Examination of Witness(Questions 1220-1239)|
THURSDAY 12 DECEMBER 200
1220. And your knowledge of employers leads
you to think that this might be possible?
(Ms Cameron) Some of the large employers already do
this. For example, we work with HSBC and HSBC release staff on
paid grounds for school governorships and appointments like that.
Far be it for me as an ex-trade union officer to speak on behalf
of small and medium-sized enterprises but I think this has got
to be looked at as a whole, some imaginative investment in resources
for them to make it, just as it is possible for working people
to be released, practicable for them to release people to fulfil
their obligations and abilities in that area.
Chairman: That is fine. Kevin?
1221. You said in your submission to us that
some appointments are already advertised, albeit in a restricted
context, while others continue to be a tap on the shoulder. Can
you give me an example of where that has happened?
(Ms Cameron) You do not want me to name names, do
1222. I would love you to name names. I am looking
for a steer from you.
(Ms Cameron) I know some trade union officers, for
example, who are tapped on the shoulder for particular jobs, I
know employers who are tapped on the shoulder. I have to say that
the EOC, for example, did not get it right recently. It tapped
an employer on the shoulder and then lost their application form
twice, but that is another story.
1223. So the Equal Opportunities Commission
does not use equal opportunities principles in selection?
(Ms Cameron) I should have remembered that we are
on the record here. There have been some problems with employers
which politically it was a stupid thing to do. Employers and trade
union officers, people in public life already are being tapped
on the shoulder probably because in a number of cases they have
proven their ability and the organisations want them in. However,
that undermines, as I have said before, the whole point of a transparent
system where you still have the right to select on a meritorious
basis. Quite rightly, the concern that black people and women
and disabled people have in corporate life is not that they are
patted on the head, "There, there, you have potential, we
will look after you." Their concern is that they have all
of that in great heaps but the prevailing culture does not want
1224. I realise you cannot name names but what
happens when someone gets the tap on the shoulder? Are they told
put in an application for this with a nod and a wink, "You
will be alright", or is it a case of them simply saying,
"Have you considered applying for this post? Have you seen
(Ms Cameron) I think you get all of these. One of
the things the great and good say is, "I would never bloody
well apply for something . . . if I were not invited I would not
go through the bureaucratic process of applying."
1225. The opposite of the Groucho Marx principle:
"I would never join a club which had me as a member."
On this whole business of headhunters, do you think in public
appointments that the use of headhunters, except perhaps in extreme
circumstances where you cannot get anybody to do a job, should
(Ms Cameron) If I had a lot of money and I were a
bit younger I would set up an alternative headhunters' organisation
that was much more inclusive and imaginative than the current
ones are, but that is a different matter. I think it would be
a good idea not only to audit what is happening but audit how
much you are spending on headhunters in terms of what you deliver
according to the outcomes we are exploring in this Committee.
I would probably narrow it down very greatly to a few ethical
headhunters. I know that is the buzz word at the moment but I
think it is important for all the reasons that we are aware of,
and give the trusted ethical headhunters and trained civil servants
and others I have been talking about very thorough training which
should be evaluated on a regular basis.
Kevin Brennan: Can you just tell us what "ethical
1226. Perhaps tell us what an unethical one
is and we can spot the difference.
(Ms Cameron) An example is what John Birt said the
other year about only knowing three people in the world who could
have carried out the senior function in the BBC. I put laziness
and lack of vision and whatever in with the ethics here because
they move in the same circles as the people they recruit, they
like to get their money as quickly as possible, so they do not
really want to put much effort into trawling for, again, meritorious
people from wherever they might come and so they already have
lists if you like, chair, which they will refer to. It is a recycling
all the time.
1227. The interesting comment you made about
costs, you said a moment ago perhaps we ought to look at how much
these headhunters cost and then you said they use headhuntersI
am paraphrasingrather than going through a proper trawl
and personnel and selection procedures.
(Ms Cameron) I misled you. There may be a cost associated
with going out on a trawl but that is outwith the infrastructure
I have talked about where you key into already existing infrastructures
like trade unions and community organisations and women and ethnic
minorities organisations who would do much of the work for you
and produce your talent list. What happens with the headhunters
is that they make no move outside the very narrow confines of
the lists which are continually recycled and recirculated.
1228. Can I just ask one other question because
I do not want to prolong things too much. You are in favour of
using more of these techniques in selecting people to stand for
public office. Would that be fair, say, for elected politicians?
(Ms Cameron) Yes, we had to train the Labour Party
selection board for the National Assembly. I am very proud of
the proportion of women, although I know it went through the constituency
process which was very tough; I am not so proud of the ethnic
minority proportions or lack of them. We had, as you know, a very
eclectic bunch of MPs and Euro MPs and lawyers and trade union
officers who pulled together for two days into an excellent team.
It does not take a long, long time to help people be much more
fair and consistent. I am now working with elected members' councils.
I reckonand I do not want to stress the negative compliance
issuewhen council officers turn round to me, like trade
union members say to me, "The bloody executive [or the council
members] are always an impediment to us moving on", that
may be so but, on the other hand, if you exclude them from the
training and the understanding and raising the level of awareness,
then of course they will continue to be an impediment because
they will be excluded from that. In addition to that, I suspect
that it will not be very long before the courts will start to
challenge the political selection process. The Jepson case
was not appealed but there is a local authority case which raises
some very interesting issues around that. Selecting somebody in
a pub or constituency office somewhere may well come under the
scrutiny and probably should come under the scrutiny of people
who wish to see a more open and transparent process.
1229. You come across to me as someone who is
prepared to rattle the bars of the cage. Did I hear you correctly
when you told us earlier that you put in two applications for
public appointments and did not hear anything? Without wanting
to have all details, did you get back to them?
(Ms Cameron) I filled in the generic application form
twice. I did get back particularly after the first one.
1230. What did they say?
(Ms Cameron) "We will send you another one."
I then applied for an EOC commissioner post and was short-listed.
I was told I was above the line, I do not know what the hell it
is, is it the Plimsoll Line, whatin other words, I was
material for national public appointments. I had a debrief on
that one because I felt that was important.
1231. So they did get back and explain. Can
I ask you about selection by lot. You will have picked up from
the tail end of the previous session that this is one imaginative
way of extending the pool of people prepared to serve on public
bodies. Do you think it is a good idea selecting by lot? Would
you extend it beyond the community fund to other areas?
(Ms Cameron) No, I do not think so. The greatest insult
to women, ethnic minorities and disabled people is that although
they have the proven abilities they are ignored in the selection
processes. I think you should still appoint on merit. I think
you can by opening up the processes in the way I have talked about
supplementing that with an apprenticeship schemeshadowing,
confidence-buildingso that people get familiar with jobs
that they are very unfamiliar with. But the goalposts keep on
being moved for so-called minorities. I can remember nearly 20
years ago the part-time Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission
telling me that women will arrive there when they get qualifications.
I knew as a trade union officer at that time because I had audited
companies I had dealt with that women had the qualifications but
they were not in the jobs they were capable of doing for the reasons
I have said. For somebody at her level to make such a daft assumption
means that it is there, it is there, it is untapped, and I think
we need to make greater effort to get to it. What are you going
to do? Say, right, the lottery ticket in Sainsbury's this week
is for appointments to the Commission for Racial Equality or whatever?
Is that how you are going to do it? I do not think so.
1232. I do not want to labour the point but
what I am trying to get at is maybe where there is a conflict
between this objective of extending diversity on the one hand
and selecting by merit. You are an expert on ethnic minorities,
introducing diversity and so on, and without wishing to appear
derogatory or whatever, there may be some ethnic minority groups
who are less likely to participate, less likely to be able to
participatepeople newly arrived into the country, Muslim
women for example. There are gradations within the ethnic minorities
to the extent they are prepared to participate (Chinese, Indian,
Pakistani, Bangladeshi) and that is what I am interested in. If
you wait to select on merit then we may all be dead by then.
(Ms Cameron) I am just tired, not quite dead, and
having seen this cycle through a number of times
1233. But you take my point.
(Ms Cameron) I understand. To take your example of
Muslim women, I used to negotiate with international banks, Indian,
Pakistani, Bangladeshi, othersand even if your Muslim woman
got through on the lottery she could well be forbidden by the
community leaders from taking up the public appointment, so that
is no guarantee that a women of merit, in this particular case
from a Muslim community, would actually take her rightful place
on that body. That is why I am saying that outreach has got to
be much more robust and imaginative than it is at the moment because,
quite rightly, as you have implied, you will not get to grips
with people because even, and I was talking about the trade union
movement, the established structures in that area will not reach
out necessarily. I use the trade union movement because it is
my personal experience but, yes, you are absolutely right and
you would have to be very imaginative about getting to some of
the different ethnic communities because women have no rights
as far as they are concerned and that is going to be a big problem
with religion and belief when it comes into law.
1234. I know other colleagues want to come in,
so just one final question. It is about those people who rock
the boat. Let me take the example of foundation hospitals. These
foundation hospitals, we are told, are going to be governed by
local people reflecting local needs. Would it be legitimate for
the government in drawing up the rules for foundation hospitals
to have an expectation that those who serve on foundation hospitals
are signed up to the whole idea? Is that a legitimate way of discriminating
between people, that you are signed up to whatever the body is?
(Ms Cameron) That is a very dangerous thing to do
because if you come up against a conflict of interest in terms
of the wider community during a particular board you would have
to challenge, you may be out voted but you would have to challenge
that, surely? I think what I was touching on earlier was that
that is a very primitive way of putting into practice probably
what happens unofficially anyway but I think it is a very dangerous
challenge to civil liberties to do that.
1235. I cannot understand why you were resistant
to the idea of the lotto approach. It is an additional method
of finding candidates. We were talking to Linda in the previous
session here. She had not been involved in public bodies before.
She was found because the Lottery people went out through this
new method, uncovered a Linda, who turned out to be excellent.
Surely it is only a form of outreach that we are recommending?
(Ms Cameron) How would you turn round to a black person
or a woman or a disabled person who has the proven ability I am
talking about and has gone through a system for a number of years
and has been knocked back for no other reason than their so-called
minority status? How do you think they would react to being told,
"It is alright, folks, you can go out and buy a lottery ticket
and you might get that public appointment"?
1236. If they were receiving invitations through
the post to come to an event from an organisation that was trying
to recruit more widely, is that not just a better way?
(Ms Cameron) That is positive action anyway. I see
no conflict between inviting people to apply and saying, "We
think you have got the qualities necessary or that would be good
for this job", and them going through a proper application
process, albeit a much simplified application process because
some of them are ridiculous.
1237. We discovered it probably was not a lottery
after all and it was a form of outreach really.
(Ms Cameron) Yes, inviting
1238. Can we persuade you that this is really
(Ms Cameron) I could not be persuaded about the lottery,
no, sorry, Tony.
Sir Sydney Chapman
1239. On that point, I can understand your opposition
because if seven per cent of the country are ethnic then they
are not going to be chosen by lot but when one out of two of British
people are women surely you should welcome the point as outreach,
not as just a chance?
(Ms Cameron) I and a number of other women could produce
a list of hundreds and thousands of women who would be absolutely
splendid in public appointments, no problem. If they are then
invited to go through a transparent and constructive process,
fine, I have no problem with that whatsoever, but I am not sure
that the people who are invited, Sir Sidney, are always those
who have the ability to do the job. They are quite often politicians'
wives or again the recycling of the great and the good. We talked
about accountability on Tuesday, I think, I do not always agree
with the politics of some of these able women, but that is not
the point, they are very able, and there are black people who
are very able in their own right, and they are more likely to
be the voice of folks in the wider community than the ones who
are continually tapped on the shoulder at the moment. There is
no shortage of talent out there, it is amazing and it is easily
accessible but there needs to be a bit of imagination and systematic
and robust audit. That combination is necessary to access that.