Don’t ask me?

November 23, 2012

I had a very kind note from a reader which said:

Hi Wendy

I suspect that the Government is getting fed up with your repeated responses to consultations – they are not used to people actually responding. The reason I suspect this is that they appear to have changed the rules on time allowed for responses, to give you much less time to get your thoughts together.

Much as I would like to think that I had some power over the government’s actions, I don’t think it’s just me!  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Cabinet Office has already quietly posted some revised consultation guidelines onto its website.

And on 14th November BIS responded to a Freedom of Information Act request I made by saying amongst other things that

You asked for agendas and minutes from the last four meetings of the consultation co-ordinators. Our records indicate that the consultation co-ordinators have not met for over 18 months, and prior to that we have no agendas or minutes held on file. We believe some Departmental Better Regulation Units might still run their own consultation discussions, but the Better Regulation Executive has not been advised of any such meetings.

I deduce from those two pieces of information that there hasn’t been a Whitehall wide discussion that has led to the restriction on consultation deadlines but that someone else, someone central, is driving this change.

My guess would be that the person in the driving seat is Oliver Letwin, if only because he is the Minister of State in the Cabinet Office in charge of Getting Things Done (or, at least, ensuring that the government carries out its programme)

And, interestingly, he is appearing before the Merits Committee, or, as they are now called, the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee on 11 December to give evidence on exactly this point, the new approach to consultation.

There was a Guardian Public Leaders Network discussion of this issue last week which is worth a read (if only because it was the first time I’d come across the charmingly-named outfit “Guerilla Policy” – see here for their thought-provoking piece on the class element in consultation) and there is a call to arms from the institute of Employment Rights.

The message from all of these is: you have another week.  If you have thoughts (and, more particularly, evidence!) about how consultations work and whether the twelve week expectation is a Good Thing or not, well, you should put your evidence in to the Lords to inform their discussions with the Minister.

Yes, I shall be responding.  But the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee takes ownership of submissions and may publish them in due course:

Submissions become the property of the Committee which will decide whether to accept them as evidence. Evidence may be published by the Committee at any stage. It will normally appear on the Committee’s website and will be deposited in the Parliamentary Archives. Once you have received acknowledgement that your submission has been accepted as evidence, you may publicise or publish it yourself, but in doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee. If you publish your evidence separately, you should be aware that you will be legally responsible for its content.

so I think it only polite to wait and see what response I get.  But please note that this is a call for evidence and the Committee specifically asks for signal boost:

This is a public call for evidence. Please bring it to the attention of other groups and individuals who may not have received a copy direct.

In other words: tell your friends!


  1. Just tried the Cabinet Office link and I am afraid I didn’t work! Thank you for the post, interesting reading.

  2. Oh – I just checked all the links and they seem to be fine – which one did you have a problem with?

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