Examination of Witness (Questions 462-479)|
THURSDAY 25 APRIL 2002
462. We are delighted to have Fi Glover with
us. Fi, you are a bit late for us in terms of your activities
on a daily basis but we know all about you and we are most interested
in your flirtation with the public appointments system, which
we are looking at. I think we would like to know the background
to all of this, why you got interested, how you have sought to
take the application forward and the story so far.
(Ms Glover) I do a weekday, late night
programme on BBC Radio Five Live, which I am sure you are all
very familiar with; it is a marvellous programme and everybody
should listen. We decided to do a feature piece and discussion
topic about quangos off the back of Barbara Roche's initiative
to try and get more women involved, so we did a 4½, 5 minute
interview with Barbara Roche herself, and then talked about it
in the studio. We have a studio guest every night on the programme
who acts as a kind of presenter's friend and knock-about person,
and that evening it was the broadcaster and producer, Linda McDougall,
who suggested that she and I were not the kind of people who would
be invited to join any kind of quango, and in her personal opinion
that was because she felt she had belonged to some organisations
in her past that people might not look favourably uponI
do not know whether joining the Labour Party was considered to
be one of those dubious organisations
463. I think it is probably because she is married
to Austin Mitchell actually.
(Ms Glover) You said that, I didn't! So I decided
on behalf of the listeners and as a way of opening up the system
of quangos I would put myself forward. We had a discussion about
it, and usually our discussions are quite lively and quite informal
and it is a phone-in and on average we get about 200 to 500 calls
in the evening, but on the subject of quangos we got about ten.
I am so sorry! The immediate feeling we had in the studio was
that people did not really understand what quangos did and they
did not understand who it was that any kind of quango would be
looking to recruit and what kind of values they would need to
have, et cetera, et cetera. So in the last three months maybe
four or five times on the programme we have gone back to the topic,
I have explained how far I have got with the procedure, I have
told the listeners all about the form-filling in and that kind
of stuff, and I have told them a little about appearing in front
of this august Committee, and I do have some quite amusing e-mails
on the subject which we might get to a little later. There are
quite a few points which have been made very well by our listeners
and the main one seems to be that they just do not think it is
for them. There is this idea that somewhere there is a group of
people who always go on committees, they all know each other,
it is definitely a kind of old boys network, and I think women
do feel extraordinarily excluded from that. Another interesting
point was that on a team of 15 people at the BBC only one person
on the team thought they could apply to join a quango, so it is
not a "them and us" thing at all. There does seem to
be an air of a closed shop about it. That is where I am at the
moment. I have submitted my application form, I am waiting to
be contacted by anybody, that has not happened yet. There are
certainly some other things I would like to say about the individual
process but I do not know whether specific questions are going
to come on that but I can certainly outline my thoughts on the
actual application now if you would like me to.
464. I think that will come out through the
conversation. If you feel we have not asked about that, then do
(Ms Glover) Yes, I will launch into a series of points
to be made.
465. When you applied, what did you tell them
you were good at?
(Ms Glover) I have told them that I am a broadcaster
and I have listed all my broadcasting qualifications, et cetera.
The part on the form which says "any relevant information
or qualifications" I think is slightly daunting. I was not
entirely sure what it was that people would be looking for. I
think that might be quite offputting for some people because you
do think, "Gosh, am I meant to have belonged to things like
this in the past in order to be considered in the future?"
The things I could put down were actually from eight or ten years
ago and, possibly shamefully, over the last decade my life has
been largely about work and family and not about joining different
bodies and organisations. If I found that intimidating and if
more women should be applying, I think they would probably share
that sentiment. Is that the part of the application form where
you put down, "Extraordinarily busy having children, many
apologies, didn't have time to join anything else"? It is
a large section of the form, it is as large as all your educational
qualifications and all the other information you are asked for.
At no stage could I find anythingand I did my application
on the website and then printed off the form and sent it inon
the website which told me the other type of people who have already
been picked by these bodies. What would have been very helpful,
certainly in terms of talking about it on the radio programme,
would have been to have some examples, like, "Jean Richards
from Shropshire" and why she had decided she wanted to become
involved in the Armed Forces Pay Review Body, if that is what
she ended up on, just to give it that more human face, and to
also explain what it gives back to people's lives. A few of the
e-mails we did have said, "I would very much like to get
involved in this kind of thing, I think I do have some kind of
public service duty to perform but I do not know a single person
who would be able to tell me what it has put back in their life
or how it has helped them get back into work or how it has filled
their retirement years or whatever it is." It just seems
very difficult to find that. I do not know whether it is in fact
somewhere on the website and I just was not quick enough with
my mouse. I suspect it was not. I did quite a few long, hard searches
and nothing was forthcoming.
466. So if there were names of people you could
get in touch with who had done this kind of stuff that you could
talk to about the experience, that would be useful?
(Ms Glover) Very useful, but not even to contact and
talk to. From a radio point of view it would have been extraordinarily
helpful if we could have found other people to broaden the discussion
and give examples, but on a purely personal level I think all
you need to do is just read about some people, just to reassure
you you were the same kind of person they were. It would also
go a long way to dispelling the image of an old boy network because
for some reason that is the way people think of an awful lot of
these bodies. Most of our responses, when we simply asked the
question last night, "Do you want to join one of these organisations,
tell us why you do", were male. I think we had two e-mails
from women saying, "Yes, I would like to but child care is
an issue. Would I be paid? I would have to give up too much time",
and they seemed to have problems with it. Quite a few of the men
said, "Yes, would absolutely love to go for it". So
if you do want to get more women involved, they have only got
ten minutes to log on, a couple of personal histories, a couple
of explanations, a couple of examples, might go quite a long way
to helping bridge that gap.
467. Have you thought aboutperhaps you
have done itgetting women on to the programme who have
done some of this stuff and could talk about it?
(Ms Glover) Yes. We hoped that would happen on the
first night we were talking about it, and we rather hoped that
by treating it as a, "You can call us" phone-in discussion
topic, we would get people phoning up saying, "Yes, I joined
one of these bodies years ago, I have found it terribly fulfilling",
but we did not get a single call. It was one of the lowest turn-out
discussions we have had. It did not seem to engage people whatsoever.
468. Anyway, you sent in your application to
the Public Appointments Unit.
(Ms Glover) Yes.
469. You told them you want to go on what kind
(Ms Glover) I ticked several boxes in terms of the
different areas I thought my life would be relevant to or I could
provide something forsport, leisure. I thought the topics
were very good actually, they gave a very good break down and
allowed people to make quite specific choices about their areas
of interest. I actually only received all the other information,
including a massive great big list of every single body and who
is looking for people at the moment, a couple of days ago so I
have not got as far as actually saying, "Yes, it is the Armed
Forces Pay Review Body for me." I do not know why I have
an obsession with that today but that sticks in my mind!
470. Men in uniform, I think!
(Ms Glover) Yes, it may well be that! I thought the
original application form was good, it certainly sets out enough
areas for me to have thought, "Yes, that is quite specific,
that is quite personal to me, I am interested in those things."
471. I was interested in that last thing you
said. None of us know what you know about doing this in terms
of applying and what happens to you, so it is genuinely a discovery
for us. You sent the form in and you ticked the relevant boxes,
could you say a bit more about what has now come back to you about
the next stage?
(Ms Glover) There would have been about a three-week
gap or possibly a month's gap between my original form going in
and the new information I have received. What you get back is
a very nice letter saying, "Thank you very much indeed for
expressing an interest" et cetera, et cetera, and you are
also sent Public Bodies 2001 by the Cabinet Office, which
is quite a dense encyclopaedic resumé of every single different
advisory body which might be looking for people at the moment.
I am not entirely sure that that is particularly helpful. You
can get lost just looking through them and finding some kind of
humour. I do not know what the Horserace Totalisator Board is,
I do not know whether any of you can tell me.
472. It is the Tote.
(Ms Glover) I see. It would have been helpful to know
473. We know that!
(Ms Glover) I am going to put an asterisk by that
one. This is just a list of every single organisation that might
be interested in you. What is much more helpful is the added list
of who is actually looking for people at the moment and what time
frame they are looking for people within, and that is a list of
about 50 different bodies, some of which want people to start
immediately, some of which will be looking for people in May 2003.
That is very helpful because it helps you focus your mind and
think, "Those are the specific ones I would be interested
in." You are then invited to get in contact with them directly
if you want to flag up the fact you are available. As yet, I have
not done that. That is a good way of cutting down the admin involved,
I would imagine, but you think, "Why didn't you just say
that at the beginning? Why not send a list of bodies which are
currently looking which I am immediately write off to, instead
of going into this central pool."
474. You are going to take this all the way?
(Ms Glover) Oh yes.
475. I have to say it is admirable you have
persisted with this, given the lack of interest from your listeners.
That is public service broadcasting at its best; I would not have
thought it would have lasted on commercial radio. I am intrigued
by the idea that perhaps we ought to think about using random
selection for some of these bodies. It was an idea suggested to
us last week by Mark Thomas, the broadcaster, who said, "Why
not, like with a jury, select people at random?" He would
not want to compel them, which is probably right, but select them,
train them and pay them to do the job. Would that not overcome
some of the difficulties there obviously are in trying to get
a different type of person involved in public bodies?
(Ms Glover) Yes, I think it would definitely, as long
as you had enough people who were willing. The problem is whether
or not you do compel people to join. Judging by either the boredom
or complacency with which the listenership view the whole topic,
I think you might encounter some difficulty in the actual take-up
eventually. I can imagine an awful lot of people receiving the
letter and thinking, "It is quite nice to be asked but actually
I am a bit busy this year" or "I can't be bothered",
so I do not know whether compulsion would have to be used. I rather
envisage that it would if you wanted to fill all the bodies that
476. I just wonder if there is out there a latent
pool of talent which is never going to come forward no matter
how open you make the system, no matter how many radio programmes
there are about it; that at the end of the day people just like
to be asked.
(Ms Glover) You just have to get across the message
that it is obviously very good fun for some people. If you look
through this extraordinary list of all the bodies which already
have got people
477. You could have a hell of a life, couldn't
(Ms Glover) Yes.it must be fulfilling a role
in an awful lot of people's lives already. It is just getting
that message across to that completely untapped reserve of people.
There has to be some kind of a class element to it as well, I
suspect, whereby an awful lot of people simply think, "It
is done by them over there". In a sense it is the same problem
with a politician's image, white, middle class, 40-something male
with highly polished shoes.
Chairman: Who are you looking at now!
478. You looked all the way round the room!
(Ms Glover) I am looking at Annette Brooke.
479. I have not always been 40-something, it
just sort of happens!
(Ms Glover) I do not mean to insult any of you gentlemen
at all. There obviously is an image problem where people are thinking,
"It is done by somebody else, it is not done by me."
Programmes like ours are a very good way of dispelling that myth
if it should be dispelled, if in fact there are enough people
who would be interested, who simply do not know how to do it.