Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary Memorandum by the Transport and General Workers Union (PAP 3A)

  I am very pleased to enclose the T&G's response to the specific equality questions raised in the Issues and Questions Paper from the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee.

Question 13—Is there evidence to suggest that the current system is not attracting applications from the widest pool of candidates?

  Currently women make up only 33% of those serving on public bodies. Black and ethnic minority people are also under-represented, as are disable people and young people. In addition, those from non-professional backgrounds but with relevant skills (such as trade unionists) are far less likely to apply for a public appointment than their professional counterparts. This under-representation is significantly worse amongst higher-level public appointments. We believe monitoring should take place at every level of the public appointments process to determine the extent of under-representation and also how representation relates to seniority of public appointments and whether or not they are paid. These problems of under-representation not only have democratic implications for society, but also mean that public bodies are not drawing upon as wide and diverse a range of skills and experiences as they might.

Question 14—How can greater diversity best be combined with reassurance that the principle of merit in public appointments is being upheld?

  Far less women apply for public appointments than do men. Research by the Women's National Commission has shown that this is to a large extent due to a lack of training, a lack of confidence and a lack of support services, not that they do not possess the relevant skills and experience.

  The government's recent attempts to increase women's representation on public bodies through setting targets, publicising this drive and providing training and mentoring, is to be welcomed. The recognition of non-traditional career patterns as equally valid experience is particularly important. However, many posts are still without remuneration, a fact that is likely to deter applicants with lower incomes from applying for those posts.

  We have also encountered people who would like to apply for a public appointment, but due to the fact that they would have problems getting time off work, have not done so. This is particularly the case with those who work part-time, who are disproportionately women. We have sometimes found that new technologies such as teleconferencing can be a way of enabling the participation of those who might not otherwise be able to. In addition, although the government is encouraging public bodies to provide expenses, in particular childcare, this is not currently compulsory, something we would like to see addressed.

  It is vital that the good example the government has set in bringing forward initiatives to extend the representation of women be extended to other under-represented people as soon as possible. Similar research, including the setting of targets and the provision of resources to tackle identified problems are crucial to this. In particular, there should be extensive use of positive action as defined by the amended Race Relations Act.

Question 15—Would a more consistent use of remuneration for members of public bodies help to increase diversity in their membership? Are there any possible drawbacks to an increase in the number of remunerated members?

  A more consistent use of remuneration would clearly increase diversity as those from lower incomes (disproportionately women, black and ethnic minority people, non-professionals, disabled people and young people) would be more able to afford to give up their time to serve on a public body. Whilst such increased remuneration would require a significant increase in resources allocated to public appointments, this would seem a price worth paying for a more representative and therefore more effective, system of public bodies.

May 2002

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