Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)|
Meg Munn MP and Ms Liz Chennells
24 NOVEMBER 2005
Q40 Lord Trefgarne: So EOC were consulted
by the Commission as well?
Ms Chennells: Yes.
Lord Trefgarne: That did not appear to
be so from the witness we had last week.
Q41 Chairman: As you say, he is,
as it were, the junior partner on this; he might not be quite
so aware of what had been happening at an earlier period.
Ms Chennells: Amanda Harris, who was due to
give evidence, has worked for the Commission since the original
research. I do not think Mr Broeke was in the Commission at that
Chairman: That might be just a misunderstanding;
we can certainly look at both sets of evidence and see what we
feel about it.
Q42 Lord Colwyn: Could we talk a
little bit now about budget and costs. In your letter of 12 October
you said that the European Parliament has made strong calls to
increase the budget of the Institute and enhance its role and
scope to make it a more political instrument. Then you say the
Council's position on the Institute is modest compared with the
approach taken by the European Parliament. I wonder if you could
explain what you think "budget neutral" is. Budget neutral
to me sounds wonderful, like it does not cost anything at all,
but I am sure that cannot be right. Do you have any idea what
a reasonable budget might be and tell me what budget neutral means?
I have looked through all the papers and I cannot find an explanation
Meg Munn: If I can deal with the budget neutral
bit and then I will find the bit in my papers where there are
some proposed costings on it so we can talk about that. In terms
of budget neutral, what that means is that the money for the Institute
has to come from somewhere else. Nobody is adding any more money
into this whole area. It really goes back to what I was talking
about before in that the budget is spent on various projects developing
issues of gender mainstreaming across the European Union. What
I am concerned about is that if we are spending that money then
we actually need to be getting the value from it in terms of the
learning and being able to disseminate that. In terms of how that
would work, it means that some of the money which would otherwise
be going into programmes would be used in order to gain the learning
from the actual proposal.
Q43 Lord Colwyn: Are you saying that
this is money that already exists, it is not new money?
Meg Munn: Yes. It is not a zero budget. No impact
on the existing budget I think is the best way of describing the
term budget neutral.
Q44 Baroness Howarth of Breckland:
Does that mean that there will be some local projects that are
developing these issues where there will be cuts in their budget
in order to fund the Institute? I think we need to understand
how that money is going to be allocated.
Meg Munn: It is not existing projects; it is
in terms of how money would be spent in the future from the relevant
European Union programme. It is going forward into the future
and instead of all of it going out to projects it is being used
to analyse and collect data in order to share the good practice.
Q45 Lord Harrison: Clearly it is
not budget neutral in the sense that you have an entity which
generates its own income and that matches its expenditure. In
that sense, surely this is misleading because, as we understood
it from the EOC, what is happening is that there is a budget line
from which is subtracted the amount which will fund the Institute.
I am personally in favour of it, but I do think you should say
to your colleagues that budget neutral has certainly misled members
of this Committee.
Meg Munn: I understand where the confusion has
arisen and I am always asking for greater explanations rather
than shorthand on various things because I think it can often
be misleading. I suppose it is the shorthand that people used
to say that nobody is going to have to put any more money into
it but actually there are implications in how existing money is
Q46 Lord Harrison: Money will then
be subtracted from the budget line which might have funded other
very worthwhile enterprises.
Meg Munn: Certainly, and I think this comes
really to the fundamental issue which I have been concerned about
and I think is one of the concerns of the Committee, what is the
Institute going to do which is going to add value? I think where
it adds value is that, yes, there will be less money going to
projects but getting more value out of the money that is being
spent on projects. Perhaps if we can just talk a bit about the
budget because obviously the actual amount in terms of that is
one of the things which I am concerned about and I am sure you
are. Discussions about the possible budget are ongoing and at
the moment, as you will be aware, the overall budgetary matters
are part of the negotiations being led by the Treasury. Again,
just to clarify the point, our concern has been that this Institute
should not lead to any spending increase. The Commission agrees
with that, as does the Council, so in terms of the proposed costs
the annual budget for 2007 is envisaged to be
6.5 million rising to
8.5 million by 2013 once the Institute has reached
its full complement of 30 staff. So it is building up over a period
and obviously the budget, as I am sure you will be aware, will
be agreed by the Council and the European Parliament on an annual
Q47 Lord Colwyn: So there is no danger
that it is going to be left under-funded and unable to achieve
its design purpose?
Meg Munn: There is always going to be a debate
about funding and how much money should go into various institutes.
We have had a lively debate on the floor of the House of Commons
about a new Commission for Equality and Human Rights, as to whether
that was too much or too little. In terms of will this be able
to do what it is setting out to do, I think this is sufficient
to do that. What we are talking about is gaining the learning
and experience from what is happening both in terms of European
funded money and also other national projects that are going on
on gender equality and it is not meant to be a huge bureaucratic
organisation which is not really adding value and putting the
information out there. I think that should be sufficient.
Q48 Chairman: Nevertheless, there
is what is called an opportunity cost in the sense that if you
have a budget which is X out of which Y has to be taken, then
all the other things which are not Y are either going to be reduced
or diminished in number or whatever it is. That is where the "cost"
Meg Munn: Of course, yes.
Q49 Lord Trefgarne: Is it going to
have a building to live in?
Meg Munn: I think the people would need to be
somewhere, so yes.
Ms Chennells: It will be based somewhere. Probably
not a building, a suite of offices somewhere.
Q50 Lord Colwyn: That is the set
up budget. Is the budget extrapolated further in the next five
years or so?
Meg Munn: Yes, we have proposed costs. Would
it be easier if we wrote to you with these rather than me sitting
here reading out the figures and possibly getting them wrong?
Q51 Chairman: I think that would
be very useful.
Meg Munn: We will set out what the proposed
costs are split down into proposed staff members, administration
Q52 Baroness Howarth of Breckland:
I am interested in the management structure and the governance
of this organisation. You said a little while ago that proper
discussion with the various Member States about this issue was
one of the values of the Institute. I just wondered if that was
why the membership was increased to 25, which makes it feel like
representation rather than a management board. Could you describe
a bit more how you see this being properly managed? Would that
unwieldy body undermine the responsibility of the director?
Meg Munn: Essentially, the composition of management
was the point of much discussion in the Council and Member States
who were looking thoroughly at all the options and the Council
felt that because it was one of the main objectives of the Institute
to share good practice it would be more effective if all Member
States were able to be present. Given that Member States have
made different progress in the field of equality and have different
perspectives to share it was felt that allowing everybody to be
present at that level was important. It does also follow a precedent
for other European Union agencies. The actual details about that
have not been finalised. They are talking about the management
board meeting at least once a year and then further meetings being
convened if necessary, but I think it is the kind of detail they
do need to work out. It is one of those situations where I think
rightly, and encouragingly, all Member States want to be involved
and get that level of information. I think there would have to
be a difference between the day to day running and the management
of the organisation as opposed to both the oversight which Member
States rightly want to have but also the learning and the taking
back and the raising of issues which are perhaps particularly
pertinent in particular countries. That does need to be discussed.
Q53 Lord Trefgarne: Will there be
anyone in charge?
Meg Munn: Yes.
Q54 Baroness Howarth of Breckland:
Can I just pursue that? I do chair an international body with
exactly these difficulties and I understand what you are trying
to achieve. Is the executive board really the group that is managing?
I wondered why, therefore, you had not got this wider board as
the advisory group which you have abandoned? Was that the right
way to go and what kind of consultation went on around that? Certainly
we had some discussion about that with the EOC.
Meg Munn: I think, again, the issue is that
it is always a compromise between trying to involve everybody
and not having too many different meetings which look at similar
issues, because obviously those in themselves take up resources
and actually consume time. Liz, do you have the details of the
consultation process that led to that decision?
Ms Chennells: It was negotiation rather than
consultation. It became very clear in the negotiations that the
only way the UK was going to explore effectively the issue of
whether a management board could not represent all Member States
was by kind of taking the first step itself and saying, "We
would be happy not to be represented" and "We are not
happy not to be represented" which made it very easy to understand
other Member States' positions because every Member State does
take this issue very seriously and I think that is to be welcomed.
I think what it envisages is this management boardagain
that might be a slight misnomer but that is always a difficulty
working in different languagesshould take a very strategic
approach whereas, you are right, the executive board would have
more regular contact with the director and his or her top team
in terms of monitoring the budget more closely. The management
board would be setting the direction for the work programme for
the new body and then hearing about how that work programme has
been carried forward on an annual cycle.
Q55 Baroness Howarth of Breckland:
Could you just describe the decision making process? You have
this Institute set up. You have a strategic plan which presumably
has been decided by what you call the management board (which
I think is very misleading for people who are going to be on it),
but how do the decisions carry through that organisation? Who
feels accountable for what?
Ms Chennells: I think the director will feel
accountable for the delivery of the agreed results within the
agreed resource envelope. That will be a critical appointment.
The executive board will also have some responsibility for the
success or failure of the organisation as well. The director will
be hands on day-to-day; the executive board might meet quarterly
or something like that; the management board will be entitled
to expect and will congratulate or reprimand as appropriate but
will not be able to make micro adjustments. It will be setting
the direction and the micro adjustments will have to be done by
the director in consultation with the executive board.
Q56 Chairman: Is the executive board
the body which, as it were, makes sure that the budget is correctly
formed and that the expenditure is being properly carried out
with the budget? Or is that the director's job?
Meg Munn: The director will have to report to
the executive board.
Q57 Chairman: That is exactly what
I am getting at. The executive board will be the body that deals
with the broad brush, something more like that.
Meg Munn: Yes.
Q58 Lord Harrison: I am always worried
when a group of words are spatchcocked together, as in the case
of "Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed"
to form a word such as SMART. I have lived in the world of acronyms
in Brussels so I am familiar with it, but if these targets exist
how are we going to go about actually understanding and ensuring
that they are indeed achieved? I wonder, in reply, whether you
might give the Committee some tangible examples. I refer back
to Ms Chennells' interest in the Goods and Services Directive
which preceded this Institute. How might we have measured the
success of any collaboration within the Gender Equality Institute
such that we could then be satisfied with what you said, which
is that true value was added by having a European dimension to
Meg Munn: I am not sure who came up with SMART
first but I remember I first came across it when I was doing management
studies or something, so I do not think it is a European thing;
I think it comes from somewhere else. Anyway, I think the clear
issue in relation to anything where we are setting targets is
that what you achieve are sometimes as good as the targets you
set in the sense that you have to be clear about the outcome of
the work you are doing and what is it that you are trying to get
within the resource and time constraint. I think the most successful
projects achieve that when even before they are set up how they
are going to be measured and evaluated is part of it and that
is something which is now much, much more the case in terms of
domestic projects. Through that you would report through the management
chain to the executive board and obviously on an annual basis
to the management board as we have just been discussing.
Q59 Lord Harrison: How might that
have been measured? What are the elements that you would have
sought to find out to satisfy yourself that this was worthwhile?
Ms Chennells: The Goods and Services Directive?