Memorandum by John Marston (PAP 26)
I am a member of the Lord Chancellor's Department
Advisory Group on Enforcement Service Delivery. In this capacity
I have been forwarded a copy of your paper and invited to reply.
1. I imagine that expense is the first justification.
I also think that many people are willing to serve if asked but
would not face an election process, and the personal scrutiny
and hostility that is evident in political life.
2. One problem would be where to draw the
line. A criteria would be needed to explain why some people were
elected whilst others asked to serve. High profile bodies, or
those making a profound difference to our lives and those handling
large amounts of money, should be involved in election process.
This is especially true where a good deal of work is required
and a substantial salary paid. Positions of this nature are seen
as opportunities and should be open to as many people as possible.
Where however the post involves a professional skill (scientist,
vet, accountant etc) then an election is not appropriate, and
perhaps candidates should be sought from the professional associations.
3. I think any duty placed on every citizen
is fair. Clearly we would need to limit those excluded to the
usual suspects ie criminal etc. It would certainly be easier for
people to justify taking time out of their work if service was
seen as a responsibility.
4. Clearly the main priority would be to
improve the effectiveness of the bodies providing assistance.
Delegation is always difficult to do but if the end result is
a trickling down of power and authority from central Government
to local Government then we will all feel more invested in the
5. The system seems transparent and fair,
and this is obviously important. I personally dislike providing
lots of personal and private information on application forms
only to be rejected. I think the minimum information should be
requested, and if candidates are short-listed then everything
else can be asked.
6. From my perspective the only point that
is unclear to me is why some people are paid and others not. I
in common with most people believe that Lords, MP's, local politicians
their families and friends all get paid handsomely for public
service, whilst those of us who are not so well connected do not.
I suggest a big effort should be made to explain why some posts
are paid and others are not.
7. Ordinary people can never know whether
politicians play an improper role in the appointments system.
We all believe they do however and that is the problem that must
be overcome. One way to do this is to advertise all positions
and to make as many as possible open to anyone, not just politicians
8. Clearly, politicians must be involved
in the public appointments process as they are ultimately responsible
for running the Country. They should be able to recommend candidates
and they can be involved in the selection process, where appropriate.
Their involvement must (as far as possible) be open and transparent.
9. I think there is ample evidence. Particularly
in the National Health Service. Local Counsellors of the ruling
Party can normally get elected to NHS boards and other quangos.
Or at least this is the common perception.
10. In an ideal world political bias is
never acceptable. To be practical however, if there is a Political
imbalance then obviously the views of the elected Government must
prevail, and arrangements should exist for a clearing out of the
old guard after a general election. However, this process should
be limited to political appointments. Where the appointees are
serving in some capacity that is not directly political (for example
health and safety issues) then the basis of selection must be
expertise in the subject first and any political persuasion second.
11. Parliament should be involved in high
level public appointments, as clearly politicians will have an
interest. If for example the Prime Minister appoints his brother-in-law
to a good job somewhere in the system then obviously opposition
politicians will have something to say about it. Machinery should
therefore exist for appointments to be questioned. The House of
Commons is an obvious choice.
12. It rather depends where the people being
appointed are going to serve. For example, if a Committee is being
set up to review the way the Government have handled the BSE crisis
(perhaps in the light of 100,000 people dying a year), then clearly
the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are going to appoint the person
they want in the job. As a lot is at stake (no pun intended) I
would quite understand that the truth might have to be a casualty
and the survival of the Government a priority. At my level however
(down at the bottom of the pile) an independent appointments commission
could easily handle me and those like me.
13. I have no idea.
14. Head hunting is probably the best way
to do this. Another idea is targeted advertising. Most areas of
business life have specialist magazines and more use of this medium
would at least bring the vacancies to the attention of people
who are interested in the subject. For example, Farmers Weekly,
The Law Society Gazette, Classic Boats.
15. Remuneration is a big problem. I get
reimbursed for the attendance costs I incur but I do have to spend
the money first. A trip to London takes say ten hours, and although
the train fare is recovered I have to apply for it and I do not
get any compensation for my time out of the office. Neither am
I reimbursed for telephone calls, e-mails or the cost of stationery.
There is also a substantial amount of research to be undertaken,
and when I am not available to do my job someone else has to do
it. There is therefore a cost in helping out, and although I am
self-employed and I can to some extent please myself, nevertheless
I am clearly disadvantaged in helping out and the problem must
be worse for those people who are less able to afford the time
One of the problems with not paying people is
that those who end up serving are often Civil Servants or members
of other similar organizations. These people are certainly very
able and professional but they are not ordinary members of the
public. I suggest that the question of payment is directly linked
to the number, variety and quality of applicants available to
serve and should therefore be looked at very carefully.
As an example, I work with the Council of Europe
and I travel about Eastern Europe talking to Deputy Ministers
of Justice on the issues of Civil Enforcement. I have my expenses
reimbursed but I am not actually paid. I am required to travel
over a weekend (to keep costs down) so I am normally away from
home and business for approximately one week. In addition, there
is a lot of work that has to be done either side of each trip.
The visits I make could not happen without me, but as a volunteer
I am the only one who is not paid. All of the people I visit are
Politicians and the Council of Europe, who organize my trip, set
the agenda and travel with me, are all employed. It is very difficult
to justify doing this sort of work for nothing when everyone else
in the process is paid.
16. When I applied for my position on the
Advisory Group I found the process easy to understand and to follow.
I was also helped and encouraged by the staff at LCD and they
have continued to be helpful and cheerful throughout the process.
Had I been asked this question before my experience with the Advisory
Group then I would have said that I had no experience upon which
to base an opinion few do.
17. As stated, targeted advertising in the
professional and trade press, together with dedicated head hunting.
18. I have no understanding of the role
of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, and until I read
your paper I had never heard of Dame Rennie Fritchie.
19. Any body or task force charged with
carrying out a public function should be subject to some scrutiny
and authority. Fraud and other forms of dishonesty are often carried
out by intelligent, highly motivated people, and being acquainted
with many criminals I can confirm that professional people who
are appropriately trained need to be in place if losses are to
be kept to a minimum. A very good recent example is the scandal
of the educational payouts that has been withdrawn because of
wide scale organized dishonesty. Everyone involved should be asked
to sign up to a code of practice, and be regulated by someone
who has the resources, time and expertise to do the job.
20. I do not know anything about the system
as it is, and therefore I cannot help.
21. May I suggest that half of those appointed
to the House of Lords should be political appointments for life.
People like ex-politicians and those who have served in some other
capacity ie high ranking Officers in the Armed Services and senior
Civil Servants. The other half should be drawn from a list of
authorized Organizations, for example the RSPCA, the Law Society,
the Unions etc. This finite list, which could be added to or deleted
from, should nominate one person to serve in the Lords for a period
of five years. They should be paid. Thereafter they would retire
and another person from the Organization would be nominated. In
this way you would have half the house being political and aware
of the workings of the Government and its machinery, whilst on
the other hand you would have a disparate group of people all
having and representing their own interests (eg care of animals,
union rights, lifeboats, lawyers) who would bring to the House
their own interest, experience and expertise, and who would be
able to take advice from and draw support from those organizations
that nominated them. In this way the House would be truly representative
of the interests of all of the Country, and to my mind much improved.
22. Not qualified to answer.
23. The same principles and regulatory framework
should extend to everyone if possible. Special cases and exemptions
lead to mistrust.
24. I have always believed (probably quite
wrongly) that appointments to the NHS bodies have always been
jobs for the boys handed out by the political party in power.
A lot of advertising will have to be done to convince me otherwise.
25. Absolutely. No one (except the Queen)
should be above the Law, and I think that if someone wishes to
be appointed to a prestigious, well paid position, then the least
that they can do is complete an application form and attend an
interview. It is an important general principle that anyone being
appointed to anything must accept and conform to the rules and
obligations of the position, and to allow people to take up these
posts without submitting themselves to inquiry is inviting a high
handed approach to the job with no expectation of any accountancy.
It is also unfair to any other aspiring candidates.
I hope that the above is helpful to you, and
please do return to me on any of the points I have made if you
would like to.