House of Lords Appointments Commission

House of Lords Appointment Commission

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April 2001

House of Lords Appointments Commission

Report

Introduction


1. When we launched our invitation for nominations last September, we said that a spirit of openness would characterise our work - subject only to the rigorous protection of the confidentiality of nominees. Her Majesty The Queen has confirmed her intention to accept the recommendation of the House of Lords Appointments Commission and details have been announced of the first 15 peers to be appointed under the new arrangements. These are available on our website, together with this short account of our work so far. Copies are also available by telephoning 020 7276 2315 or from the Commission's offices at 35 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BG.

2. Our report sets out:

An account of the process we have gone through and some facts and figures on the breakdown of the 3,166 nominations we received by 17 November 2000.

Some of our own thoughts and comments as to what we consider went well and where we might make improvements.

Some issues that we feel need to be addressed in going forward.

3. As always, we welcome any thoughts and feedback from nominees and others - either by writing to us at the above address, by fax on 0207 276 2109 or by e-mail on enquiries@lordsappointments.x.gsi.gov.uk

The Process

4. The Commission made a number of changes to the process of identifying those who might be recommended for appointment as independent, non party political peers. (We have used the term " independent non party political peers" rather than the traditional "cross-bencher" as those sitting on the crossbenches in the Lords include peers who are party political).

- First, we have made it possible for people to nominate themselves either through the post, fax or the web. Any eligible citizen may honourably apply to be considered for membership of the House of Lords. At the start, we insisted on self-nomination because we wanted to underline that anyone becoming a member of the House of Lords needs to show strong personal commitment. Our further thoughts on this are set out in paragraph 23 below.

- Second, we published in full the criteria that we would use in assessing nominees. We also published the process that would guide us in our task - as far as we were able to forecast this at the time.

- Third, we made clear that those to be appointed should undertake to contribute to the work of the House of Lords. Until now, for those peerages announced in the Birthday and New Year's Honours lists there has been no such condition unless appointed as working peers.

- Finally, we decided to invite candidates to meet us - like anyone being considered for a particular job or public appointment.

5. The launch, in September 2000, also broke new ground in opening up the process for recommendations on the appointment of new peers through an approach already widely established in looking for high quality applicants for jobs or public appointments. People knew how and when to apply and we made clear that we were looking for outstanding people from all parts of the country. We sent out 15,000 information packs, and recorded 5,000 hits on our website.

- We wrote to some 10,000 organisations covering almost every sector of society setting out our aims, our selection criteria and our processes. We asked them to identify suitable candidates and also help spread our message to those who worked with them and for them.

- We began a series of meetings around the country to share our approach and to encourage people to think seriously about coming forward. So far we have visited Edinburgh, Cardiff , Manchester and Belfast. We intend to continue with this programme.

6. By 17 November, we received 3166 completed nomination forms, of which about 500 came via the web.

7. We then began an extremely rigorous sifting process - with a number of checks and counter checks to ensure that the criteria were applied consistently at all stages.

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Stage 1

8. Before the assessment began, a number of objective eligibility checks were made on all nominations - for example, it is a statutory requirement that those considered for appointment be UK, Commonwealth or Irish nationals, aged over twenty one. Where these criteria were not met we wrote to nominees to ask them for clarification. As a result a number of nominations were ineligible for further consideration.

Stage 2

9. We then tested the assessment process against the published criteria to make sure that consistency would be maintained through a number of sifting stages.

10. In a first sift, the Commission worked with six trained sifting teams to assess all the nominations over a period of two months. During this stage, the Commission made a series of random checks on the process to ensure that assessments remained consistent with the selection criteria. This did not result in changes to these assessments. Each team member undertook an initial assessment based on the published criteria and their separate assessments. These were discussed and agreed jointly before being passed to the Commission for the next stage of sifting. Where a team was unable to agree an assessment, this was made clear when putting this forward to the Commission.

Stage 3

11. Nominations which had come through the first sift were looked at independently by at least two Commissioners, who then discussed and agreed a joint assessment. Where a Commissioner team was unable to agree, a nomination was discussed further with other Commissioners.

Stage 4 - Further Checks Made on Assessments

12. As a further check on the process, the Commission Chairman personally reviewed the assessment of all 3166 nominations and identified a very small number of nominations to be re-considered by the Commission. In a further review, the Commission Secretariat put forward others. In addition, each Commission member considered full details of those nominations that had not come through previous stages.

Stage 5

13. At a full Commission meeting, it was agreed to invite nominees, whom we judged as the most outstanding against our published criteria, to meet us. The sheer quality of nominations received meant that we met more people than we would be able to recommend.

Stage 6

14. At interview, each nominee met at least two Commissioners, including the Chairman - at some three or more Commissioners were present. The same procedure and format was used for each interview.

Stage 7

15. Following interviews, the Commission went through a series of discussions before approving the final list. In all these, we sought to identify those, who in our judgement, were the most outstanding nominees in relation to the criteria for selection that we had established. This was a difficult task in the light of the very high quality of nominations received. However, it is worth noting that although, of course, there were some differences of view, we were able to reach agreement quite easily on those we wished to recommend for appointment.

16. We have set out this process in full. We have said that we intend to be as transparent as is consistent with protecting the confidentiality of nominees. We also wanted to make clear that whilst in such tasks inevitably judgements have to be made, we have approached this with the care and consideration it deserved. This has involved looking at a large number of nominations several times to make sure that a rigorous, meticulous approach was taken in supporting these judgements.

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Prior Knowledge of Nominees

17. The Commission has set out publicly its procedures to ensure that all prior knowledge, acquaintance or friendship with nominees would be fully declared.
We wish to emphasise the importance placed on declaring even the slightest acquaintance with a nominee - for example, if a Commissioner had shaken hands with someone once twenty years ago and could remember that meeting - it was declared.

18. At the initial sifting stage, Commissioners recorded any acquaintance with the 3166 nominees. At the later stages, individual Commissioners completed more detailed declarations and these were made available to all Commissioners. Overall, at each stage, Commissioners knew only a small percentage of the nominees being considered. It is interesting to note that of the 15 nominees recommended for appointment, no Commissioner had met more than six before the start of the process

19. For the record, we wish to make clear that no member of the Commission was approached about a nominee in a way that he or she felt was not open or proper or where he or she felt it was necessary to declare that attempts had been made to influence him or her in a way that would affect the objectivity of the judgement of the nominations.

The Nominations

20. Annex A provides a breakdown of the nominations we received. Given our methodology, this final profile is self- defining. However, we want to look to a future where we can benefit from our experience of these new arrangements so as to take the initiative, perhaps, in encouraging nominations from a wider range of the UK population. We said that we hoped that by opening up the process we would attract outstanding applications from groups that are under represented in the House of Lords and the following comments may be of interest:

(a) Some 20% of nominations came from women. This is a rather larger percentage than for most British institutions. But it falls short of what we were hoping to achieve in view of the current under-representation of women in the House of Lords.

Although we received a good number of outstanding applications from women, we would like to receive more. We will continue to encourage women with the skills and experience to contribute in the Lords to come forward to achieve a balance that better represents the people of the UK. It has been put to us that allowing only self-nomination may have discouraged some women. In the next round, for a variety of reasons, we will be allowing nominations put forward by others (see below).

(b) Some 15% of the nominations came from members of ethnic minorities - nearly three times the proportion of these groups in the population as a whole. We were pleased to receive a number of high quality nominations - as reflected in our recommendations - and it is clear that we have been able to make a good start.

(c) 45% of the nominations received were from people living in Greater London or the South East - compared with 26 % of the UK population as a whole.

We would like to have received a larger number of nominations from people living outside London and the South East. Of the 15 people we have recommended for appointment, nine have their main address in London or the South East and six live outside this area. However, of the nine, the majority were born and brought up elsewhere; in fact, only four of the 15 nominees may truly be said to have come from London and the South East.

There is no question in our view that the issue of both distance and the expenses and allowances available to members of the House plays a part in this. This is not strictly our concern. However, it may be worth observing that someone living within, say, an hour's travelling distance from the House of Lords will find it easier to balance their responsibilities there with those of their working and family life than people living, say, in Newcastle or Belfast. In addition perhaps it is also worth noting that there is often a pressure on people to come to live in London and the South East in pursuing their personal careers or interests.

We hope to encourage further outstanding people from other parts of the country to come forward and we will be continuing with our programme of visits across the United Kingdom to get this message across.

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Key Issues Going Forward

21. At this time, it is not yet clear how the next stages in the reform of the House of Lords will be carried forward. Clearly, we must take account of any developments in our work. Subject to future changes, we will continue to invite nominations with a view to making future recommendations.

22. For our first list - and in the light of the very new and unprecedented arrangements - we thought it right to set a date by which nominations needed to be received. Last September we had no idea how many nominations we might receive and therefore to help us in an unknown task we decided to consider all those received by 17 November. From now on there will be no closing date. The process of inviting and considering nominations will be a continuous one, punctuated by the Prime Minister's requests for recommendations on the appointment of further independent non party political members of the House of Lords.

23. Features of our work before we consider a new list of recommendations would likely to be:

(a) We will shortly be announcing that we will be happy to consider nominations from other people as well as self-nominations. As explained above, the process of self-nomination was designed to underline the personal commitment required. But it is possible that some strong candidates may have been reluctant to take the initiative themselves although they were ready to undertake the necessary commitment if nominated by others. We are anxious to widen the field of outstanding people who may help to do this.

(b) We plan to write again to the same 10,000+ organisations (and others) to make it plain that we continue to look for people able to make a contribution to the work of the Lords and to seek their help in finding them.

(c) We will continue the process of getting to know through interviews those nominees that we might consider recommending over the next few years. These will include people we have already had the opportunity to meet but did not recommend this time and those that we would like to interview but have not yet had the opportunity to do so.

(d) In addition, as mentioned above, we plan to hold a series of meetings across the UK to which we will invite people from every sector of the community in the hope of stimulating outstanding nominations.

24. Finally - and at the risk of straying into territory that is not strictly our concern - we raise the issue of life tenure. We are concerned that those we have recommended for appointment will enter the House of Lords under the " old order" - appointment for life under the 1958 Life Peerages Act. We note the Wakeham Report recommendation that membership at the House of Lords in the future should be for a fixed and limited term and that a number of nominees we interviewed also raised this issue.

Comparision of figures between nominees, House of Lords and the UK population
  Nominees House of Lords UK population
       
  3,166 696 59,500,000
       
Gender      
Men 81% 84% 49%
Women 19% 16% 51%
       
Ethnic origin      
White 85% 97.4% 94.5%
Non-white 15% 2.6% 5.5%
       
Disability      
       
Consider themselves      
disabled 15% * 15%
       
Nationality      
British 98% * *
Irish 0.6% * *
Commonwealth 1.4% * *
       
Age      
60 or under 61% 31% 79%
61 or over 39% 69% 21%
       
Regional background      
South West 9% * 8%
South East 18% * 14%
East Anglia 6% * 9%
London 27% * 12%
East Midlands 6% * 7%
West Midlands 6% * 9%
Wales 4% * 5%
North West 9% * 12%
Yorkshire 4% * 8%
North East 3% * 4%
Scotland 5% * 9%
Northern Ireland 2% * 3%
Other 1% * *

Notes:

1. The regional background of nominees is taken from the address in the nomination form. We believe that the figure for London is substantially overstated since many people working in London during the week regard their regional background as elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

2. The House of Lords figures are based on our analysis of the biographies of current peers.

3. * indicates that either the figures are unavailable or the comparison is invalid.

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