Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) (PAP 16)

RESPONDERS

  The responses given below are the views of the Chairman, Mr Anthony Pike, and the Deputy Chairman, Professor Christopher Ritson—the two independent members of the Board of the HGCA, and are given solely within the context of their experience as members of the Authority. Similarly the views given relate primarily to appointments made to the Board of HGCA.

HGCA REMIT AND RESPONSIBILITY

  The HGCA is an executive NDPB and was established under the Cereals Marketing Act 1965. Its purpose is to provide a market information service; sponsor or undertake research work in home-grown cereals and oilseeds; and to undertake other non-trading initiatives aimed at improving the production and marketing of cereals and oilseeds.

  HGCA's mission is to improve the production, the wholesomeness and marketing of UK cereals and oilseeds so as to increase their competitiveness in UK and overseas markets in a sustainable manner. The recommendations of the Curry Commission, which emphasise the appropriateness of whole food chain integration, substantiate the continued relevance of this remit.

  HGCA's remit is tightly defined, and so are the responsibilities of board members, in being able to represent the interests of specified parts of the cereal and oilseeds production and marketing chain. The Chairman and Deputy Chairman have to be independent and with no pecuniary interests in the cereals and oilseeds industry. They are appointed following open advertisement, and interview by a panel with an independent chairperson and subsequent recommendations to Ministers. Other members of the HGCA Board, who represent specific sectoral interests, are elected by the members of their respective trade organisation to their relevant committees, who in turn nominate individuals to serve on the HGCA Board. These are interviewed by DEFRA and recommendations are subsequently made to Ministers.

  HGCA is funded totally by the industry which it is established to serve. No general taxpayer money is involved. It follows that the main "public", whose confidence, credibility and understanding it is important to maintain, primarily consists of all those with a direct interest in the cereals and oilseeds industry, especially those who are required to pay, a levy which funds HGCA's programme of activity.

  It is important therefore that the process by which individuals are appointed to the HGCA is sound, practical, cost-effective, transparent and understandable.

COMMENTS ON THE QUESTIONS POSED

General

  (1)  As stated above, HGCA members are elected by the members of their stakeholder organisations before being nominated, interviewed and recommendations made to Ministers. Each member represents a specific part of the grain chain and this requires his/her having a thorough technical and commercial knowledge of the associated activities. The advantage of appointment is that the interviewers can judge the candidates' abilities against these defined criteria.

  (2)  For HGCA, the technical competence of the nominees is all important. The current system has the merit of involving an element of election by an informed membership of a trade association, with independent assessment by interview. As indicated above, HGCA has a specific remit to support the competitiveness of the different components of the grain chain. Moreover, to our knowledge, the current system provides confidence, credibility and effectiveness in HGCA's Board. Recent formal consultation with HGCA's prime "public" confirms that this is the case.

  (3)  No, not for HGCA. A system similar to jury service would be ineffective in relation to HGCA's requirements because it is essential that members are capable of fulfilling their role, which is clearly defined within The Codes of Conduct within HGCA. As indicated earlier, this requires a high degree of commercial and technical experience and expertise. The current system where interviews take place against the defined remit for the post has to date produced an effective and informed membership.

  (4)  The current system works well for HGCA at present. To maintain its effectiveness, a watch needs to be kept to ensure that the organisations being asked to nominate candidates are appropriate, and continue to be representative of the cereals and oilseeds demand chain.

  (5)  The system outlined causes no problems and as indicated earlier has delivered competent members for HGCA and the industry it serves.

  (6)  To date the Government's dealings and approaches to HGCA appointments are consistent and clear.

POLITICAL INFLUENCE ON APPOINTMENTS

  (7)  There is no evidence as far as HGCA is concerned that politicians play an improper role. The work of HGCA is not political and it follows that the selection process should not have a political dimension.

  (8)  None as far as HGCA is concerned, other than the Minister(s) involved being asked to select from a short list of candidates.

  (9)  Not that we are aware of, in relation to HGCA.

  (10)  No, not in our view.

  (11)  Parliament's major role should be to monitor the process and in particular to monitor the performance of Public Bodies against their greed objectives in the areas or industries that they support.

  (12)  No, this would appear to be just another level of bureaucracy and quite unnecessary. It certainly should not be considered for Executive NDPBs for which it is important that the interview panels which make recommendations to Ministers should be knowledgeable about the work of the Body concerned.

DIVERSITY IN PUBLIC APPOINTMENTS

  (13)  In relation to HGCA, as indicated earlier, wide pools of potential candidates are accessed by each stakeholder organisation before the nominations are presented to the appointment process. In our view, the current process works well.

  (14)  The maintenance of a rigorous and transparent appointment procedure, which must be against defined job criteria and specifications, is the way to ensure that merit in public appointments is upheld.

  (15)  Remuneration needs to be kept under review; it needs to be sufficient to attract the level of candidate required, but not so high as to be the prime reason for attracting candidates.

PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING

  (16)  General public awareness is probably low but this is not surprising. Amongst HGCA's prime "public" (the cereals and oilseeds industry) however understanding is at a much higher level.

  (17)  Were it felt that improvements were necessary, DEFRA could make known in respective trade press that appointments were underway for the specialist Board members. The two independent appointments (Chairman and Deputy Chairman) are already advertised in the National Press and are thought to be adequately publicised.

  (18)  In our view, paragraph 6 of "The Main Issues" in the Issues and Questions paper attached to the questionnaire, provides an accurate description of this role.

OTHER ISSUES

  (19)  We believe that all public bodies should be subject to the Commissioner of Public Appointments' Code of Practice.

  (20)  The effectiveness of the system of independent assessors must surely depend upon first, a clear understanding of the remit and role of the posts that are being assessed and second, training in the assessment process.

  (21)  Our experience with HGCA does not equip us to comment on this.

  (22)  Our experience with HGCA does not equip us to comment on this.

  (23)  Our experience with HGCA does not equip us to comment on this.

  (24)  Our experience with HGCA does not equip us to comment on this.

  (25)  Yes.


 
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