity.
I am in the process of leading a series of seminars across the
country which are targeting women with relevant experience gained
at a local level and encouraging them to apply for national appointments.
So far, as a result of the seminars, about 91 per cent of the
women who have attended have said they are more likely to apply.
We are now looking to extend the programme to target business
women, trade union women and also black and ethnic minority women.
As I say, I see this as part of the agenda of public sector reform.
What we want to do with public appointments is draw on the best
from within the widest and most diverse pool of talent. We believe
that this is absolutely essential to good governance.