Memorandum by Brian Peacock, Chairman,
Milk Development Council (PAP 15)
To make a contribution to the debate I propose
to work through the questions posed in the Select Committee paper
[13th March 2002] as a logical process to deal with the issues
raised and provide comment.
I should make it clear that these views are
mine and not the views of the Milk Development Council.
1. There is a clear justification for many
public offices being filled by appointment rather than election.
The expense and bureaucracy of agreeing the qualifications and
eligibility of each electorate and the cost of organising elections
is, in many cases, potentially too great.
However, there is a need for a review of the
appointment process for some bodies to determine whether elections
would be more appropriate. This could be a role for the office
of the Commissioner for Public Appointments working to an agreed
set of criteria to measure appropriateness and potential cost.
2. In addition to the problems of establishing
the electorate and the question of cost, the introduction of elections
to some bodies would create a new culture of "representation"
within the body.
The introduction of elections would inevitably
cause the development of internal pressure groups and lobbying
which would commit the successful candidate to represent his/her
group. The development of groupings within a public body may well
not be to the overall benefit of the body. This aspect would need
to be considered in any election/appointments review process.
3. The introduction of a system similar
to jury service for public appointments as part of an individual's
civic duty would not be appropriate unless the process was backed
up with a detailed database of the public experience and attitude
of the people being consideredan impossible task. Without
the ability to consider the detailed background of candidates
there would be a serious danger of appointing totally inappropriate
people to public bodies.
4. The main priority for improving the system
of public appointments are to extend the range of people involved
not just more women and ethnic minorities but the encouragement
of people with appropriate experience. This brings into play the
question of public understanding.
The public appointments process is clearly
not understood by members of the public. A co-ordinated PR campaign
is needed to explain the process to the public, to emphasise that
the procedure is fair and demonstrates that it is open and transparent.
This is a very important issue which would
make a great difference to the encouragement of a wider range
of appropriate applicants.
A review of the publicising of appointments
would be worthwhile to ensure that advertising is placed in a
wider range of publications relevant to the appointmentthere
currently appears to be too much reliance on broadsheet newspapers.
No case has been made for changing the
balance of many of the bodies to involve national, regional or
local government as part of the structureie the greater
inclusion of more local councillors on NHS Trust Boards. In fact
most bodies need to remain totally independent of all government
influence to protect effectiveness and to truly represent the
interests of their stakeholders.
However, in contrast there is a strong
case for introducing a system of Parliamentary confirmation of
the appointment for the Chairman of certain key bodies to make
the final appointment truly public, as is the case in the USA.
5. The present mechanics of government departments
publicising appointments and drawing up short lists etc. is a
sensible devolution of power and does not appear to cause problems,
and is seen to be fair.
However, the role of the independent assessor
is often not clearly understood. Indeed the importance placed
on the role of the assessor needs to be more clearly described
within the process and the person concerned more positively introduced
during the interview.
1. If the various public bodies are to remain
independent of government there is no place for politicians in
the public appointment process, other than Ministers fulfilling
their ministerial role.
Currently it is difficult to provide evidence
that the politicians play an improper role in the system and that
there is from time to time political bias in the process. However,
the perception of the general public believes that politicians
do in fact impose their views in the process and provide political
bias. This is particularly so for bodies that include local government
in-puthospital trusts, police authorities etc. There is
a positive public view that politically biased appointments are
The elimination of this perception is a challenge
that needs to be faced by the current ministerial appointments
system rather than an independent appointments commission.
The attractions of an independent appointments
commission are out-weighed by the detailed and knowledgeable input
provided by the ministerial system.
If a truly non-political process is followed
there should be no need for political bias to be imposed to address
an imbalance accumulated under a previous government.
However, the Commissioner for Public Appointments
should be given sufficient powers to monitor all Ministerial appointments
to ensure independence and absence of political bias.
2. As stated previously I believe there
is a strong case for Parliament to approve the appointment of
people to certain key posts within major public bodies. This would
have the benefit of raising the general publics knowledge of this
important appointment and provide the confidence that the process
was being monitored. It would also ensure that the best possible
person available was being appointed in an open manner and would
highlight the care and attention that is given to public appointments.
Equally, Parliamentary confirmation would give the person concerned
a clear understanding of their accountabilities and the confidence
to achieve these challenges.
1. Clearly there is a need to ensure that
public bodies reflect the mix of the population and that a greater
number of women and ethnic minorities are needed. However, there
is also a need to involve people with the appropriate merit, skills
and experience which requires the attraction of people who are
already fulfilling important and responsible roles elsewhere.
In the increasingly competitive commercial environment this will
be an increasing problem.
2. Serious consideration needs to be given
to providing not just an increase in the number of remunerated
members but a system of providing compensation to employers for
the use of a member's time on public appointment duties. Many
companies and organisations will not at the present time allow
employees to serve on public bodies thereby preventing talented
people serving in the public and national interest.
3. The principle of diversity needs to be
applied to the wider list of public appointments including the
Privy Council and Lord Lieutenants, as currently there is a demonstrated
constituency from which appointments are made. Even this level
of appointment needs to be under the scrutiny of the Commissioner
for Public Appointments with demonstrated diverse selection including
In the early part of this paper I have highlighted
the need for significantly improving the public understanding
of the whole system of public bodies and the appointments to these
The current lack of interest in the political
process with its low election turnout emphasises the lack of interest
in public affairs. This tendency needs to be addressedthis
can only be done by raising awareness through better and more
targeted advertising of the importance of public bodies and the
appointments to such bodies.
1. The role of the Commissioner for Public
Appointments is pivotal in ensuring a workable, transparent and
fair system whose remit should be extended to cover all public
appointments. This remit should be extended to select those appointments
which need confirmation by Parliament.
2. On the assumption that a proportion of
the Lords require appointment rather than election this should
be treated in the same way as any other major public body.
The Appointments must ensure diverse interest,
without political influence, that upholds the principle of merit.
The definition of merit needs to be more clearly defined, not
only to encompass those persons who have achieved much in life
but also those with wisdom and intellectual power with opinions
and views bringing new perspectives to the legislative process.
This selection process needs to be carried out by a truly Independent
and diverse body approved and monitored by the Commission for
New appointments to the House of Lords should
be confirmed by the House of Lords itself.
3. For the sake of good order all people
being considered for appointment, even important people for high
level appointments, should be asked to complete application forms
at least for record purposes. Equally, they need to be interviewed
in the normal way, albeit in an informal setting.
As their confirmation, would in my view, require
Parliamentary approval the above process would seem essential.
B D Peacock