Memorandum by UKAEA (PAP 29)
Q1. What, if anything, is the justification
for such a large number of public offices (around 30,000) being
filled by appointment rather than election?
A1. We believe that the present arrangement,
whereby UKAEA non-executive posts are filled by appointment following
open competition, is appropriate for UKAEA.
Q2. What problems might arise if elections
were held for membership of some public bodies, instead of the
current system of appointments?
A2. In the case of UKAEA, it is difficult
to see how filling non-executive posts by election could work
in practice, as these roles generally require specific expertise.
Q3. Should a public appointment be part of
an individual's civic duty? Would a system similar to jury service
be effective and fair?
A3. It seems difficult to believe that a
system of "conscription" would work well; those involved
would resent the burden being placed on them and, as a consequence,
their contribution is unlikely to be effective. There may be a
case for encouraging more people to "volunteer".
Q4. What are the main priorities for improving
the system of public appointmentsshould it for instance
be to extend the range of people involved in bodies, to improve
the effectiveness of the bodies in providing advice or administering
services, or to change the balance so that elected national, regional
or local government has more of a role in public life?
A4. Our view is that the main priority must
be to improve the effectiveness of the public bodies in discharging
Q5. Government departments publicise public
appointments, assess applications and draw up shortlists for interview.
Independent assessors take part in the process and appointments
are made on merit. Is this a sensible devolution of power to departments
or does it cause problems and create unfairness?
A5. We in UKAEA accept that non-executive
appointments to the UKAEA Board are a matter for DTI and that
the process of making appointments needs to be seen to be independent.
As long as the process is carried out efficiently and to time,
it does not cause problems for us.
Q6. Are there any aspects of the Govemment's
approach to public appointments which appear to be inconsistent
Q7. Is there any evidence to suggest that
politicians sometimes play an improper part in the current public
appointments system? What are your main concerns, if any?
A7. We have no such concerns over the current
appointments system. Before the "Nolan rules" were introduced,
there was a perception, rightly or wrongly, that some appointments
were made because the individuals were known to Ministers.
Q8. What part, if any, should politicians
play in the public appointments process?
A8. Ministers clearly have a legitimate
interest in ensuring that public bodies will act in accordance
with Government policies, but it is not clear that this means
that they should normally have any detailed involvement in the
appointments process, beyond the formal responsibility for making
Q9. Is there any evidence to suggest that
there is political bias in the public appointments process?
A9. We are not aware of any such bias in
relation to UKAEA appointments.
Q10. Is political bias ever acceptable in
the appointments system, for example to correct a political imbalance
accumulated under a previous Government?
A10. In an ideal world, party politics would
play no role in appointments to public bodies. In practice, some
appointments will be seen as being political, and so acting to
maintain a political balance may well be necessary in some circumstances.
Q11. What role, if any, should Parliament
play in public appointments?
A11. It does not seem to us to be appropriate
for Parliament to play any role in the making of individual appointments;
that is properly a matter for Ministers. There may be a role for
Parliament in checking that the overall system for public appointments
works fairly and effectively.
Q12. Do you believe that an independent appointments
commission should be introduced instead of ministerial appointments?
A12. No. As Ministers are essentially accountable
for the performance of public bodies, it seems appropriate that
they should retain the formal responsibility for appointments.
Q13. Is there evidence to suggest that the
current system is not attracting applications from the widest
pool of candidates?
A13. We have no specific evidence on this,
but we recognise the general concerns about ensuring diversity
in public appointments.
Q14. How can greater diversity best be combined
with reassurance that the principle of merit in public appointments
is being upheld?
A14. We believe that the principle of appointment
on merit must be maintained. Subject to that, the appointment
process can be monitored to check for signs of bias. If particular
groups in society are under-represented in tenns of applications
for posts, then active steps could be taken to encourage applications
by targeted advertising.
Q15. 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?
A15. UKAEA appointments are all already
paid. It seems to us that reducing the use of unpaid appointments
elsewhere should help increase diversity. The obvious drawback
is the increase in costs for the public body.
Q16. Is the public appointments process understood
by members of the public and seen to be fair, open, honest, transparent
and easy to travel through?
A16. It is difficult for us to provide an
informed answer on this. Our perception is that the public as
a whole have not fully understood the extent to which the application
of the "Nolan rules" has transformed the appointments
Q17. What improvements, if any, should be
made to the way in which advertising or publicising public appointments
A17. If applications for public appointments
are not reflecting the diversity of the potential pool of applicants,
then this would suggest that different ways need to be found to
draw the appointments to the attention of under-represented groups.
Q18. What is your understanding of the role
of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, Dame Rennie Fritchie?
A18. As set out in the covering note from
Q19. There are a growing number of sometimes
informally constituted partnership bodies and task forces charged
with carrying out public functions, especially at local level.
Should these bodies be subject to the Commissioner for Public
Appointments' Code of Practice?
A19. No comment.
Q20. Are there ways in which the system of
independent assessors for public appointments can be improved?
A20. No comment. We have no direct involvement
with the current system.
Q21. What is your opinion of the Govemment's
proposals for future appointments to the House of Lords? Should
it be treated in the same way as other public bodies?
A21. No comment.
Q22. Are there lessons to be learned by Government
departments about the way in which the Scottish Executive and
the National Assembly for Wales approach public appointments?
A22. No comment. We have no direct knowledge
of the arrangements in Scotland and Wales.
Q23. The Commissioner for Public Appointments'
remit covers specified Ministerial public appointments and her
Code of Practice, which is based on Nolan principles, sets out
the regulatory framework for these appointments. Should the remit
be extended to all other appointments?
A23. No comment.
Q24. What is your opinion of the reforms
recently introduced in the system of appointments to NHS bodied?
A24. No comment.
Q25. Should every candidate, even important
people for high level appointments, be asked to complete application
forms and attend interviews in the normal way?