Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses(Questions 1200-1213)

MR MARTIN WAINWRIGHT, MS JANET PARASKEVA, MS LINDA PARKINSON, MR ANDY FREENEY AND MR MARTIN GRAY

THURSDAY 12 DECEMBER 2002

  1200. Do you think the balance on committees should be more for people who are prepared to say, "Maybe we have to look at this again"?
  (Ms Parkinson) We have done that as well.

  1201. You have all looked at it and said, "We are not sure. We need to chuck this back and think long and hard"?
  (Ms Parkinson) Yes. There is the opportunity to do that and our committee has done that before.
  (Mr Freeney) We have a deferring system.

  1202. How many times can you defer?
  (Mr Freeney) Once, usually.

  1203. And then it gets out of time?
  (Mr Freeney) Yes. If a project needs to start and you defer and defer, the project cannot survive.

Kevin Brennan

  1204. How many of you buy a lottery ticket every week? Hands up.
  (Mr Gray) Not every week.

  1205. It occurred to me that there already is a system to choose people at random from the lottery itself and at least those would be people who buy lottery tickets, unless you agree with the proposition that basically the lottery is a tax on stupidity and therefore those who buy tickets would not be qualified to serve. Would it not be a good idea to try to have people who buy lottery tickets serving on these boards?
  (Ms Parkinson) You are reducing it to a small minority who do buy a ticket every week. I buy them but not every week. It is a good idea because it gives everybody a chance to have a go.

  1206. How many numbers are there in the lottery?
  (Ms Parkinson) 49.

  1207. If your number on the electoral register is 50 or above—?
  (Ms Parkinson) That is right.
  (Ms Paraskeva) It is the last two digits of your electoral role number.
  (Mr Wainwright) They did discuss this with Camelot and the idea was that you should choose them randomly through the Camelot computer but it was not possible.
  (Ms Paraskeva) You would not get a properly random selection. People do not buy lottery tickets to give money to charity; they buy lottery tickets to win the lottery.

  1208. If they win a million quid on the lottery, they might give a little bit back?
  (Ms Parkinson) I would say you were naive.

Chairman

  1209. You were asked, Linda and Martin, whether you were serving on other quangos at the same time. Do you think you are more likely to serve on quangos in the future because of your experience of serving on this one?
  (Ms Parkinson) I would like to. Whether I get the offer is something totally different.

  1210. I think you will.
  (Mr Gray) The lottery is a very interesting and broad based quango. If there was something that was specifically of interest to me, I would, but I would not automatically serve on one.

  1211. Martin, you are hosting this. You are saying that juries are democratic in virtue but you are selecting people. You are innovative head hunters.
  (Mr Wainwright) You can fine tune. There are different ways of doing it. Can I quickly mention merit?

  1212. We started with De Tocqueville and J. C. Mill had great democratic views too but what he said was people who are illiterate cannot vote and people who are bright can have several votes. That is a winnowing out. You are doing a winnowing out too because when you have done your lot exercise you look at these people and say, "Who has the skills?" With juries you do not. You do not say, "Can they do logical reasoning or be aware of the difference between good and evil?" You just take them.
  (Mr Freeney) Barristers will argue and get rid of people on juries.

  1213. Not for those reasons.
  (Mr Freeney) It is for some reason.
  (Mr Wainwright) I think it is meritorious to say, "Yes" when you are tapped on the shoulder like this. There is great merit in a wider understanding of day to day issues rather than having a specialist focus. There is merit in a different approach, which has been the point made about, "Hang on a minute", an outsider's view the emperor's new clothes. There is a great merit in balancing a quango and a balanced quango may be more meritorious as a quango than a quango made up of individually meritorious people. The merit of motivation also comes into this because this is the one shot probably for these people. They probably will not generally go on to become career quango people. Finally, the system is meritorious because it spreads active citizenship.

  Chairman: Thank you all for coming. It has been absolutely fascinating and we are very grateful to you for your time.


 
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