Examination of witness (Questions 60 -
WEDNESDAY 6 DECEMBER 2000
60. The only reason that you want to be known
for your work is because you want to improve the quality of public
(Dame Rennie Fritchie) Absolutely; absolutely right,
thank you. That was what I was going to say next; so, thank you.
It would be helpful if all sorts of people came forward and spoke
up about these, and, interestingly, I was looking at the letters,
that I had received after Public Service Week, from a group of
people who hold these appointments, about 18 of them. One said
"How can we help to get more people in?" And one of
them said, "We mustn't just be lazy and leave it up to Ministers,
we have to stand up and do our bit in the community to encourage
people to come forward;" and, in a way, it would be helpful.
My attempt at Public Service Week, with all these others, was
to try to draw attention to it, that makes a beginning, and I
know it is a pilot-light and a small beginning but it is a beginning,
doing something a bit different, together with the shadowing,
and so on, and it would be grand if all sorts of people, simultaneously,
were able to say, "This is a good thing," and more people
can come forward. I would be concerned if we ended up with a big
recruitment drive, where the number of public appointments that
are available remains static, and we quadruple the number of people
who instantly come forward. Then we would have a range of people
instantly disappointed. So this `slow and steady' approach to
saying, "Here they are, and this is how you do it, and it
is for people like you, and you can make a difference," I
think, is the most important one, and working with politicians,
working with the media. I think I must speak to at least one group
a week, of one kind or another, about this, young, black leaders
at the Commonwealth Club, or the Irish Women's Network, a whole
range of people, about once a week, I am out there saying, "This
is what it's about, and it is for you, too." And I think
that does make a difference.
61. Can I leave the thought with you of getting
a couple of senior Cabinet Ministers to do a couple of events
for you, and with you, which might be of some benefit.
(Dame Rennie Fritchie) Can I say, Mr Stringer, from
the Cabinet Office, did come to Manchester and did speak at that
event, and was extremely helpful.
62. What you really need is the Head of the
Civil Service though, do you not, the Prime Minister, to do the
job for you; and if the Prime Minister did an event for you, or
even 20 minutes for you, the publicity effect would be many, many
times what you can get from a middle-ranking Minister, with great
respect to Mr Stringer?
(Dame Rennie Fritchie) I would be most grateful.
63. My very last question to you is, have you
got the resources that you think you need to do your job, and
are you satisfied that the remit, as it has been given to you,
is adequate, or are there changes? I would like to give you this
opportunity, before we blame you next year for having failed in
your job, at least to say, "Well, actually, I can't do my
job properly, for the following three reasons." Are there
things that you would like to see altered, either on the remit
or the resources side?
(Dame Rennie Fritchie) I have had every opportunity
to raise the question of resources, if I think I need something
and can make a good case for it. Currently, the most difficult
thing is my own time. This is a three-day-a-week job, and I am
Commissioner for England, Commissioner for Scotland, Commissioner
for Wales and Commissioner for Northern Ireland. And, certainly,
with devolution, my working with Edwina Hart, in Wales, working
with, it was Jack McConnell, but now Angus McKay, in Scotland,
and so on, it is important that I am in those places as well,
listening to people and doing things. So it is my own time. If
three days a week could be made into ten, that would be great;
but I continue to work hard at it.
64. Are you asking for it to be a full-time
(Dame Rennie Fritchie) No; no, not at all, not at
all. But I am working hard at trying to make sure that my time
is properly apportioned.
65. Do you think perhaps your successor might
have a full-time job; clearly, it is a full-time job, in there?
(Dame Rennie Fritchie) I am certainly working four
days a week plus, to do it, but it may well be that this is a
period of time, with devolution, that requires real, extra sensitivity,
energy and commitment, and so I would not want to make that suggestion;
and I hope I do not have a successor for a while.
66. You have mentioned what, when I was in the
Treasury, we used to describe as `the territories', that is, Wales
and Scotland and Ireland, I never quite understood why they were
called that, but they were, in all briefs. Do you think that it
is appropriate that you should continue to have responsibility
in devolved areas?
(Dame Rennie Fritchie) I am Commissioner in Northern
Ireland by separate Order in Council, so should, at any time,
Northern Ireland decide they want someone from Northern Ireland,
who lives there, in that role, then I stand ready to step aside.
In relation to Scotland and Wales, certainly Scotland put out
a consultation document, earlier this year, that they are looking
at, to see how things are, what the public feels very strongly
about and what they want to see happening, and I know they are
working on that, and I am working with them. I think it is important
that, while we have real differences, and I speak as a Scot, in
the different countries, we do have some commonality of principles
and approach, across the United Kingdom, and I think that having
someone in all those roles at the moment helps to ensure that,
and I think that is a positive thing.
Mr Tyrie: Dame Rennie, thank you very much for
coming before us today. We very much appreciate it. There is a
great interest in your work in our Committee, even if there is
not yet in the country at large, but both you and we are trying
to do something about that. Thank you very much for coming before