Minister McVey's speech on public appointments

Opening remarks from Minister McVey at an event held in Edinburgh on public appointments

The Rt Hon Esther McVey MP

Good afternoon - it’s a pleasure to be here with you all. 

This is our third event focused on increasing the diversity of our public appointments…

…but importantly it’s our first event here in Scotland…

…and it is also the first Cabinet Office event I’ve been to since arriving in post.

And I am pleased to see such a packed room.

I want to thank you for taking the time to be here today…

…we know you are all busy people, with many busy diaries only getting busier in the run-up to Christmas…

…but it is so important that you’re here. 

Looking out of the window on my journey up here, I was reminded of the great variety of our country…

…the rolling hills, the countryside, the towns, the cities. 

And I thought those places actually represent the diversity of the people who live in those places. 

And so often, we don’t have that diversity of thought. That diversity of expression in those public bodies. 

That’s what we’re trying to do today.

I’m originally from Liverpool and I lived up in Edinburgh for a while. It’s one of my favourite places. I think it is such a vibrant, exciting place.

But the Government - as part of our Levelling Up and Places for Growth agendas - needs to build the better, secure, prosperous future for this country. 

An important part of my role is being the voice of the people in the very centre of Government…

…and that means that I need to ensure that this bright future I’ve described for every single citizen across the country. 

Our UK-wide Public Bodies are a vital part of this work… 

…including those Scottish Arms Length Bodies…

…and therefore it is essential we get the best - and the right - people in the right posts to run them.  

And we must all be more strategic about how we go about getting those people for those posts.

That’s why I am here today. 

I’ve been reading about some of the people in this room and I will say that some of the brightest and the best from a real diversity of backgrounds and careers are here today.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe - who unfortunately could not be here with us today - told me to really focus on diversity in the broadest sense…

…that regional diversity and diversity of thought.

You can be from different parts of the country, but have the same thought patterns.

What we want is that challenge. 

People bringing that perspective you don’t always hear.

Maybe being a bit more thoughtful… a bit more savvy… a bit more concentrated on a local area.

And that’s what we intend to do.

We want to break that cycle…

…of what people might describe as group think. 

And what better place to do that than Scotland, what better place than Edinburgh, to do that. 

We want to call out to those brilliant people from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Cheshire, Birmingham, Manchester, to spread their expertise across the country.

The value of the skills and expertise that people in this room will be priceless…

…and the expertise you have gained throughout your careers could benefit the public sector.

You could help our hospitals be more efficient…

…you could improve education for the very youngest children…

…also help those who want to be apprentices…

…you could ensure some of our greatest museums throughout the country get even better. 

However it is not only about harnessing those skills…

… it’s also about ensuring that candidates for public appointments are drawn from across the breadth of the country.  

We need diversity - as I said - of thought, of skills, and of capability.

Because it’s those sensibilities which will properly challenge the organisations they are responsible for…

But before we recognise the scale of the challenge we are doing, we owe it to you and to our public services to make sure the right support is in place.

We know that we need to be better throughout the whole process. 

For example, where applicants may not be successful for a particular appointment - but may be brilliant at what they do - we need to be able to track those people and take that forward, so that maybe we can consider their expertise elsewhere.  

We should never forget about your career, and ensure there’s career progression offered too.  

 My officials will be on hand today to discuss the upcoming opportunities…

…and we have a number of departments represented here who - I am sure -  will be delighted to speak to you about roles later today. 

We have some great speakers today…

…who will - no doubt - persuade you that this is something you need to go forward for.

Whether you’ve got that experience, that certain skill, or what it takes to make a real difference. 

So I will hand over to the official in the Propriety & Ethics Team at the Cabinet Office…

…who will tell you what is coming up for the rest of the day. 

But so you get the best out of today, rather than feeling it’s somebody talking to you or at you…

…I would like you to be an active participant in what we do.

When I do a Q&A session a little bit later, with people who are on boards, who have been on boards, please put your hand up if the questions I’m asking really aren’t the questions you want to ask.

Today is really about you.

I will also say I’ve been on that journey…

…I was Chair of the British Transport Police Authority… 

…so I probably know some of the questions you’re thinking: 

How do I go about it? 

Is it a closed shop? 

How do I do my CV? 

How do I write that covering letter? 

How do I really sell myself so I can be on that board.

I’ve been on this journey too… sometimes unsuccessfully, sometimes successfully.

So warts and all, I’ll tell you what it’s been like for me. 

And also what I’ll say is practice makes perfect. 

You’ll get into the pattern of how you answer the questions and how you tell your story…

…so people say “ah, they are the skills that I need on this board.”

Hopefully you’ll get a lot out of today, and hopefully you’ll enjoy it.

Cabinet Office
The Rt Hon Esther McVey MP