Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Museum Directors' Conference (PAP 34)

  The National Museum Directors' Conference is the association of the UK's national museums, galleries and libraries. Twenty-eight of our members are non-departmental public bodies and we are therefore grateful for the opportunity to respond to this consultation on public appointments and patronage. I attach a full list of member institutions.

  The main priorities for improving the system of public appointments should be to ensure that appointees are of the highest calibre, with appropriate levels of understanding of relevant issues to ensure effectiveness and to ensure that the public has faith in the system of appointment and in the work of governing bodies. It is important to avoid imposing a "one size fits all" solution on all public bodies. There should be sufficient variation across the various public bodies to ensure their needs and requirements are met.

  Bodies such as museums will always require individuals with a range of particular skills. Our main concern is to ensure the best available people are appointed to provide boards with a wide range of relevant experience and expertise. There have been problems attracting applicants of the appropriate calibre.

  The involvement of the body in question is crucial to ensuring a balance of professional and other expertise. We would like Chairmen of the boards to be more involved in the process.

  We are concerned about the length of time required to make appointments, currently about seven months. Our members are working with DCMS on improvement to the current procedures. We would be concerned if any of the changes proposed by the PASC increased the amount of time it takes to make appointments.


  Q2.  An inevitable consequence of an electoral system would be to reduce, or at least make less certain, the relevant knowledge and experience of board members. This could have implications for the role and responsibilities of the board and executive, and a new form of governance would have worked out that made the board more of a watchdog and less involved in management than is normal at present.

  Q8.  Placing the power of patronage in the hands of ministers does not necessarily widen the type of people who are selected, but lays the system open to accusations of the abuse of power. A seven-person selection panel of which the Minister was the only political member recently made public appointments to the National Museums and Galleries of Wales. This system worked well.

  Q11.  Parliament in general would seem to have no direct role in public appointments.

  Q12.  There may be considerable advantages to an independent appointments commission.

  Q13.  Some museums have experienced difficulties attracting applicants of the appropriate calibre. This is a particular problem for museums outside London. There may be great advantages in extending the public advertising for appointees beyond the home country, particularly in cases where appointees are to bodies of national or international significance and standing.

  Q14.  A selection process that combines open application and appointment by invitation may assist in securing the principle of merit. Bodies need to set out clearly and publicly the experience and skills required for its board members. In certain situations, for example, in the devolved structures in Northern Ireland, there may be a potential for issues of balance (as opposed to diversity) to be prioritised over merit.

  Q15.  A consistent use of remuneration could be explored as possibly being helpful would keep all members on the same footing, subject to any issues arising regarding the institution's Charitable Status. However, individuals should be given the opportunity to refuse payment if they so wish. Care must be taken to ensure that payment improves the pool of candidates. Any impact remuneration of the board may have on the Charitable Status of the body must be given serious consideration.

  Q19.  No, where these bodies are small, have to be constituted quickly and have a specific and short-term remit.

  Q20.  Independent advisors can assist and add value to the appointments process. Panels of independent assessors should include individuals of appropriate calibre, qualifications and experience to ensure the best selection of appointees on the basis of merit.

  Q23.  In the interests of transparency and accountability, there may be advantages in extending the remit of the Commissioner for Public Appointments as suggested.

  Q24.  All candidates should be asked to complete application forms, or submit a CV and letter of application.

  I hope these comments are of use to the Committee and look forward to hearing its recommendations in due course.

Emily Adams

Research & Information Assistant


  British Library

  British Museum

  Fleet Air Arm Museum

  Imperial War Museum

  Museum of London

  National Army Museum

  National Gallery

  National Galleries of Scotland

  National Library of Scotland

  National Library of Wales

  National Maritime Museum

  Museums & Galleries of Northern Ireland

  National Museums & Galleries of Wales

  National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside

  National Museums of Scotland

  National Portrait Gallery

  Natural History Museum

  Public Record Office

  Royal Air Force Museum

  Royal Armouries Museum

  Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

  Royal Marines Museum

  Royal Naval Museum

  Royal Navy Submarine Museum

  Science Museum

  Sir John Soane's Museum

  Tate Gallery

  Victoria & Albert Museum

  Wallace Collection

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