Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400-419)|
ROCHE MP, MR
MP AND MS
THURSDAY 25 APRIL 2002
400. I am making the assumption that will happen.
My question really is is there a vision that the number of public
bodies and appointees would diminish with regional government?
(Mr Leslie) Again, you will have to wait for the White
Paper. In general I am not going to get too fixated on trends
in numbers other than saying that we need to keep an eye to preventing
this massive growth and proliferation of the numbers of public
bodies for the reason that I think there is a broadly efficient
number for ministers to be able to keep track of and to manage.
Certainly we will want to look at those functions that can be
done at the regional level and, as has already been said, one
of the concerns I have got is making sure we have got much more
regional and national diversity reflected on the boards not just
at the local and regional level but national strategic boards
which are comprised of people reflecting much more all corners
of the nation.
401. I am hoping that there might be more elections
and fewer appointments. Is there a role beyond the political parties
for encouraging women to go forward for elected positions?
(Mrs Roche) In general terms?
402. In general terms. Each party is obviously
looking at the situation but is there a government leadership
role as well to encourage women to put themselves forward for
(Mrs Roche) I think it is right to say that the mere
fact of bringing in the legislation which allows political parties
to use positive measures that are now within the law sends out
an extremely strong signal. The important thing about that sort
of legislation is that it has all-party support. That does send
a very, very powerful signal to people. I think there is an important
role that political parties can play. Anybody who is interested
in the democratic deficit or in the fact we have low voter turn-out
and not so much active participation in conventional politics
knows that by encouraging more people to play a role, both in
their communities and also to get involved in political parties,
you help to re-engage the electorate. That is an incredibly important
question and that is why I think the legislation so that political
parties are able to do itand it is totally up to them whether
they want to do itis so powerful.
403. Just a footnote to one of Annette's questions.
All governments love setting up quangos. It is bread and butter
to them. Every initiative has a quango attached to it. Is there
a mechanism inside government and maybe in the Cabinet Office
which tests this aspiration against the need to control?
(Mrs Roche) No but we could have another quango to
do that, Tony! To answer you seriously, I am not aware that there
is. Chris may be able to tell me. On the other hand, remember
that if you do set up such a body given the rules that attest
to it, it has to fulfil certain criteria and there will be a cost
implications, so that I am sure that will excite the Treasury,
as an ex-Treasury Minister. And that is always a good check on
those things. There is no overwhelming desire to set up these
things because if you do set up a quango that comes with all the
rules that that implies. Chris?
(Mr Leslie) Obviously in the Cabinet Office we try
marginally to keep track as well as to oversee departmental wishes
to establish public bodies. We publish the annual inventory which
hopefully you have found weighing down your brief this morning,
which I think has been a useful innovation to have a bigger picture
about the whole totality of public bodies. And there are the usual
internal government procedures that we go through when departments
propose to establish new public bodies. There are ways we can
keep a strategic check on these things.
(Ms Ghosh) In the Cabinet Office in my team, when
departments are first thinking about why they are setting up an
NDPB, we have a challenging and questioning function. What is
it you want to do? Is the NDPB the right way to do it. I assume
the department believes that it is the right thing to do. It then
goes through the collective discussion Cabinet sub-Committee type
route. This whole issue about in particular whether an NDPB in
a particular situation is the right model or an agency is the
right model or direct delivery by a part of a government department
is the right model, is an issue which has been looked at quite
closely. Some of you may be aware there has been an agency policy
review which has been going on in the Cabinet Office which is
likely to be published shortly. That is likely to raise these
issues with the focus on delivery and how departments can deliver
their PSAs. Departments will begin to look very closely at whether
they have got the right mechanism for doing it and whether the
kind of structure they have (whether it is an agency or whether
it is an NDPB) is the right one? A new focus on PSAs and delivery
and how we do it will raise the profile of precisely what the
relative roles of all those things are. The landscape may conceivably
(Mrs Roche) My experience in whatever department ministers
are in is that you think very, very carefully before you establish
a new body because there are so many hoops that you have to go
through. There may be other avenues through which you can achieve
that same aim.
404. Who is the guardian? I was not wanting
a new body. Is the Cabinet Office not the body that deals with
(Mrs Roche) As Helen says, we would certainly know
and certainly with the publication it is there and we would be
able to say these are the bodies and these are the steps that
you must go through, but if you are going to do it I suppose at
the end of the day the person who holds the ring is collective
government because you would have to get Cabinet government agreement
to set up any such body. So we are each other's guardians, if
405. How many people have you personally appointed
since you have been in post?
(Mrs Roche) Since I have been a Minister?
(Mrs Roche) That is a very very good question.
(Mrs Roche) As a much travelled Minister.
408. Just take the Cabinet Office.
(Mrs Roche) I do not think I have
409. What about you, Christopher?
(Mrs Roche) Can I just answer the question.
410. A little more quickly please.
(Mrs Roche) Since I have been at the Cabinet Office
with Patricia Hewitt it would have been some of the new commissioners
that have come on to the Equal Opportunities Commission.
411. How many do you think?
(Mrs Roche) About three I should think, perhaps a
412. What about you, Christopher?
(Mr Leslie) The broad totality of my esteemed appointments
has been the Advisory Committee on Advertising and I think there
were about eight of those. We do not have that many public bodies
in the Cabinet Office fortunately, or unfortunately, so we do
not get that many vacancies coming up.
413. But you have had 36 since September last
year. The reason I am asking is not just to make mischief.
(Mrs Roche) Perish the thought!
414. It is that you get people in front of you,
you look at the CV, and you ask yourself whether or not these
people are right. We have gone round this issue slightly. Are
you given what their ethnic background is and the suitability
of that for the particular post?
(Mr Leslie) I think we do have those details and we
also have recommendations from the interview and selection process.
415. From the Civil Service? They will vet it.
Let's take the advertising side, they will say, "This is
somebody from an ethnic background, this is why we think they
are goodbecause they will look at whatever dimension."
Is it that specific?
(Mr Leslie) No, the advice from officials is always
based on the merit of the individual and their ability to do the
job. That is the overriding principle. It is a very difficult
question if you are asking about how do we square a move towards
improving diversity whilst also appointing the best individual
for the job. That is a very difficult thing to do when looking
at individual appointments in a linear sequence.
416. That is what you do as ministers. You look
at those ones as individuals. You have appointed four between
you roughly and there will be a lot more. You have really got
to make a decision, sit and think about it, "Do I or do I
not. Shall I go against my civil servants?" It is easy with
bishops but not so easy with other people. It is much more difficult
with somebody you are not quite sure about.
(Mrs Roche) I am not quite sure about that. You must
also always remember that by the time it comes to us it is at
the end of the process so there will be an earlier time when you
have had a discussion with your officials about what criteria
you are looking at so you will have come to a view. My view on
this is if you are an open and good minister that the discussion
that you will have had with your officials will be one of you
equally trying to determine the best sort of criteria. It is very
rarely that a list is going to come up that you are going to violently
disagree with because between you you will have had advice and
discussion about the criteria.
417. As a matter of interest, how does the Prime
Minister fare on appointments? How many people has the Prime Minister
appointed? It is a rhetorical question because I do not know myself.
What is his target like for percentages from women and from ethnic
minorities. Do you know the answer to that?
(Mr Leslie) We will have to drop you a note on that.
418. I am intrigued because the Prime Minister
has enormous power of patronage and I am wondering if he is hitting
his targets. The Cabinet Office is trying to hit targets.
(Mrs Roche) I assume that quite a lot of these things
are done through individual departments. We will do a trawl.
419. I am thinking of him personally. He has
enormous patronage in the Lords and other areas.
(Mrs Roche) The interesting thing about the Lords
is the Prime Minister has given up quite a lot of the traditional
powers of patronage in the Lords. The interesting thing in recent
years about those people who have been appointed peers is that
they show a much better range of diversity, particularly on ethnicity,
and in that they have a much better record than the Commons I
have to say. We can certainly provide you with some information.
Mr Liddell-Grainger: There is an area I am quite
interested in and that is Scotland. You have a Parliament and
I notice in this that there is a problem with Scottish.
Chairman: A problem with Scottish? Could you