Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Thank you for your letter of 16 February. Your interest in alternative approaches to public consultation is timely in view of our targets for electronic government.

  The FCO policy-making process is less directly linked to the UK citizen than it would naturally be in government departments dealing with domestic policy. It has not therefore undertaken any of the approaches to public consultation you describe in the period since 1997.

  But there are a number of ways in which we reach out to the public and seek feedback. FCO departments have always kept closely in touch with relevant specialist organisations and their views are sought in traditional ways.

  In April 1998, I set up Panel 2000, a 32 member public/private sector committee tasked with looking at all aspects of the international projection of the UK. It invited contributions from a wide range of organisations and issued a Consultation Document in September 1998 which was circulated widely. After further feedback, the Panel 2000 recommendations are now being implemented. They include the use of British Embassies as showcases, and rolling programmes of major events abroad.

  In recent years, the FCO has sought to project itself in Britain as well as overseas. It has held a number of Open Days to which MP's, students and community groups have been invited. Feedback from attendees has been very positive. This year, the FCO is participating in the "Millennium String of Pearls" festival; a number of Open Days will be held between May and October on different themes. They will be for the general public, who will be encouraged to seek further information on specific subjects and to contribute their views.

  The award-winning FCO website has a feedback form enabling on-line comment on any subject to be sent back to us. Customers can also register their areas of interest and be sent automatic updates on relevant subjects. Recruitment information has been placed on the website; we also run successful work attachment schemes.

  I am conscious that our FCO experience may not be entirely relevant to your main areas of interest. Nevertheless, I hope the above is helpful. Do come back to us if you need further details.

Robin Cook

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