Memorandum by the Communication Workers
Union (PAP 31)
I am writing in response to your request for
responses to the questions you set out in the above paper. This
has been circulated to me in my capacity as a member of the Lord
Chancellor's Legal Services Consultative Panel, and through the
LSCP a member of the Standing Conference on legal education. I
was one of the first round of appointments to the LSCP which was
created by the Access to Justice Act 1999 and which commenced
operation in January 2000.
In addition, although outside the remit of this
particular enquiry by the PASC, I am also a member of the Independent
Appeals Panel of the Independent Committee for the Supervision
of Standards into Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS), a member/chairperson
of the London Borough of Merton's Education Appeals Panel, and
the independent member on the same Borough's Standards Committee.
I am happy to have the opportunity to contribute
to your debate and my responses, using the same numbering system
as your own, are as follows:
1. There is nothing inherently wrong with
appointment rather than election given the number of public offices
we are talking about. Election of public officials is obviously
costly, and the cost of universal suffrage in this regard may
well outweigh any benefit that the offices to which elections
are being held are supposed to contribute to the public good.
Additionally, public enthusiasm for electing
officials has shown to be unresponsive to the increased opportunity
to participate in this way.
This is not to say that appointment is a panacea,
because it can lead to a closed field of selection.
2. Potential problems include:
(a) Identifying which public bodies should
be filled as a result of election rather than appointment.
(b) Public apathy leading to the process
being not credible.
(c) The appointments process becoming a "beauty
contest" devoid of any meritocracy.
3. A system similar to jury service would
neither be effective nor fair nor efficient in my view.
However, public appointments are effectively
a civic duty in the sense that they represent a "tick in
the box" for aspirants in many professions. They also provide
an opportunity for intellectual stimulation that can be lacking
in the most worthy of occupations once the occupant has been engaged
in them for a number of years. Finally, most employers recognise
the value of such appointments and therefore extend flexibility
to their employees who take up such posts.
4. In my view the main priorities for improving
the system of public appointments are to extend the range of people
involved in these bodies and there should be close liaison with
various other government agencies to ensure that the net is cast
as wide as possible for potential members.
However there is also a need for the effectiveness
of these bodies to be improvedor at least audited to ensure
that they provide value for money and that there is a dynamic
debate taking place on how to add value to their work and avoid
overlap and costly duplication of the similar bodies.
5. It is not a question of a sensible devolution
of power to departmentssuch devolution is essential and
inevitable given the scale of the task. However, it does need
to be regularly audited at both departmental and independent assessor
level to ensure that practices which are of poor value or even
discriminatory are not developing or becoming entrenched.
6. Yessometimes the criteria for
successful applicants is not made sufficiently clear and even
when the criteria is made sufficiently clear, it appears that
the recruitment consultants handling the appointments process
do not appreciate or understand this. Recent rounds of appointments
to ACAS Employment Tribunals are cited by way of illustration.
7. Only in that recruitment consultants
are not sufficiently rigorously quality assessed.
8. To set the criteria, encourage participation,
audit and refine the process.
10. Political bias needs to be viewed as
an absolute rather than relative concept.
(a) By overviewing the involvement of politicians,
especially departmental ministers.
(b) By reviewing the public appointment process
as a whole.
12. Yes, but there is room for both to co-exist.
13. Yes, but the PASC would probably know
better than I.
14. An equality and diversity audit/review
should be conducted on a joint basis between the various agencies
that have responsibility for this.
15. This is an interesting debating point.
I respectfully suggest you commission research on this.
16. I think it is an error to regard "members
of the public" as homogenous in their views. I also think
it is an error to regard the "public appointments process"
as homogenous. For example, I have no idea whatsoever on what
criteria/criterion the chairperson of the Legal Services Consultative
Panel was appointed.
17. In conjunction with the agencies responsible
for diversity and equality issues, aspects that should be considered
are the placing of advertisements to use the range of media and
titles/publications to best advantage.
18. Fairly limitedbut perhaps discretion
is a virtue in this instance.
19. Yes, if they fulfil certain criteria.
20. Yesthe same as the ways in which
the system for the appointment of members of public bodies can
21. I am still making up my mind. If there
is an element of the second chamber that is appointed, then these
appointments should indeed be treated in the same way as other
22. I do not know enough about the protocols
used by the Scottish Executive and the NAW to commentdeepening
the pool of knowledge would therefore seem to be the place to
start before we draw any comparisons.
23. Probably but we would need to have the
24. If one is talking about an appointments
process to bodies such as Primary Care Trusts, then the convergence
between this method of appointment and those that exist across
other governments/non-departmental public bodies is to be welcomed.
I would be happy to assist the committee in
any other way in which it may feel to be of use.