Memorandum by the Museum Directors' Conference
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
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.
Research & Information Assistant
Fleet Air Arm Museum
Imperial War Museum
Museum of London
National Army Museum
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
Sir John Soane's Museum
Victoria & Albert Museum