Memorandum by the Transport and General
Workers Union (PAP 3)
I write further to your correspondence of the
13 March requesting the T&G's response to your Committee's
consultation paper on the subject of patronage and public appointments.
As a trade union, both our policy objectives
and our internal organisation are informed by our twin commitments
to democracy and equality. And, those commitments encompass not
just the economic dimension, but political, civil and social rights
as well. It is not for this reason that we regard the issue of
patronage and public appointments as being of central importance
to our members and, indeed, to society as a whole.
According to our research, the UK's quangos
and non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) account for over £18
billion of annual public expenditure: that equates to more than
6% of government spending per year. Consequently, the T&G
has two key areas of concern about these public bodies which we
would like to highlight in our response to your consultation paper:
the first is regarding the role of political influence upon public
appointments; and the second relates to the issue of diversity
in public appointments.
For the T&G, one of the basic pre-requisites
for a democratic society is that public bodies be democratically
accountable. In order to achieve this objective, consideration
could be given to the idea of making nominations, or recommendation
for appointments, to public bodies subject to the scrutiny and
approval of the Parliament.
In our opinion, the establishment of a system
of pre-appointment parliamentary scrutiny might well produce the
(a) The legitimacy of Quangos/NDPs would
(b) Paliament could hold Ministers to account
against their equality and anti-discrimination statutory duties.
(c) Public awareness and acceptance of appointments
to public bodies would be increased.
We recognise that there is an argument that
the prospect of being publicly vetted by a Parliamentary confirmatory
hearing might act as a deterrent to those groupssuch as
women and ethnic minoritieswho may not even be used to
an interview situation, let alone a public heearing. We would
therefore recommend that any system of pre-appointment scrutiny
be designed in such a way as to encourage, rather than deter,
public appointments' by people from diverse backgrounds.
The T&G fears that, in their present form,
Britain's public bodies do not adequately reflect this country's
gender, age, racial, cultural or social diversity. To date, the
pool from which members have been drawn has tended to be far too
narrow. Not only does this deny to public bodies a wealth of talent,
skills and experience, it also means that many of them appear
to be detached from the communities they claim to serve.
We therefore believe it to be in the interests
both of good governance and of civil rights that the membership
of public bodies is more representative of 21st century Britain's
pluralistic society. As such, the T&G has concluded that the
appointments system must have at its heart a policy of equal opportunities.
We are convinced that a sustained effort to
increase membership diversity would:
(a) Significantly improve the effectiveness
of public bodies.
(b) Ensure that public bodies are more responsive
to local communities.
(c) Help to reconnect citizens to the political
process and to civic life by increasing the opportunities for
The issues being examined by your committee
are of crucial significance to our political and civic life and
I am therefore grateful for this opportunity to contribute to
the consultation process.
I look forward to studying the Committee's conclusions
in due course.