Its rare for any of us to achieve 100% in any test, indeed if certain Education Ministers are to be believed, such a response would suggest that the test is too weak for the people being tested. Clearly all of us would love the pass all of our tests with full marks, but if everyone being tested passes with flying colours then there can in time become something of a question about the rigour of the test itself. The test I have in mind is not an academic test in any sense but it appears that there has been no failures in recent years.
In 1975 the Government established the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments or ACABA. This committee is responsible for ensuring that the business interests of current or recent Cabinet Ministers or Senior Civil Servants are not a conflict of interest in any way and won’t bring Parliament into disrepute. According to this article in todays Telegraph which focuses on the latest annual report from ACABA, the committee did not find a single appointment to be inappropriate or unsuitable although a few were recommended as needing a short delay. This could of course simply reflect that these powerful and influential men (and presumably the occasional woman) are scrupulous in their judgement, but it could also reflect a rather ineffective process by ACABA. It is fascinating that the committee has only published 15 Annual Reports in its 40 year history. It is also notable that although the committee scrutinises the activities of retired Ministers and Civil Servants, that of 8 members, three members are currently appointed by the three main Political Parties and the remaining five are so called independent members. These are appointed by the Prime Minister, having had experience at a high level in the civil service, the diplomatic service, the armed forces and in business. All members are appointed for a single non-renewable term of five years. More information on ACABA along with the information that the Committee is seeking a number of members can be found here.
This information raises several questions. Bearing in mind that some of the appointments are for positions within the charitable sector, why is there no one on the Committee with specific expertise in this area? Indeed it appears that someone with this specialism would not be eligible to apply for a position as a member based on the text in the annual report! With the Liberal Democratic Party destined to become smaller than the SNP at the next General Election, why are the three ‘political’ appointments made as they are? In the light of a coalition Government, and bearing in mind that this committee only has a remit for people for 2 years after their retirement from the Cabinet, why are the coalition represented by two committee members and the opposition only by one member? How can any organisation that passes 100% of the cases it not question its own effectiveness or the extent to which they are seeing the whole picture.