Examination of Witness(Questions 1240-1255)|
THURSDAY 12 DECEMBER 200
1240. Okay, I take that point. Let me be the
devil's advocate, we are talking about getting the appropriate
people into 30,000 appointments and in future it may be more than
that. Whilst I understand the generality of what you are saying,
surely there should be horses for courses? It is not unreasonable
to say that in certain of thosedo not ask me which onesquango
bodies, that somebody from the good and the great might be the
right person. In others it might be by election or selection of
various sorts or even, to come back to the point, perhaps one
or two of them, especially when you have got eight people for
the job, by lot might be appointed? We are talking about a great
range of jobs. Would you like to comment on that?
(Ms Cameron) There is a great range of jobs but the
job and person spec for these jobs should be clear enough for
people to understand and therefore apply for the level of job
that they feel competent to do and would be of interest to the
people who are recruiting. So far as the horses for courses stuff,
I have worked in the corporate world for many years now, and I
have seen an awful lot of failed business people whose ethics
and integrity are open to question becoming leaders or chairs
of quangos. I think the assumption that if you are an accountant
already, or somebody at a certain level in business, that you
are automatically going to be competent to run a quango or a board
is a very unfortunate one. Recent events in financial and other
institutions have thrown that into relief and really underscored
the requirement to be more inclusive and reach out more to people
who have the merit and the skills but are not necessarily part
of that recycling of the bunch of folks who normally take these
senior appointments. This is the type of training I do. I am all
for clarity in terms of the advertisements and job requirements.
I think it focuses the people we are recruiting on exactly what
we want, but I think that assumptions made that certain traditional
official jobs qualify you to do others at a similar level in public
appointments is one that really needs to be challenged.
1241. Hopefully there are millions of people
out there who would be fit and proper people to serve on one of
these 30,000 appointments. Do you think that one of our recommendations
in our report should be that no person should hold more than one
(Ms Cameron) I think certainly in the short to medium
term that is probably quite a good idea. I have not thought that
one through, I am just reacting to what you have said. I think
it is probably a good idea.
1242. In your paper you refer to the mind-set
of politicians and civil servants. Do you think we are beyond
redemption or do you think we can be trained into taking up more
appropriate views and attitudes?
(Ms Cameron) I do not think you are beyond redemption
whatsoever. I think that experience of training in Wales was really
quite inspiring. I happen to have known a number of the folks
over a period of years so my facilitation style was somewhere
between Harpo Marx and Stalin because they all had 20-minute speeches
in their pockets. They pulled together wonderfully as a team and
a number of people who were interviewed by it said it was the
best interview they had ever had in their lives. No, I do not
think you are beyond redemption at all.
Chairman: It is worth having you come just to
tell us we are not beyond redemption!
1243. Could I turn to the Health Service. There
are thousands of appointments every year to health boards, acute
trusts and primary care trusts. Some years ago I went on an acute
trust and immediately we were on three days of training. It was
good and very valuable. I said, "Why don't we front-load
that and put it on before people come on a board?" and they
rejected it, they refused to consider it. Do you think that may
be a way in to encourage people to apply?
(Ms Cameron) That is part of the outreach work that
I was talking about, John. You give people training and awareness
and build up their confidence to recognise their current abilities
and how these are transferable skills which could be the advantage
of a board in the public appointments arena. Yes, I think the
front-end outreach training, whatever you like to call it, is
essential. I found it to be essential for women who are already
in senior appointments, so I think it is doubly essential if we
are going to reach out to a good cross-section, yes, I think it
makes a lot of sense.
1244. Something I raised the other day, it is
a question of adverts for the board in particular. They seem to
be constructed in a way to put certain people off, I feel. They
tell you that you will be judging a project of £350 million.
If you lack confidence, the last thing you are going to do is
apply for that. They then say some knowledge of employment issues
and some knowledge of employment law and the list goes on and
on and on. However, I think most people could sit and do the job
if they are trained effectively.
(Ms Cameron) One of my other best secret weapons was
when this particular trade union were allowed to appoint pension
trustees on some of the big financial organisations and of course
they got training from the TUC. We nominated on this particular
occasion a wee, gallus woman, a middle-aged woman with dyed blond
hair who walked around in heels this high, no further education
whatsoever, with an Edinburgh accent you could cut with a knife.
She was one of the best trustees out because she had the basic
training to understand what was going on in the way that we talked
about and she asked fundamental questions. When they came out
with gobbledegook and technical stuff, she would ask, "What
does that mean for my members in terms of what they will receive
on such-and-such?" She would ask, "What does that mean
in terms of financial probity?" although she would not use
those words. "You are going to take a pensions holiday; how
is that going to affect the pension fund five years up the line?"
or something like that. So, yes, I have great faith in people
out there having good common sense, good analytical skills, and
a bit of front-end training and some of the committee work they
already know would give them a grasp of the process and the confidence
to do it.
1245. I am with Gordon, I think it will take
forever and I will have died off before we get there but I do
like your point about why do we not focus on something. Could
we not focus on the Health Service, sort that out, and then it
might become an example to others? Is there any possibility of
(Ms Cameron) I would say it is a good idea to pilot
sections of two or three different sectors and then develop working
models, I do not mean prototypes but working models of where the
front-load training and outreach is working, whether your headhunters
narrowing down in terms of their widened horizons and so on are
being more effective having been trained in terms of bringing
people in, under a number of these categories, a few categories
but fundamental categories, and see if this actually has an impact
on that particular area. And then you can carry out your audits
and then your monitoring right across the board because you will
have some practical principles (if that is not a contradiction
in terms) sorted out.
1246. I am interested primarily in your remarks
on the "safe pairs of hands". I live in a community
where we have made enormous progress in appointing minorities
and women. We have worked hard on that and we have done well.
However, sitting in your seat a few weeks ago we had Sir William
Wells, Chairman of the Appointments Commission. I asked him whether
if someone put themselves forward who is perfectly qualified in
every way to be a member of a health authority (Gordon's question
as well) but if they had expressed the view that they were opposed
to foundation hospitals, would they be appointed, Sir William
said that would be difficultin other words, no. We had
83 Labour MPs yesterday signing an Early Day Motion opposing foundation
hospitals so they would now apparently be unsuitable for appointment
to health authorities. Do you think there is, increasingly, a
higher degree of political control of appointments to public bodies
of this kind? Is that not now taking over from discrimination
against women and ethnic minorities?
(Ms Cameron) I think it is a big factor and I think
the need to feel in control or be in control of the people you
put into these areas is probably greater. It is all relative if
you are already excluding loads of folks in the way we are looking
at, equality and diversity, but, yes, I do feel that there is
a concern about control that is even greater than there was before.
1247. That is my basic question. Do you not
think that is very insidious for a democratic society?
(Ms Cameron) From my own experience of my own applications
I feel that was it was more important to have people who would
say yes most of the time. When I say that, it would be very dangerous
to have people on foundation hospitals who were expected to sign
some kind of consent form.
1248. I am talking about the authorities, not
even the hospitals.
(Ms Cameron) But if somebody was disruptive on the
board and negative, that is a reason to get rid of them, but not
because they have a particular opinion or intellectual or social
1249. We have all seen wreckers on committees
or at meetings.
(Ms Cameron) Who are a pain in the arse and time wasters.
1250. I am talking about intelligent, legitimate
criticism which actually could change the view of the body because
they have a good case. Have you seen a drift towards weeding out
people who might make intelligent criticisms on bodies you have
been involved with?
(Ms Cameron) I have to be clear here that I do not
have, precisely because of what I have just said, great experience
of being on public boards because I did get to the next step in
terms of being short-listed. I cannot really say that I have a
great experience, but the grapevine amongst the people I respect
suggests that the cloning happens to an even greater degree than
it used to and that the few individuals who come in from ethnic
minorities or women who would be more representative of a cross-section
of women do not get on. It is interesting because ten to15 years
ago there used to be some quite open tensions between women and
ethnic minorities in the so-called equality area, and a lack of
confidence maybe amongst the groups themselves, but I have been
in discussions quite recently with some black and ethnic minority
men and women who have the same perspective I have, that there
is an equality industry out there and it is the safe pair of hands
part of that equality industry which is acceptable.
1251. So if, for example, a very fine black
woman or a very fine Indian man were to be appointed and they
were also a safe pair of hands, as you put it, they could be appointed
apparently on an equality agenda when really they were being appointed
according to a political agenda.
(Ms Cameron) Yes.
1252. To continue this theme that Kelvin was
relying on, I have found a contradiction in what you have been
saying to us so let me try and test it. You have made a strong
case for training and awareness raising and that is really the
centre of what you said to us, with the aim of ensuring objectivity,
of taking out the fundamentally challenging assumptions that people
like politicians and so on are inherently objective and trading
away from that. I wonder whether that will undermine the other
argument you are making which is that you, supporting Kelvin's
point to which I also subscribe, we need people on these boards
who will challenge, who will be difficult in an appropriate way,
who will not be compliant. Is it not likely that your training
towards strict objectivity in the selection process actually undermines
that? I want subjectivity in this process. I want people who are
close to my value system, who share my views, which includes being
challenging, being difficult and not being compliant. Are you
not trying to train that out of me?
(Ms Cameron) We do not. You might get some folk who
do but we would not be the sort of folks that would think about
that. No, no, no. Knowledge is power. One of the things that I
am flabbergasted about amongst senior women is that they often
are very coy and modest about getting their abilities recognised
within the system, even to the point of getting their signature
on a report which is a high-level report which has kudos in an
organisation, so a lot of training is about saying to individuals
wherever they are, "Look, have confidence in your current
and past experience and the skills and expertise you have got
there because they are very important in analysing and challenging
constructively what is happening wherever you are but particularly
in the context of one of the boards." I know it is a cliche
but information is power. What you are doing in that training
is giving them some information about what the agenda of the board
is, the organisation, what sort of issues are dealt with and what
maybe some of the decisions being made in the past, and it is
a political with a small P process as well as a confidence-building
and awareness-raising exercise in terms of not making assumptions
about people because they come from a particular part of our society.
You know all of the assumptions about women and black people and
disabled people that they do not have the necessary qualifications
or ambition or experience. So it is really knocking down some
of the shibboleths really. It is actually encouraging people to
be radical but in a constructive and in an informed way, giving
credit to what they already have.
1253. Thank you very much indeed. In terms of
recommendations, in terms of what we are getting our minds round,
is there one major recommendation that you would like to leave
with us? You have say all kinds of things about improving how
we do things. Is there one thing you would like to leave with
us in terms of what we might say about trying it make all this
(Ms Cameron) Something I say to loads of folks when
we talk about the strategy that will deliver outcomes as opposed
to further policies and fine words, I think there needs to be
a systematic, robust audit of what happens at the moment.
1254. We are taking that on board. That is a
very, very useful suggestion, particularly what you said about
(Ms Cameron) I think you will find that there is an
investment issue here. It will not necessarily be about spending
a lot money to achieve the results and probably in parallel we
can look at dealing with people left out of the loop in terms
of training. I have given you two, Chairman, I am sorry.
1255. Thank you very much for that. Now that
we have seen you twice in one week I feel you have become an unofficial
member of the Committee anyway, and it is very nice for us that
you have, and we have learnt a lot from you.
(Ms Cameron) Thank you, I have enjoyed it.