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Non-Departmental Public Bodies (Women)

Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 19 November 1997

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What measures he will be taking to increase the number of women on the boards of executive NDPBs. [15093]

All Departments encourage women to apply for public appointments and are committed to fair selection procedures. As part of that process, Departments are currently drawing up individual plans for the increased representation of women on public bodies. Those plans will include specific targets for each Department and will cover the period 1998 to 2001.

The Minister will be aware that, of those women who currently hold public appointments, the vast

majority are in unpaid, not paid, appointments. When drawing up his targets, will the Minister ensure that there is a target for equal representation of women in paid as well as unpaid appointments?

It is certainly the Government's policy to encourage women to participate at every level within what is commonly known as the quangocracy. The commissioner for appointments has set out a code of practice in which equal opportunity is a central element. In addition, the public appointments unit is actively seeking more women nominations to its list—it currently stands at 31 per cent. of its total—so that Departments have a ready reservoir of willing and-[HON. MEMBERS: Able."] That is not my word. I am talking about willing and well qualified women who are available for appointment to both paid and unpaid non-departmental public body jobs.

Will the hon. Gentleman consider looking at the staffing of foster homes, which are often privately run, many of which have been in the news lately for severe abuses of children? Does he agree that, if more older women were used to head those institutions, there would be less of the abuse that we keep reading about in our newspapers and which is such a disgrace? Older women would not have the wool pulled over their eyes in these matters.

I do not know if the hon. Lady is suggesting that the Government should nationalise private foster homes—I doubt whether she is. What the hon. Lady is suggesting is not within our remit, but I will pass on her comments to the appropriate Ministers.