Examination of Witnesses(Questions 1125-1139)|
THURSDAY 12 DECEMBER 2002
1125. Good morning, everyone. Could I welcome
our witnesses this morning. As you know, we are conducting an
inquiry into the public appointments system and we particularly
wanted to hear from some of you because of what you have been
doing on the Lottery front and to try to find new ways of bringing
people into public appointments. Would you like, any of you, to
say anything just to kick off or do you want us to launch into
(Mr Wainwright) Could I say a few words.
First of all, I think it is tremendous you are looking at this
in detail and also being generous with your time. It's a treat
for us to come here and give evidence. Perhaps I can make three
initial points. The first one is that this little ship has been
afloat for four years and it has not capsized or done any damage.
No by-lot members of these committees have been asked to leave
them for any reason. I think it is felt that a lot of them have
made a useful contribution and indeed Lady Brittan, in her written
evidence to you, has endorsed the experiment, but it is a very
small experiment. It would be marvellous if you felt able to recommend
extending it, even modestly, maybe to other regional Lottery committees,
regional partly because it is near people's homes, or similar
small quangos because then you would have something a bit more
robust where the competing claims of people like myself and criticisms
of others could actually be tested more robustly. Secondly, I
think from all the very interesting evidence that I have read
on your website, induction and support emerge, I think, as tremendously
important when you are trying to widen the pool of people involved
in quangos and I think it is hard to think of a greater incentive
to adding to that than introducing an element of totally inexperienced
people who clearly do need that sort of, and I hesitate to use
the word "training" because that might offend some of
the more eminent people you get on quangos. Finally, I would just
like to say that I think quangos are a marvellous thing because
30,000 people brought into the fullest sort of citizenship is
terrific, but you will not get your constituents, I do not think,
generally saying that they are marvellous. In fact, I think it
is largely because they lack that element which the jury provides
in the legal system and the election provides in the political
system, and that is when at the moment the State abdicates a bit
of power and says, "I trust you". There are such people
as the `village Hampdens' and George Eliot's "good people
faithfully contributing to this", and this system taps them
on the shoulder and says, "I want you".
1126. That is precisely what I wanted to start
asking you about. It is nice to have that kind of cheery civic
optimism. I have been reading your excellent pamphlet on all of
this where you say more or less what you have just said. You say,
"Rather than distaste, involving the citizen in public life
through quangos deserves renewed emphasis in a peaceful and generally
comfortable society like Britain's", and you say, "The
quango system, and all the mockery directed at it, as a means
of government patronage has great potential for countering this
trend for enlisting the citizen to help the State, provided membership
is generally within reach of all". I think I would like to
ask you a little more about that. You have given us a bit already,
but this is an interesting argument for us to hear, the idea that
quangos are an arena for civic endeavour and, therefore, not to
be worried about and sneered at because they are not democratic
enough, but in fact they are almost a compensation or substitute
for the decline of other forms of civic participation. Is that
what you really argue?
(Mr Wainwright) Yes. It is not to criticise other
forms of civic participation, of which there are an increasing
number of lots of imaginative ideas, but that is some of what
is inflicted on it and in fact I know that some of it is rather
antique, but I was very interested when I came across (De Tocqueville's),
the concept of the jury as a political institution. I know that
in courts juries are very constricted in what they can do in their
ability to ascertain facts, whereas a quango is a different creature.
Although with only a limited experience of the National Lottery's
Charities Board, now the Community Fund, we were also constricted
and we had to obey their rules and we could not just do what we
wanted, so I found it interesting to think yes, we are all used
to the idea that we may get a letter in the post requiring us
to go and judge our fellow citizens, but De Tocqueville's argument
was that there was a further process to that and that is the enrichment
of the citizen who became a juror, conscious of acting as a citizen
in the fullest sense. I think quangos do offer that. You would
not call school governors a quango, but there is a similarity
there and there are a lot of these things which enlist the citizen
like that. It seems to me that the processes required of the member
of the committee-negotiating, being confident enough to speak,
just having committee skills, are things which actually are much
more common in our society than we might like to think. An awful
lot of people are involved in, say, an angling club where they
can have a great battle with canoeists on the canal. You can use
it to the level of the family in the sense that anybody who has
got children develops skills and it is that feeling that people
generally have these skills that I felt very powerfully are there
to be called on. There is a slight personal motivation too because
the commonest question I was asked was, "Why should it be
you?" and that is what concentrated my mind really and made
me think that there are a lot of other people who should do it.
1127. Turning to Linda and Mike, you are the
village Hampdens that have been described by Martin here. Just
tell us in a nutshell what happened to you. How did they find
you, how did it feel and how is it going? What do you think about
the whole thing?
(Ms Parkinson) Well, for me it was by post. My first
inclination was to tear it up, thinking, "Oh gosh, something
else silly wanting more money out of me", but then I read
it closely and thought, "Well, try because you just do not
know. You are always on about wanting to do something", so
it is exactly what I did. I sent it back, went to the interview
which was a little daunting, but I got through it. My first year
was mind-boggling. There was a lot to take in, but I am not one
of these people who is afraid to ask, even if it seems to be the
most simple question. That is what I am there for and also really
I feel as if I am putting something back. I feel like an adult
now because I have got really involved. I know where my money
is going because I do buy tickets and it has made me aware of
how many people are disadvantaged. There has been nowhere else
to turn except to the Lottery for a lot of people.
1128. Did they ask you if you had bought a ticket
at the interview?
(Ms Parkinson) Yes, they did.
1129. That is interesting. Is that a condition?
(Ms Parkinson) No, it was just curiosity, I think.
It makes me feel as if I am doing my bit now for everyone really
because everyone stands the same opportunity to get money from
1130. Have you been involved in any kind of
civic activity before?
(Ms Parkinson) Yes, I have been for a long time a
volunteer teacher, an assistant teacher for adults with learning
difficulties which I do once a week at the local college, and
I have helped on other little committees through my life, moving
around the UK because of my husband. I have had a small input
in committees, but nothing as big and as involved as the Lottery.
1131. So you were a good citizen already really,
were you not? That is the truth of it.
(Ms Parkinson) Well, sort of. Probably like any other
mother I wanted to do something rather than be at home all the
time, so just to have a bit of sanity I have done something else.
1132. Can I ask the same of Martin?
(Mr Gray) Certainly. I think whenever you see a letter
which is franked from the National Lottery, you open it with a
certain degree of eagerness.
1133. And then you realised that you had got
the short straw!
(Mr Gray) After the initial disappointment that I
had not become a millionaire, it interested me, so I replied.
I was welcomed to an interview where they were obviously interested
to get people with outside experience of charity work. It was
clear, and I am quite territorial by nature, but I was quite keen
to see that they wanted someone to represent particularly the
area in which I lived, so I was seen as the only person in this
part of the south-east and they wanted someone from that area
to take part in the organisation. I think, like Linda, to start
with it was quite daunting because it is quite a complicated procedure
that is presented to you, but once you have got the hang of it,
once you have plucked up courage to say you do not quite understand
what they are talking about and you are accepted, you then pluck
up courage to start challenging a few things and to become involved
and it is very worthwhile.
1134. I think, Martin, you have already done
a note for us, which is very helpful, on how it works. It might
be useful if someone just in a nutshell tells us quickly how this
selection process works or how you find the Lindas and the Martins
of this world.
(Mr Freeney) I am the regional manager for the north-west
which is one of nine regions of the Community Fund. The process
is that currently our committee is geographically representative
of the region in which we work and we recruit one to two members
by a random selection process and we would do that on the basis
of who is leaving that year, if you get what I mean, because we
have a continuous rollover of members to keep us fresh and so
on. For example, currently we are missing members from the eastern
side of Lancashire, so we are going to do a random selection of
the roll from one of those towns, Bolton, or one of the areas
out there. What we would do is we will choose a number, and I
think Martin has graphically described this in his submission
where we take the numbers of the previous Saturday and so on.
It is in a way like that and that is the way we do it and from
that we will get 100 or 200 people and we will send them an invitation.
In the invitation, and hopefully we have learnt from the comments
that Linda has made and Martin has made, we will try and encourage
them and invite them. In the north-west we send them things like
this (indicating), which is our newsletter which tells
them about some of the things that we are involved in. We will
send them something like the strategy that Parliament has approved
and we may even send them a thumbnail sketch of the members of
the committee that currently sit and they are welcome to say,
"They are from our area", and so on. In addition to
that, we will send them a list of successful grants in their area
and they are often surprised at what is around the corner in terms
of the activities that various charities are doing, so that is
the process in terms of attracting them. Some will not respond
and some do, so, for example, the last time we took part in this,
which was two years ago, we had 100 responses, saying, "Yes,
we are interested", and in the end, 30 people arrived on
the day and that is how we got them to the office, as it were.
After that we have a day when they spend time in the office wandering
around, if you like, talking to staff and staff are aware of who
they are and why they are here. From my point of view, I have
to discipline myself to realise that this is random and I am not
here to select in the normal process against criteria. I am here
to encourage and that is a completely different mindset for someone
like myself who has been recruiting staff all the time, recruiting
other members all the time. In addition to that, some of the selected
members will be there as well and also the randomly-selected members
will be there on the day and they will have lunch or a cup of
tea or whatever and they will sit around chatting. The second
part of the day, they then begin to look at the portfolio, which
is what Martin referred to, which is quite a sizeable document
and we tell them, for example, in the north-west that our budget
is £29 million which we have to distribute to charitable
organisations and in any portfolio we are talking about £4-5
million which they will have to make a decision on. At that point
some selected say, "No, thanks. I don't want that. I don't
think I can do that". Others then have to ask about the time
commitment. If I can give you one very good example of a man,
Alan Keith, for the purpose of this, he worked for Ford in Halewood
and he was delighted to come, but he was very much put off by
the huge sums that we are dealing with. I thought, interestingly
from Mr Alexander's submission to you, he had never been asked
before and that is what intrigued him about it, that he had never
been asked before until he was here. Initially Alan did not want
to have anything to do with it, but then when I began to talk
to him about the job he does, which was a quality control position
at Ford which for some of us was a bit of a joke at that time,
but in fact it has improved, I am glad to say, but I began to
say, "Your product is a car. Our projects are X,Y,Z and it
is very similar. We have quality control, value for money. We
are trying to make an impact. We are trying to make a difference
to people's lives which is what Ford is trying to do", so
he began to see an entre«e for him and his skills. Sadly,
when Ford went over to Jaguar, there was immense competition for
jobs there and he had to withdraw, but I think in terms of discussing
with individual men and women in the street, they have immense
skills not only in raising families and in surviving modern society,
but also the particular tasks they do in terms of work, employment
or non-employment, as the case may be. It is up to us to make
that jump away from selection to giving people good information
on which they can make a decision and to date in the north-west
we have been very successful.
1135. That is very helpful, but I just want
you to complete the story because you have got your 100 through
using the Lottery number and then you get your 30 who come to
the office for the kind of day you have described and you get
some people who then fall out because they decide it is not for
them, but how then do you get down to your two?
(Mr Freeney) We basically do it by our feelings. We
do not have a selection process for random people in that sense
because we try to avoid it. We feel that some people on the day
will make a contribution, so, for example, we will give them a
mini-portfolio to discuss, an exercise, and if people are really
struggling and finding it too hard, we do not want to inflict
punishment but we want them to enjoy it as well, so I think some
people will be encouraged out where we say, "I don't think
you can manage this. This has serious implications for you",
and so on, and in the end the chairman of the committee, who is
normally there on the day, will say, "I think we'll go for
A and B".
Chairman: That is interesting and I am sure
colleagues will want to pursue that.
1136. I would have no problem dishing out £4-5
million; it would not phase me at all! This is the thing, that
the Lottery is a kind of fun job, is it not? I would suspect you
would find it less difficult to get people participating in decisions
on distributing cash within some other quango really. My question
is to Martin really. How easy would it be to extend the principle
of random selection across the generality of quangos because you
were suggesting that might be the case?
(Mr Wainwright) I think it must be a modest proposal.
I take your point about it being enjoyable, but it is not always
enjoyable and there is another side to it in a sense. For the
people who are satisfied with the money you have given them, there
are plenty of people who are not going to be, so it is worth bearing
that in mind. I would not conceive in the immediate future anything
like this spreading rampantly through quango land.
1137. Why not?
(Mr Wainwright) Well, to contradict myself now, I
would be pleased if that did happen, but I do not think in fact
that it will and, therefore, the thing would be to concentrate
on finding, rather as you suggested, the ones that people might
be attracted to and trying it out there and seeing if it works.
I think it could work, but one of the ministers rather scoffed
at it and it could all collapse.
1138. When I read your pamphlet, I thought this
idea of random selection was something that could be or should
be applied more widely because you mentioned Burnley, and places
which are oversubscribed for LEA schools in Burnley are filled
by the Lottery. My understanding is that Burnley only has one
(Mr Wainwright) Has it changed? I think it was Burnley
or Ormskirk which has one or two very popular schools and that
is where the Lottery comes in.
1139. Is that a fair system? The school I am
thinking of is ethnically balanced, but is it a fair way of allocating
places to schools, would you say, as a general principle?
(Mr Wainwright) Well, it survived a High Court challenge,
but I have not read the papers on the arguments on both sides
and I do not know, but I have the feeling there are specific elements
there, as it has survived in Burnley and Ormskirk for what must
be approaching 20 years now. I think I mention in the pamphlet
that the ultimate argument used was that no one could think of
anything better. I know that is not a terribly impressive argument,
but it is interesting that it has been something that has survived
that long and survived a High Court challenge.