Memorandum by Harriet Kimbell (PAP 2)
I attach as Appendix A the details of the Committees
and Advisory bodies on which I have sat for information. The views
expressed in this response are my personal views and are not the
views of SEAC or the Consumers' Association.
I will answer the questions set out but would
make a few preliminary points;
The Financial argument
The public perception of public bodies
is that members are well paid and appointed under a system of
"jobs for the boys". In fact members on many committees
are unpaid or paid a modest allowance for the days on which they
Members who are unpaid actually have
more power to be critical of Government etc because they lose
nothing if their appointment is terminated. This means they can
be more frank and open and give more balanced views.
The Time argument
To serve on any sort of body properly
involves a substantial time commitmentnot so much for attending
meetings but in reading the documents.
To take time off work to attend meetings
etc means you have to have understanding employers or lose pay.
This means that you probably need
to be senior (both in experience and age!).
Problems created by the above
Do you chose someone who can give
plenty of time for public servicein which case you must
pay them a living wage.
Or do you choose someone who is otherwise
employed somewhere else so that they bring a breadth of experience
to the post, by may not be able to attend fully or prepare fully.
If you create a selection process
which requires applicants to jump through too many hoopsapplication/interview
etc they won't bother unless again you pay a proper salary and
they will then treat it as any other job application.
1. There are too many bodies in the first
place. Whether salaries, allowances or just expenses are paid
the cost to the public purse is too high. However the justification
for appointment to some is that you can then fill the post with
the area of expertise you need, thereby achieving a balanceLook
at SEAC. You need expertise in a range of area. You can only get
this by appointment following selection from a designated group.
2. Why on earth would busy people who already
have day jobs bother to go through the hassle of an election?
Again money would make a difference. If this was to be their only
job then there wouldn't be much difference between going for a
job interview and an election process except at least you see
your interviewers face to face at a job interview, which might
not be the case in an election. Furthermore if the election process
were done on documents alone the process would favour the highly
literate applicant and the person who is prepared to put pen to
paper and that would not necessarily bring in the wide range of
applicants you want.
3. Absolutely not. You don't want lots of
disgruntled people being forced to attend meetings when they would
rather be elsewhere. It's hard enough to get through agendas as
it is. Anyway what is the point of paying someoneeven expenses
to attend a meeting on a topic about which they have no interest
and no expertise.
4. I don't really understand what you are
getting at here. You may want to extend the range of people who
sit on public bodies but this begs the questionhow? Nolan
has already meant that it is much more difficult to fill posts
than it was. If someone has to spot an advert, apply for the post,
attend an interview and go through a grilling for a post that
pays nothing, as I did for the Woolf Committee (which took up
one day a week most weeks for two years), frankly people won't
5. It's probably as good as you are going
to get. But it is an expensive process and therefore a drain on
the public purse, and I have to say pre-Nolan when I was rung
up by some senior civil servant or MP who twisted my arm to sit
on some committee or other, I would reluctantly agree. I would
never have joined it if I had to go through a full selection process.
6. If you want to advertise posts you have
to consider carefully where to put the advert. The Times and
the Telegraph will not bring in the range of applications
7. I have no evidence of this. It has never
happened to me or anyone I know, but it may well happen, I just
do not know of any instances.
8. They should be a part of the terms of
reference of a body from which they are seeking advice, so they
get the range of advice they want to decide on policy. I see no
reason why they should not also make suggestion as to the type
of person they think should be a member ie areas of expertise,
and even suggest names if they know of anyone, but their suggestions
should not be weighted more than anyone else's.
9. Again I have no evidence of this. I have
never ever been asked what my political views are or which party
I support and I have never divulged this. I have been appointed
to committees under both parties.
10. Only if it is the type of committee
where political bias is a factor. So if you want the views of
a labour voter because it is relevant to the business of the committee,
you should probably balance it with those of a Conservative one
too. But if the selection process is right, party political matters
should otherwise be irrelevant. One thing that absolutely must
be avoided is people who make party political points which have
nothing to do with the business of the committee and clog up it
11. Nonesave as I have set out in
12. Probably because it will look better
from a public standpoint.
13. Yes because the process is so complicated
and requires skills that many people do not have. Also advertisements
are not placed to attract a wide range of applicants eg in the
14. That is a really thorny issue, and I
am not at all sure that Nolan has not made this worse.
15. Consistency is not the issue. See my
initial comments. Do you want a permanent "employee",
or someone who has a "day job" already? Also I believe
very strongly in the point I made about the power of an unpaid
member to speak their mind. Look at what happens to paid employees
that do this.
17. Wider type of press coverage.
18. I hadn't heard of her until I read this
19. Not if it makes them too complicated
and thereby dissuades applicants. Further too formal a process
causes inordinate delay.
20. The question is who are they. Do they
themselves represent a wide diversity of background, interests
and gender and ethnic diversity? If not, they should.
21. I think it's a waste of space.
22. No view as I don't know how they do
23. See my answer to Q19.
24. Don't know what they are.
25. Not if they then won't bother. If there
is enough information known on most of such people to assess them
on merit, then that should be enough.
I hope the above is of some interest.
Harriet Kimbell MBE
Government Committees and Task Forces and other
MAFF Consumer Food Panel 1989-1995.
Polkinghorne Committee on Ethics of Genetic
Modification and Food Use 1992report in 1993Public
Banner Committee on Ethical Implications of
Emerging technologies in the Breeding of Farm Animals 1995Public
Nutrition Task Force 1992-1995.
Ecolabelling Board 1992-1994.
Civil Procedure Rule Committee under Lord Woolf
1997-2000Public interest representative.
Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee
(SEAC) 1998present dayPublic interest representative.
Consumers' Association 1988present dayMember
of governing Council