Memorandum by Suhail Aziz, Chair of the
London Probation Board (PAP 35)
1. What, if anything, is the justification
for such a large number of public offices (around 30,000) being
filled by appointment rather than election?
Election process will be complex, expensive
and may still not achieve the desired outcome of widening participation.
Also, a general lack of financial incentives may deter people
from taking part at election.
2. What problems might arise if elections
were held for membership of some public bodies, instead of the
current system of appointments?
See (1) above. It will also create imbalance
and difficulties in uniformity of administration.
3. Should a public appointment be made of
an individual's civic duty? Would a system similar to jury service
be effective and fair?
No Jury Service has a legal basis whereas it
is difficult to see a public appointment system in that light.
The basis of public appointment should still be voluntary, based
on application, and ability to make a valid contribution.
4. 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?
I think a balance of all the elements should
be struck. Some flexibility must be there to decide priorities.
5. 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?
As a member of a minority ethnic group, my experience
is that in theory this sounds all right. But in practice, "independent
assessors" are influenced, so the process is questionable
for fairness and integrity, eg NHS appointments system until about
2001; the people involved; the reaction of unsuccessful candidates;
the "Register" of waiting lists etc.
6. Are there any aspects of the Government's
approach to public appointments which appear to be inconsistent
Approach is clear, processes do get distorted
7. Is there any evidence to suggest that
politicians sometimes play an improper role in the current public
appointments system? What are your main concerns, if any?
Politicians and local Committees do have their
network of influencing. This has happened before. I understand
Government departments have tried to insulate the process, how
successfully not yet known.
8. What part, if any, should politicians
play in the public appointments process?
Should participate in the policy formulation
process, eg in Parliament, leaving implementation to Departments
and agencies, with the provision of regular reports to be made
9. Is there any evidence to suggest that
there is political bias in the public appointments process?
Yes, the Party in power seems to generate more
public appointments from their Party.
10. Is political bias ever acceptable in
the appointments system, for example to correct a political imbalance
accumulated under a previous Government?
Yes, to correct an accumulated imbalance from
11. What role if any should Parliament play
in public appointments?
Set policy, monitor practices, take corrective
actions. Overall an eye to fairness, equal opportunity and access.
12. Do you believe that an independent appointments
commission should be introduced instead of ministerial appointments?
We do have a Civil Service Commission. Its role
and responsibilities could be expanded rather than creating another
new body. The experience of the CSC should be built upon.
13. Is there evidence to suggest that the
current system is not attracting applications from the widest
pool of candidates.
Yes, because of bad experience suffered in the
past, people from certain groups, especially ethnic minorities,
don't bother to apply for jobs. So self exclusion occurs.
14. How can greater diversity best be combined
with reassurance that the principle of merit in public appointments
is being upheld?
A lot of hard work is involved in undoing the
historical experience of the past years. The reassurance is currently
given but in practice it is seen as suspect. Diversity should
not mean less merit.
15. 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?
Remuneration with fair and well-publicised procedures
and practices may improve the situation. Remuneration will focus
the minds better.
16. Is the public appointments process understood
by members of the public and seen to be fair, open, transparent
and easy to travel through?
Yes, interested members of the public understand
the processes with ease.
17. What improvements, if any, should be
made in the way in which advertising or publicising public appointments
Publicity as currently produced is adequate.
Problem arises when recruitment agencies are used as an arm's
length device to discriminatereal or imaginary, perceived
18. What is your understanding of the role
of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, Dame Rennie Fritchie?
Not sure what she is achieving. It is all very
well to apply OCPA Rules during selection process. Her role seem
to cease after an appointment has been made, especially with regard
to ethnic minority members and their retentionthe institutional
racism some of them experience with no redress. She seems to have
done nothing about the fact that ministerial public appointees
have no redress in law because they are not classified as "employees".
The Government has taken advantage of that loophole. People have
been left with grievances. Employment Tribunals have expressed
deep regrets but been unable to assist aggrieved persons due to
this glaring deficit in law.
Dame Rennie Fritchie has failed to protect minority
ethnic appointees in many cases by not coming to grips on discriminatory
19. 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?
Yes, when public interest is involved, procedure
should be the same.
20. Are there ways in which the system of
independent assessors for public appointments can be improved?
System of "independent assessors"
is suspect. How can they be independent when their paymasters
are the appointing bodies themselves? And they dare not disagree
too strongly, or they would not be called to assist, at a fee,
in the future. Past experience should be thoroughly investigated.
21. What is your opinion of the Government's
proposals for future appointments to the House of Lords? Should
it be treated in the same way as other public bodies?
Yes, but the key is to draw up well thought
thorough "person specifications" keeping in view the
role and function of the Second Chamber and a Members' diverse
range of duties therein and ability to contribute.
22. Are there any lessons to be learned by
Government departments about the way in which the Scottish Executive
and the National Assembly for Wales approach public appointments?
These should all be harmonised for the UK as
a whole. Public duties or appointments should not be seen as easier
or harder because of whether it is Scotland or Wales or England.
Same criteria and requirement should equally apply.
23. 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?
Yes, but there is some concern. There is evidence
that Nolan principles and OCPA Code of Practice have been systematically
undermined, eg the NHS. I will be glad to elaborate from my experience
in oral evidence if called.
24. What is your opinion of the reforms recently
introduced in the system of appointments to NHS bodies?
The origin of the NHS Appointments Commission
has a long and chequered history. A full understanding of the
origin of this idea will be worth exploring by the PASC. The new
NHS system is still using the old personnel who have undermined
Nolan/OCPA in the past. This examination is necessary before replicating
the NHS idea more widely.
25. Should every candidate, even important
people for high level appointments, be asked to complete application
forms and attend interviews in the normal way?
No. It is off-puttingimportant people
are busy people. There is room for more creative approach to this.
Will be glad to elaborate orally.
Chair, London Probation Board