Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Professor Howard Thomas (PAP 51)

  I enclose my personal comments on the issue of Public Administration for the Select Committee.

  These public offices should be filled by nomination from independent bodies, able to assess the merits of each candidate, having identified a profile of the person required. The latter must take into account:

    (a)  Technical competence and excellence in the field.

    (b)  Evidence that candidate can work in a committee.

    (c)  Evidence of integrity.

  In the medical field the Royal Colleges, Academy of Medical Science and Royal Society, are potential sources of the information. Several views should be obtained to exclude bias of individuals responding. In many cases, several of the above institutions will have a competent view.

  The selection of lay members is more difficult. If we are trying to get a "snap shot" of the general populations view, we should make this "service to the community" equivalent to "jury service" and use the same system. This would start to spread the concept of citizenship to additional areas. When you ask the population to enter their names on the Electoral Register you might ask whether they would be prepared to take part in public committees.

  Almost as good an election, is unbiased (random computer based) selection as indicated above. Election would be very expensive.

  The government department who will receive the advice probably should not be involved in the selection of the chairman and membership of the committee but should generate the profile of the people required. The Commissioner for Public appointments might supervise the selection process.

  It would be seen to be independent if a Parliamentary Commissioner oversaw the process, making recommendations direct to Parliament.

  In the Advisory System, political bias is not acceptable. The executive should influence the process after the expert advice is delivered.

  I do believe an independent appointments commission would be best. This also protects politicians from unfair allegation of bias.

Professor Howard Thomas

Chairman of Advisory Group on Hepatitis,

Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine

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