Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 377-379)




  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 us—although 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.

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