Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 480-499)



  480. Probably those people who do apply to do these things are a fairly peculiar group of people, and I include myself as somebody who has been an activist. To want to attend, to go along to committee meetings and discuss things and to actually enjoy that, do you not have to be pretty peculiar in the first place anyway? You have done this as part of your job, your profession, but would you seriously be interested if you were appointed to one of these bodies to actually participate in them and take up a role of this kind?
  (Ms Glover) Some of them I would be, yes, and I was surprised to find that. There are a couple of bodies that are involved in the literacy training of young people, which is about the only thing I have done on a charitable basis over the last ten years in my incredibly busy/selfish career life, and I would be very interested in doing that. I did not realise I would be able to get involved in those kind of projects on a representative basis, I assumed I could only do that kind of thing if I wanted to do charitable work.

  481. It just strikes me in your case, if somebody like you puts their name forward and if at that point you were invited to something, to an event, where there was an example of the work of some of these bodies and where it was explained to you and you could meet other people who were involved in it, that would help. You have just been sent a lot of paperwork really, have you not?
  (Ms Glover) Yes.

  482. That is what happens and that is pretty offputting at the beginning. If, as a result of you expressing an interest, you were invited to something and met some real people rather than just shoving paper at you, do you think that would open the gateway a lot more?
  (Ms Glover) Definitely, yes. If you had something to turn up to which you could immediately put in your diary, I think curiosity, apart from anything else, would make sure that you turned up. If it is local to your area, it is not going to eat into a whole weekend, and you are guaranteed something at the end of it. You are going to go along, yes, and you will meet other people of a similar mindset, who are hopefully doing things for a similar reason, and it would be more helpful to get the list of who is looking for people at the end of that and meet somebody from that body to set up a way forward. Yes, I would definitely turn up to something like that. The problem with sending lots of paperwork is that it sits on the kitchen table for a month, it is something you are going to, you are going to do, and, you know what happens with busy lives, it will all get used as shopping lists eventually.

Mr Wright

  483. In the transcript of your interview on your show where you had Linda McDougall with you, you say, "There are loads of other things. I mean, I could try and get on the board of the British Library or the British Museum. I don't think I'm really intellectually qualified for that." Why do you have to be intellectually qualified to apply for some of these positions? Why should it not be open to everybody?
  (Ms Glover) I think it should be open to everybody but, again, I think it is an image problem. It is the assumption that you are going to be called upon to do things you might not feel you are actually qualified or capable of doing. It is very difficult to find out exactly what is going to be required of you. This is only using myself as an example but most people think of the worst possible scenario, that you are going to become involved in something that is a bit above your head, making decisions you might not feel capable of making. It is very hard to work out what you are going to be doing, why you would be needed and what your relevance is going to be. I could not find that anywhere on the website at all.

  484. Is the problem though, as you have just pointed out, that people just are not aware of how they can get on to these public bodies?
  (Ms Glover) Yes.

  485. There are a thousand of these public bodies overall, 30,000 appointments, about 4,000 appointments made every year, so there are loads of opportunities for people. Is it that they are just not aware of what goes on rather than they cannot be bothered?
  (Ms Glover) I think it is a combination of the two. I think most people have no idea what process is involved and a large number of those people also just cannot be bothered. If 4,000 appointments are made every year, that is not a huge number of people. There are more people involved in parent-teacher associations in schools than there would be involved in things like this. I do not think 4,000 is a huge number of people.

  486. You mention the fact that you only had about ten calls after this piece, when on average you have 200 to 500 calls an evening. Does that not just highlight the fact that people are not bothered about it?
  (Ms Glover) Yes, I think it does, but they might not be bothered about it because of some of the things we have already talked about, because they cannot see what it is that people are actually doing. They have no idea how valuable a role it might be and what it might put back into their own lives. An awful lot of people assume that you would have to be quite well off as well in order to take up one of these posts because they are not paid. Yes, your expenses might be paid but, especially if you are a mum, you will get a train fare somewhere but who is going to pay for the extra child care and things like that. There are an awful lot of barriers you have to get over before you get to the, "Can people actually do it? Are people going to seek out a way to find out more about it?" As it did on our programme, it proved easier for people to switch off and they presumably thought, "Somebody else is interested in that item, I will wait for the hilarious piece about scarecrows which is coming up just before the news."

  487. So really the barrier is just as much about the lack of ability to do this as about the lack of information.
  (Ms Glover) Yes.

  488. So what we need to do is sort out that problem first so people at the lower end of the economic scale can apply for these particular positions?
  (Ms Glover) Yes. I have never seen any of these bodies advertise anywhere or talk about the fact they are looking for people. I have never opened a local newspaper and seen my particular branch of whatever body saying, "We need some more people to sit on our organisational committee, are you interested, turn up at 6.30 on a Wednesday evening, have a lukewarm glass of white wine and talk about it." I do not know why they would not be able to do that and I am sure that some people might turn up, or at least it would plant an idea in people's minds that it is something they might at some stage in their life want to do.

  489. When you get selected for the Public Appointments Unit, what will that prove?
  (Ms Glover) What will it prove to me or to our listeners?

  490. To your listeners and to you.
  (Ms Glover) An awful lot of our listeners just think that these kind of things we do as some kind of stunt, and they are right, it is! What will it prove? If I do get picked I think it proves an awful lot of people can get picked, because I do not have stunning qualifications in terms of other things I have done in my life. An awful lot of our listeners may think, "She has only been picked because she is higher profile than I am" and they will probably think, "They picked her just to prove they did pick young women", so we might both fall down at that hurdle. I think it will prove that it is a process you can go through. If I end up sitting up on a committee or getting involved in an organisation that I am very interested in and I talk about it, and talk about it in a positive way, then I hope that is going to prove it is worthwhile. Our listeners are much more interested in the fact I am appearing here today than any other part of this whole process. They are intrigued.


  491. Okay, tell us. What have they been saying to you?
  (Ms Glover) We felt it was very humbling last night on the programme, and I have some e-mails here that pertain to it. People really do think select committees are where the business of government is getting done, or at least getting done quicker. They do think you are all important and that this is a much more relevant way to go about talking about politics than if we just got Barbara Roche in the studio again and talked about it with her. They find it more fascinating than other parts of government which we spend hours and hours talking about and poking around and trying to explain.

  492. I suspect if you did transmissions from here on your programmes at night, we could cure them of all this!
  (Ms Glover) You may be right!

  Chairman: It is very nice to know. It doesn't half cheer us up!

Mr Wright

  493. Presumably when you report back, whether tonight or whatever night it is, it will be on the basis that you were interviewed by half a dozen men and one woman, which exemplifies the nature—
  (Ms Glover) I am going to have to mention it, am I not? A large part of this from our point of view was to talk about women's involvement in quangos, which was why Barbara Roche was on in the first place, so it is quite interesting that we are out-numbered.

  494. Is not the positive aspect of that that we are prepared to discuss it and try to put it right?
  (Ms Glover) Yes, it is. I am not going to turn up on air this evening and say, "That was a complete waste of time, there was only one woman on the panel."

  495. Conversely, the other side of the question I was going to put, if you do not get on, what will it prove?
  (Ms Glover) That is a very good question. If I do not get selected—and I believe if you are not selected within five years then they just cross you off the list—that means you are a total failure. So I have got five years to go! If I do not get picked, it will say something very interesting about the process really and what people are looking for. I assume I would not get picked because I did not have that much to say in the other relevant qualifications and experience box.

  496. Do you think people who do not get selected should have a reason as to why they are not selected? Should they get a letter to say, "You were not selected because of A, B, C or D" or just a letter to say, "Sorry, your application has failed"?
  (Ms Glover) I think if you wanted to do a terrible disservice to the future of all these organisations, you should do that, but otherwise no, I do not think you should. I would be intrigued as a journalist to know why some people are not selected. Linda McDougall did say she thought she had never been selected because she had belonged to certain organisations and would be viewed as a trouble-maker. She has no way of proving that, I have no way of finding out. You are going to have to be quite harsh, I would think, if you are going to write back to people and say why they were not selected. I do not know on what basis it would be. Are you going to refuse people because they do not have enough educational qualifications? You should not be doing that because it does not mean they are not bright sparks now.

  497. But if you are talking about transparency, in the case of Linda McDougall, if it is her assumption that she was not selected because of her past or her associations in other areas and that was the reason, surely it should be incumbent on those people making those decisions to say to her, "You have not been selected because of this"?
  (Ms Glover) Yes, but I also presume that it would be very difficult to find out, because essentially within this pool you are waiting for a thousand organisations to pick up individual people based on different criteria, so an unwillingness on the part of one body will not be the same as on the part of another, therefore it is going to be very difficult to work out why some people reside in the pool for five years and then drop off, I would have thought. I will obviously be extraordinarily offended and upset if, in five years' time, not one single person has shown any interest in me at all.

  498. Finally, my wife always suggests to me that any woman who seeks to have equality with men lacks ambition. Would that be your philosophy?
  (Ms Glover) No, I do not think so. I am quite surprised at the objective to have 50/50 parity on all these bodies, men and women, because if you are talking about people giving up their time then, inevitably, women have less of it if they have chosen to have a family. I think as an objective it is going to be a target that is not reached, which then creates a bad story. I am not sure it is achievable.

Mr Trend

  499. Following on from Kevin and talking about what the Minister said before, they are very proud of their roadshows which are going round the country. Did you know they were having roadshows? There was something you could have gone to to meet like-minded people.
  (Ms Glover) Yes, but they are not very heavily advertised and they are not widely known about. The roadshows which are going on at the moment are specifically designed at attracting women and getting women involved.

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