Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the English Tourism Council (PAP 41)

PUBLIC APPOINTMENTS AND PATRONAGE

Introduction

  The English Tourism Council is a Non-Departmental Public Body. Its stated mission is to drive forward the quality, competitiveness and wise growth of England's tourism by providing intelligence, setting standards, creating partnerships and ensuring coherence. Its Governing body consists of a Chairman and six Board members.

  The English Tourism Council (ETC) welcomes the decision of the Public Administration Select Committee to undertake an inquiry into appointments to public bodies, and would like to comment on a number of matters that relate to this inquiry. It firmly believes that the overarching principle of the public appointments process is to ensure that the right people are able to become members of these bodies. It believes that the principles identified by the Nolan Committee still provide the correct basis for a fair and open process.

General Issues

  The ETC is however concerned that the present system is a lengthy process, and would recommend the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) to consider ways in which the process could be shortened. A lengthy process introduces too great an element of uncertainty, both for existing and prospective Board members.

  The ETC acknowledges the comment made by Dame Rennie Fritchie, Commissioner for Public Appointments for England, Scotland, Wales and Commissioner for Northern Ireland, in her oral submission on 7 March 2002 to the PASC. In her submission she states that "there is nothing wrong with having a great many people who are willing to give public service come forward". However the view of the ETC is that such a system inevitably results in a considerable number of people being disappointed. This disappointment is further compounded by the fact that there is not the administrative support to inform each candidate why he or she has not been successful.

  The ETC is concerned that the necessity to approach people who will almost certainly not be successful, risks alienating committed individuals and may lead to the sort of cynicism that this inquiry is seeking to address. This is more likely to be the case for those who already hold senior positions of responsibility and have given considerable personal thought to how they will undertake their public responsibilities.

Skills

  The ETC does not consider that this type of open competition is necessarily the only way to improve the system. The best way to ensure that the process is fair, and that those who are appointed are the most appropriate and are respected by others is to focus on the skills that are required to undertake the job. The importance of possessing the appropriate skills needs to be stressed much more forcefully to those who would like to serve on public bodies. It is also essential to ensure that, as appropriate to each organisation, the mix of skill is considered, so that new members compliment and balance the existing skills of the Board.

Diversity

  The ETC fully supports the desire to increase diversity but is emphatic that this must not be at the expense of quality. If a decision is made to compromise on quality in order to ensure diversity then it risks bringing the process into disrepute, and ultimately it does a disservice to the laudable aim of increasing diversity. What is required is to improve the search processes to ensure that those who are encouraged to consider serving on a public body are adequately qualified, and possess the necessary skills for the job.

Competency

  The ETC believes that there is more likely to be confidence in the appointments process if mechanisms to address Board competency are institutionalised within the system. Board training is an area that receives little recognised support, yet it is vital for all well-functioning bodies. The ETC operates its own full-day formal induction process for newly appointed Board members, but notes that this is not the case with all public bodies. In addition a programme of on-going training, as and when required, should reinforce the induction. This type of professional approach should help to inspire confidence in the appointments system, as well as improve competence. The ETC also believes that a proper appraisal system (preferably 360 degrees) should be in place for anybody serving on a public body.

Remuneration

  The ETC recognises that the issue of remuneration is important, but doubts whether it would be possible to develop a system which would address all aspects of this issue. It does however believe that anybody serving on a public body should receive remuneration, appropriate to the time commitment and level of skills/experience required, plus daily approved expenses.

Conclusion

  The English Tourism Council welcomes the commitment of the Public Administration Select Committee to review and improve the system of appointments to public bodies. I would be happy to provide any further information if required.

Alan Britten

Chairman


 
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