Public Administration Select Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 75

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Public Administration Select Committee

on Tuesday 20 November 2012

Members present:

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Chair)

Alun Cairns

Paul Flynn

Robert Halfon

Kelvin Hopkins

Priti Patel

Lindsay Roy


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Mike Bracken, Executive Director, Government Digital Service, Professor Nigel Shadbolt, School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, and Simon Burall, Director, Involve, gave evidence.

Q89 Chair: Can I welcome our three witnesses this morning to this evidence session on open policymaking and public engagement? Could I first of all ask each of you to identify yourselves for the record?

Simon Burall: I am Simon Burall. I am Director of Involve, but I am also wearing another hat, which is Head of Public Dialogue for Sciencewise, which is a BIS programme.

Mike Bracken: I am Mike Bracken. I am Executive Director for Digital for the Government Digital Service, which is part of the Cabinet Office.

Professor Shadbolt: I am Nigel Shadbolt. I am a Professor at the University of Southampton, but also Chairman and Founder of the Open Data Institute.

Q90 Chair: Thank you for being with us this morning. In our session last week, one of our witnesses, who is also an adviser to this Committee, Cat Tully, talked about the importance of civil servants having the time to do this effectively, being rewarded for it, and having the political space in which to do it. She also said politicians do not feel it is in their interests to open up policymaking in this way. What do you think are the cultural barriers to open policy development?

Mike Bracken: I shall take that on as the civil servant here.

Q91 Chair: Mr Bracken, how are you finding it?

Mike Bracken: I am finding it very well, thank you. It is fascinating; it is a wonderful time to be in government and reforming parts of government digitally. My first observation on the cultural challenge is that this is something that is happening to us, as much as something that we are doing, in terms of open policymaking. As an example to colour that, we recently launched GOV.UK, which is a platform for Government services. It replaces Directgov and Business Link. The process of launching GOV.UK was highly instructive. We launched it with an alpha service, which we created in 12 weeks with 12 people. We put it out there and requested comments, and we got a great deal of feedback. The cost of that was quite minimal. We did not go and develop long policy papers; we learned from that experience and fed that back into the policymaking system and process.

That subsequently led to a beta, which involved more people and a slightly longer time-that was over three or four months. That process allowed us to learn a lot more. The beta led to a full version, which launched earlier this month. Through the alpha and beta processes, we engaged with 100,000 users. 3% of those gave us feedback and 1,000 of those users gave us very detailed feedback. That process-the ability to listen to that feedback, to learn from it and feed that into the actual product that is created-is, I would contend, a new form of open policymaking. That is an example of the challenge facing us right now.

Put simply, the challenge is that the elongated process of policymaking, which currently then hands over to an elongated process of delivery, does not really work too well for digital products and services, which are often developed and created daily, based on user feedback. Many of the services that we all use in our personal lives outside of government are created in this way, such as buying books, aeroplane tickets and all the rest of it. They are based on a process we call iterative feedback: you launch a product and service; you watch how people are using it; and you learn from that and feed that back in.

That is a good example of the challenge we face, because that is a cultural challenge to the timecycle of our policy development, which then meets the longterm delivery problems. By the time we have come out of the delivery cycle, the user demands have often changed fundamentally from the point at which we started.

Q92 Chair: I think we are hearing about practical difficulties rather than cultural barriers. Can I ask our other two witnesses?

Professor Shadbolt: The area in which I have been most engaged has been in opening up government data-the nonpersonal public data that government collects huge amounts of. Of course, as we make more of that available, it is about evidence very often, whether it is infection rates in our hospitals, educational attainment in our schools or the state of the roads in terms of transport. The cultural question is how serious we are about evidencebased policy, because we live in a world now in which we have the ability to instrument the environment, people and processes to acquire and gain insight about what that evidence might look like. That can sometimes be quite inconvenient to politically held priorities and beliefs.

The challenge is not just the cultural one; it is about the fact that the world has changed to provide very substantial amounts of information. That information bears on practical and policy questions, and the challenge is as much then about developing processes, as the last verbal session recorded, that can take advantage of that and engage people in appropriate ways. It is not all about mass engagement on every single topic. In some cases, it will be about highly local issues. It will about formulating tools and methods that allow you to argue in a very structured way about some issues. In other cases, it is much more general surveying. We have a range of methods that have come to the fore that each present rather different cultural challenges. I do not think there is one cultural fix here.

Simon Burall: I am hearing your question specifically through the lens of public engagement and whether the culture allows government to do public engagement properly, as opposed to the delivery of services and so on. There is a significant cultural problem. A major problem is that civil servants and politicians go through the policy cycle and, at the last minute-too late in that policy process-think about engaging the public. The challenge is a whole set of issues as to why that happens. Government is used to facing inwards, not outwards. It struggles to face outwards. It struggles to deal with what it hears in a measured way. The sorts of incentives that civil servants have are to face upwards in the hierarchy, as opposed to listen outwards. How do you recognise people who are engaging on Facebook, on Twitter, on blog posts?

Q93 Paul Flynn: What does facing upwards mean? Is it facing towards God or what?

Simon Burall: Maybe GOD, using the acronym, is the place they are facing towards in the civil service hierarchy, absolutely. They are writing reports upwards.

Q94 Paul Flynn: GOD has gone. Gus O’Donnell has gone. He has been replaced by a Trinity, so would they still look up to the Trinity now?

Simon Burall: Yes.

Q95 Paul Flynn: I am beginning to understand what you are talking about. I am trying to break through the jargon, but with some difficulty. Carry on, please.

Simon Burall: I will try to keep it as jargonfree as possible. That is another cultural problem for government, which is that we, both those operating outside government and inside government, use too much jargon. We use too many acronyms, and the public do not understand that. The public, when they engage with government, do so when they use a service, whether it is going to the doctor, whether it is delivering a child to school or whether it is using a road, and yet when we want to engage them, government and those around government, we have a very particular policy we want to engage them in that looks nothing like how the public understand what is happening. Government finds it very difficult to frame these issues in a way that makes sense to the public. They can draw on their experience to feed something back that is useful, so thank you for holding me up on jargon.

Q96 Priti Patel: I will start with Mr Bracken. What has been the response so far from ministers and senior civil servants across Whitehall to the Government’s Digital Strategy? In light of some of the comments that have already been made, are both parties committed, engaged and focussed enough in terms of the delivery? Is there a broad understanding of the public benefits to policymaking in particular through the focus of the Digital Strategy?

Mike Bracken: The reaction to our Digital Strategy, which was only published weeks ago, has been wholly positive and I have not heard any negative feedback from any Departments. Clearly there are inherent challenges in those Departments, because it is a hard, actionable strategy. Later in the year, each Department will publish its departmental digital strategy. It is at that point, in the period really starting now through to the end of the year, that we are expecting to get the first degree of really detailed feedback from Departments about what they feel. The answer to the first point is it is a little premature yet, but the early signs are that it has been overwhelmingly positive.

In terms of crossparty engagement, could I ask you to repeat the last two of your questions?

Q97 Priti Patel: I meant the engagement particularly from ministers and senior civil servants, in terms of commitment to the Digital Strategy, but also the broader understanding in terms of what it will bring in terms of public benefit to the whole engagement process as well.

Mike Bracken: In terms of engagement inside the system, they have been highly engaged. I attended the Wednesday morning meetings a few times to brief all permanent secretaries. Late last year, the Cabinet Office wrote to all permanent secretaries to ask them to invite us to discuss the Digital Strategy with them, and my team or I have attended most departmental boards. We asked each Department to nominate a digital leader, and that is a board member, a DG or commercialdirectorlevel person in the Department, who can take the digital initiative for their Department. Most Departments have done that, sometimes with a great degree of success. To be fair, we have landed the digital agenda with Departments very well, and we have got a good degree of buyin considering the nature of the Departments and particularly the split between the transactionheavy Departments and the policyled Departments.

Q98 Chair: If you ask a permanent secretary, "Who does the digital strategy in your Department?" does the permanent secretary say, "I do"?

Mike Bracken: I would think they would usually say that they have a board member who is responsible for that.

Q99 Lindsay Roy: Can I just clarify? Did you say initially that things were happening to the civil service rather than with the civil service? If so, did that bring some resistance in terms of cultural change?

Mike Bracken: In the general trend of how users are using digital services, I was referring to that constituting a challenge from our users of public services, because they are more readily giving us, and able to give us, feedback on their experience. That is a challenge to how we set policy within the civil service.

Q100 Lindsay Roy: So we have a long way to go.

Mike Bracken: Absolutely, yes.

Q101 Lindsay Roy: Can you just clarify what the difference is between engagement and consultation?

Mike Bracken: Consultation has a degree of formality to it, whereas engagement is an ongoing conversation.

Professor Shadbolt: They can be engaged on a whole variety of levels. We think of it often in terms of policy or ideas around the kind of thing that might be framing thoughts before you go to consultation. But often the engagement is very direct and material. It is the way in which a citizen is getting information about their welfare entitlements. That may be more about provisioning the service, but that is how many citizens are going to encounter government and it will colour their view hugely about utility and the ability to get things done. Can I get my health records? Can I get my education transcript? Can I get my tax records? The answer resoundingly to all of those is, "No, not particularly well at the moment." That has to change.

Simon Burall: This is my bread and butter, as it were. The word "engagement" is a very broad word and I think it means, as Nigel was saying, citizens interacting with and receiving information from government all the way through to citizens having a collaborative approach with government and actually developing services with them. Consultation sits somewhere in the middle. Consultation for me has a very specific meaning: it means that government has developed policy to a point where it knows what it wants to do, and what it wants to do is engage on the details, from something as simple as exactly where the access road should go for a wind farm, through to whether we should set the marginal rate of fees at this rate or that rate.

There are different types of engagement beyond consultation. You can move into the sorts of things that the Sciencewise programme does, which is dialogue. That is where citizens are engaged by government much earlier in the policy cycle, where government is not really sure even what it thinks about the issue, be that geoengineering, synthetic biology or a number of other issues. Citizens hear from experts about the policy and the science; they deliberate among themselves, and then they provide a view about what they have heard, which government can then take away. That is very different from consultation, because it happens at a different point in the policy cycle. There are a number of ways you can engage.

Q102 Lindsay Roy: Would it be fair to say that cultural change with regard to engagement is patchy across Departments at the present time?

Simon Burall: I think that would be fair. You should not just focus on Whitehall; you should also think about local government, which is where the majority of citizens engage with government.

Chair: And about 300 agencies.

Simon Burall: Exactly.

Q103 Lindsay Roy: Do you have examples of very good practice already that you can highlight? If so, what are they?

Professor Shadbolt: You had testimony from Roger Hampson from Redbridge last week, and they have some of the more really impressive areas. Of course, locality means that the issues people care most about are literally outside their door, so they are motivated, if you can find the method, to really engage. It is interesting to see how they have simply opened up a whole range of data, information and decisionmaking for public scrutiny.

Q104 Paul Flynn: This is all wonderfully utopian, but governments make a decision on pressure and prejudice, and usually evidencefree policy. To give you just one example, yesterday in the House of Commons it was pointed out to the Government that banning mephedrone last year doubled the use of mephedrone. This is from Operation Tarian-a serious result. Imposing the severerisk drug prohibition in Europe in 1971 increased the number of addicts we have in this country from 1,000 to 320,000, but this Government and all Governments will do what the Daily Mail tells them. It is evidencefree, regardless of what the actual evidence says to them. There is no evidence base in the Government. You really are banging your heads against a brick wall if you think that governments are going to behave in a rational way.

Simon Burall: You have picked a very controversial example, but I think.

Q105 Paul Flynn: Answer it. Why should we ban drugs when it increases the use of drugs, on every occasion?

Simon Burall: Your colleague Lindsay Roy asked for examples of where government is doing this in a positive way. One of the things about culture that the Research Councils are demonstrating is that they are learning and they have processes of evaluation to understand where public engagement is working for them and where it is not. For example, they engaged the public on the controversial topic of geoengineering. As a result, using what they heard not just from the public but from other sources as well, they have looked at their programme to invest money in and support the development of geoengineering, and they have adapted it.

Q106 Paul Flynn: What do you make of the wonderful and unique example of disengagement we saw last week, when 85% of the population refused to vote? Even more remarkably, 120,000 went to vote and spoiled their ballot papers with insulting comments in the main about government and government policy. Is this not a wonderful example of public engagement that we should be taking notice of? There was a word, which I did not realise could be spelt in so many ways, that occurred again and again on the ballot papers. This is the public putting up two fingers to government.

Chair: A brief comment.

Simon Burall: From my perspective, people are saying the public are disengaging from the process.

Paul Flynn: Just 85%.

Simon Burall: I wonder whether actually the public were not clear what the problem was that police commissioners were trying to solve. If the Government had engaged in a very different way, much further upstream in the policy, you may well have ended up with a different answer to the problem and perhaps something that the public were much more engaged in. The public felt very disengaged.

Q107 Chair: Do other of our witnesses want to comment on that last question from Mr Flynn?

Professor Shadbolt: I think if we give up entirely on the notion of evidence informing our policy, that would be sad. I recognise that political realities will sometimes intrude, but we can see plenty of examples where the evidence, in many contexts, has been the thing to make the difference, such as wearing seatbelts.

Chair: Were I allowed, by the rules of this Committee, to refer to who is sitting in the public gallery, it would be a great pleasure to welcome the National Assembly of Nigeria’s Committee on Public Service Matters, but I cannot see them

Q108 Priti Patel: I think all three of you have already briefly touched on the fact that each Government Department will effectively be coming up with its own digital strategy, which is very laudable and obviously will take time. I am interested in a couple of things. Firstly, what resources does the Government Digital Service have in place in terms of delivery? What timeframes are involved? What is the ambition? What would success look like? Secondly, I am interested in particular, in terms of speaking about resources, in what kind of training is provided, not just to the civil servants but in particular to ministers. Of course, ministers are pretty busy people and they change, so how can you therefore have consistency in terms of delivery with ministers, in light of the fact that they change, their roles change, etc? What kinds of resources do you have to invest in ministers?

Mike Bracken: I will start with the Government Digital Service. Today, we are part of the Cabinet Office transformation cluster, which I run with my colleague Ed Welsh. We are about 220 people today. That consists of the core development team and the product and design team that run GOV.UK and various platforms. I also run the identity service, the IDA programme, which is about 20strong. That is separately funded, but part of the team and colocated. Also, we are in the process of integrating the IT reform group, because so many of the issues that we face are consistent with requiring some degree of structural IT change within Departments. That will bring us up to about 250 to 260, and that is probably as big as it will go. That is certainly as big as is budgeted for. The types of skills we have are, I would contend, a lot of new skills that are not present in many Government Departments-a lot of opensource technologists, a lot of enterprise architects. They are effectively a web generation of technologists, which we do not really possess much in government, which makes them stand out quite a great deal.

Q109 Priti Patel: On that point, is this new recruitment that is coming in with specialist skills?

Mike Bracken: Over the last year or so, we have explicitly brought those skills in. That was part of the mandate for the Digital Service: to bring that generation of technology and digital skills to the heart of Government, which is why we are located in the centre.

Chair: Sorry, you will have to speak up a little bit.

Mike Bracken: Sorry; I beg your pardon. Over the last year, we have brought those skills in, as explicit in our mandate to bring those people in, to the heart of Government. You are quite right, though, that now the strategy is being published and the departmental strategies are close to being published, and now we have a platform in terms of GOV.UK, we have to get those skills much more widely distributed around Government. I am working with the digital leaders in Departments to establish the skills and capabilities capacity in many of those Departments. Literally, some Departments and some big agencies have outsourced so much of their capacity over the last decade that they have no one to define their own technology architecture and also their digital skills. That is where a very small number of people, even renting them across from other organisations or sharing them across government, can make a profound difference, because then we are not reliant on some of the large companies that have been selling this.

Q110 Priti Patel: This is bringing the skills in-house, effectively, based in the Cabinet Office, and then sharing that across Government Departments.

Mike Bracken: In some cases, yes. In some cases, it is helping Departments build their capability. In the Ministry of Justice, right now we are helping the digital leader create a digital centre at the heart of that Department.

Q111 Chair: Is this seed corn for the civil service also growing its own indigenous capacity?

Mike Bracken: Absolutely. That is absolutely crucial because that is the legacy we have to leave. We are starting with faststreamers. We have brought several of the faststreamers into the GDS. Actually, one of our more successful groups just went back to the Ministry of Justice to start to grow that there. It is a start, and I must say that we start with a very low base. The numbers of people of this generation in Government is astonishingly low. That has been my finding over the last year.

Professor Shadbolt: That is the key block here. The level of public technology skills across Government is simply not fit for purpose. Unless we, through initiatives like Mike is describing here, really do something significant about that, and it would be in Departments-and what is true for Departments is also true in local government-then how do we bring, as Beth Noveck mentioned, computer scientists into the Civil Service at an appropriate level to inform this and not just rely on the standard PPE background from Oxford?

Mike Bracken: There are many things mitigating against success in this area, not least the decade of outsourcing that we have had prior to this. One thing that we should recognise is that this generation of people, these younger people who have these digital skills, generally have, in my experience-and I have worked with them for 20 years-a high degree of social interest and a high degree of willingness to serve the public good. They are, to my mind, a good example of the next generation of civil servants, because they generally want to make public services better. Many of the people I have brought in have been on fixedterm or set contracts, because this generation does not see themselves as having longterm career plans. Nevertheless, many of them have accepted substantial salary cuts to come and do this, because they feel it is in the public good and public interest. That is something that we should recognise.

Simon Burall: It is just a very brief comment. I cannot comment broadly on GDS, but I wanted to talk about public engagement and digital. One of the issues and one of the big skills gaps is the people who understand how to engage the public do not necessarily really get digital, and the digital people do not necessarily get public engagement. There is a real need to begin to find ways to get teams to work together and to begin to train across those teams in different ways.

Q112 Priti Patel: Can I come back to the point about ministers, in particular? What is the investment and what is the resource going to look like for ministers?

Mike Bracken: I do not have a specific programme of work for the education of ministers. That usually comes through departments. To be frank, it is hit and miss. We have had some degree of engagement with ministers; several of them have expressed interest in using some of the tools and the services that we have created. Examples of those are things like the public consultation reading stage service, and the epetition service is probably the most highprofile of those digital services. I would say we have had a good degree of ministerial interest, but I cannot in any way say there is a training programme behind that.

Q113 Priti Patel: Presumably it will be down to the permanent secretary for each Department to factor that into departmental strategy.

Mike Bracken: Yes, and GDS will help and support them drive that capability, whether it is the minister or officials in that Department.

Chair: I think we have reached question 4, but we have to finish by 10.30, so we have a number of questions to get through. If you can give us crisper answers, we would be very grateful.

Q114 Robert Halfon: Looking at the things that you are doing at the moment, whilst welcome, they do not seem to be that dramatic. Allowing people to comment on a Bill is what blogs were doing five years ago. I am not saying it is not good; it is great that you made this, but I cannot see anything really radical. You talk about crowd sourcing and all this sort of thing, but I cannot see any genuine moves to really involve people inside policymaking, apart from just allowing them to see information and allowing them to comment on the odd clause here and there. Could you all comment on that, please?

Simon Burall: One of the significant problems is all the way back to this cultural change, which is for that change-engaging the public in policymaking-government, both Parliament and Government itself, has to absolutely mean it. The trouble is that the public, all too often, get asked a question that government then just ignores. The radical change is not about mass engagement; it is about the much more challenging business of changing the way government does policy, involving the public much earlier in the policy process, and thinking much more clearly about why you are engaging the public. Is it because you think the public have ideas or information that you don’t have? Is it because you need legitimacy for a decision? There are all sorts of reasons why you might do it, but government is not often honest with itself about why it wants to do it. It does not know or think about what skills it needs. Actually, the radical change needs to happen inside government, not in terms of the tech to do it.

Q115 Robert Halfon: It seems that digital engagement is merely, as you say, creating a sort of similar thing to consumer, so that they can access their tax online and all this sort of thing, and giving them lots of information, which is good, and allowing the odd comment. It is going back to where the public were five years ago, in terms of internet usage. It does not really change anything dramatically. We had a lady last week, Beth Noveck of Wiki Government, with her peer-to-patent type of thing. There is nothing like that at all, where people have a genuine involvement in government, outside Parliament.

Professor Shadbolt: I think that is the challenge. Can you assemble expertise in a very agile fashion to dig down into particular issues? The thing about Beth Noveck’s work is that she highlights how, giving specific requirements and tasks, rather than the very broadest brush, will often get you the most specific results back and the most help. Again, we have not redesigned the work process, if you will, within the business of asking for insights, help and advice. We appoint our chief scientific advisers; we have events like this; but to actually focus on particular issues at large, with the tools we now have to do that, has not really made it through.

Q116 Robert Halfon: Even the epetition system is pretty backward when you think about-allowing people to sign an epetition, whoopdeedoo. It is a good thing, but it does not really dramatically change things. They are not even guaranteed a vote, although people perceive that they are. We still have appeals or a backbench committee in order to have the vote. I cannot see a genuine belief from the Government that we want to be radical here and really use the internet to change policy and public perception, and really engage people to move away from 2.0 to 4.0.

Mike Bracken: Firstly, I am hoping to see a much higher level of ambition statement in the departmental digital strategies, so we should see a higher level of radical ambition, I hope, for our core services by the end of the year. To be fair, the jury is out at this point on that one. At the heart of services like epetitions and others-GOV.UK is an example-there are two things worth commenting on. The first is that this is not a massive radical change, but an ongoing constant set of small changes dependent on user feedback. In the first 10 days after we launched GOV.UK, we made over 100 changes to it based on user feedback. We are able to do that because there is a dialogue and an engagement with those active users, and some of those changes can be quite specific because the feedback is coming from specialist areas.

The second point to make about services like epetitions and indeed about GOV.UK is that there is an inherent radical departure at the heart of it, which is to recognise that, for the first time, users do not have to know the inner workings of government to engage with government. You do not have to know all the details about how government is structured to petition government or to find government information. We all know, I think, that large Departments have a clear remit but, with all the agencies we have, it is often very difficult to navigate around government, especially around esoteric policy areas.

Simon Burall: I have two points. One: that is a really radical change. Our own research shows that the public will really only engage when they meet government services. What GDS is doing there is really very radical. Secondly, you were asking about where the big thing in the internet is. I think that is asking the question the wrong way round. What problem are you trying to solve? What is it the public have that will help you solve that problem, and then is the internet the way to do it? Is it the internet plus offline engagement? If you ask the question, "What can the internet do for us?" you risk getting it very badly wrong.

Q117 Chair: If I look at the Inside Government website at the moment and the two Departments that have signed up, I would be really delighted if I was the Secretary of State for those Departments, because it puts in really accessible forms everything I have said, everything I have done and everything my Department is doing, all in the Government’s language that is supportive of what the Government is doing. If I was in opposition, I would be quite cross, because this is obviously a brilliant communication tool for people in power. How is it going to be empowering of citizens? At the moment, the Inside Government portal does not seem to do that.

Robert Halfon: At the moment, it is just: "Tractor production in the Soviet Union is up by 5% this year." In essence, that is what the internet offering seems to be. The public cannot really change it. You talk about the epetition; anyone can set up an epetition. There are millions of different websites. They do not need a government website to set up a petition on anything, and they can then present that to government.

Chair: Where is the challenge in this process?

Robert Halfon: There is nothing particularly amazing about the government epetition system, because it is no different from being able to set up any petition as a private citizen.

Mike Bracken: In a sense, it is different, because it allows you to navigate and find the right area of government to petition. You are absolutely right: there are internet tools that allow you to create your own petition. It is right that there should be a broad church for that service. Clearly, by looking at the evidence of its users, the outcomes that it has had and the value for money also, it is a good tool that people want to use in a high volume. If you do not consider that radical, that is fine, but we are trying to make these services accessible for people, so they can use them more easily. It is the same with the policy pages; it is a simple place where people can find a clear statement of the Government’s policy.

Professor Shadbolt: It is also about getting the information. People will engage if they have information that is material to their concerns. Often the best examples, as I say, are in local government. Planning: if there is one area where you could actually get significant engagement routinely and continuously, it is in planning applications. There the problems are all around various institutions that will not release the underlying data that will allow an effective citizen who is following the Planning Act to engage against another entity. There are really great opportunities, from just one example there, for disruptive reengagement.

Q118 Robert Halfon: A final question: if you did become more radical, moved it on and did involve the public properly on the internet, how do you then stop it from being hijacked by well resourced pressure groups?

Simon Burall: You do that by not just using the internet and by using the internet cleverly. Again, it comes back to why you are engaging. If you want to use the internet, what you can get is mass engagement. You can find ideas that are distributed amongst the population or information that is distributed amongst the population. Where is benefit not being paid out properly or where are roads broken? FixMyStreet would be a prime example. If you want deep engagement on quite a complex issue, say drugs policy, doing it by the internet would be a really bad way of doing it. What you would want to do is go offline. It comes back to my point that, if you think the internet is the tool that is going to solve your problems with public engagement, you are going to run into exactly the problems you are running into, because you are not thinking about what this tool allows you to do and what it does not allow you to do.

Q119 Chair: Inside Government is a bit of a misnomer, because you are not really seeing inside government; you are only seeing what the Government wants you to see.

Professor Shadbolt: The challenge there is this issue of worrying about how representative the voices you get are-the echo chamber effect. One of the most successfully collectively crowdsourced products is of course Wikipedia, which has a very stringent and well organised editorial process and control. You get to be a highlevel moderator in that space by virtue of your expertise in informed contributions in the past.

Q120 Robert Halfon: That is why I am saying that the government service should be Wikipedia and not encyclopaedia. At the moment it is really encyclopaedia.

Mike Bracken: That is a good point. The first thing we have to do is sort out how people can navigate and find government information. That was the aim of GOV.UK. We have done that reasonably well by bringing policy information from over 400 websites, which are often hard to find, to one place.

Q121 Paul Flynn: Could you give us the most impressive example you have of the 100 changes that were made as a result of public responses? What was the most important, significant or earthshattering? You have mentioned 100, so give us a wonderful example that will amaze us.

Mike Bracken: I will give you a small example, because it is not the change itself; it is how it was made. We published some information on GitHub, which is an opensource repository, to allow other people to take that information and use it. Someone made a change in that repository and pointed out that we had made a factual error in one of the bank holiday services. I cannot remember which country it was, but one of the future bank holidays in one of the countries-Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland-had been misallocated. A developer went on and made that change for us.

Chair: What about the Government’s Digital Strategy?

Q122 Paul Flynn: That is not the most astounding example I have ever heard. At Hillsborough, the fact is people had to wait 22 years. It is possibly the one example we have-I cannot think of any others-of public engagement and an epetition resulting in something happening. Could you tell me how the man or woman in the street gets through to government in the same way as a rich company, which can hire a lobbyist to pay £250,000 to the Conservative Party in order to have dinner with the Prime Minister? Where is the equality in that? Who do you think is the most influential of those two: someone who gets on Twitter and makes a point, or someone who has a meal with the Prime Minister?

Mike Bracken: I do not think those are directly comparable.

Q123 Paul Flynn: The much maligned Bureau of Investigative Journalism also exposed that someone said they wanted something raised at an international conference by the Prime Minister and the head of state, and it was then raised. In the real world, all this digital stuff that is going on-people signing petitions-does not amount to a hill of beans compared with where the real power is. The real power is money being used in order to persuade government to change their views.

Simon Burall: The challenge for democracy is always to find ways to engage citizens rather than where power lies. There are some interesting international examples. Geraldton 2029 is a mining town in Australia, and they have been running a long engagement process. It involves some of the stuff that Robert Halfon is talking about around petitions and so on, but they have done that in a way that integrates it with offline as well. They have heard from a multitude of voices, some of which will be the mining companies, which have a massive stake in development. There is power and money in mining, as I am sure you know. They have allowed a multitude of voices. You cannot get rid of power.

Q124 Paul Flynn: Some members of this Committee believe in the wisdom of crowds, but there is also the stupidity of crowds and the prejudice of crowds as well. Getting thousands of people to come up with the same idea does not make it a good idea; it makes it a bigger bad idea.

Simon Burall: There are ways you frame the question to the public. You need to understand which public you are trying to get to. The publics are not equal. The Spending Challenge is a prime example. The Government was trying to identify areas where money could be saved. Asking civil servants, to my mind, made lots of sense. Civil servants understand services and could understand where money could be saved. Going out to the public and framing the question in a very broad way-"How do we save money?"-meant that what you got was the rule of the mob. I would suggest that, if you had done that in a very different way, primarily focussed on civil servants, you would have been able to do a lot more.

Q125 Paul Flynn: If a huge number of people signed an epetition to say they wanted capital punishment to be restored, what do you think this or the previous Government would do about it?

Simon Burall: I don’t feel capable of speaking for the Government. I am not a politician.

Q126 Paul Flynn: They would not do it. They would ignore it. They would not bring back capital punishment.

Professor Shadbolt: We have an elective democracy, and that is where we allocate those decisions to stand against the crowd.

Q127 Paul Flynn: If you decide that you are going with the majority of opinion, you may be in office but you are not in power. There is some role for Parliament to take decisions, ideally very rarely, above the popular prejudice and based on evidence, but it rarely happens.

Simon Burall: That comes down to one of the myths about public engagement.

Q128 Paul Flynn: If you surrender to the majority that signs a petition, there are people who want to leave Europe next week-a majority of 56%. What would Government do?

Chair: Please let him answer, Mr Flynn.

Paul Flynn: The question is more interesting than the answers, I find.

Chair: In your opinion, though.

Paul Flynn: Indeed, yes.

Simon Burall: Shall I carry on?

Chair: Please, Mr Burall.

Simon Burall: That comes down to one of the myths about public engagement-that it is about handing over responsibility and leadership to the public. That appears to be what you are saying. One of the things that the public tell us, in Sciencewise and the work that Involve has done as well, is that they want their voices to be heard around nuclear waste and geoengineering-lots of really very complex topics. They do; when you engage them in a deliberative fashion-I am happy to send the evidence and the evaluation of Sciencewise’s work, if you would like to see it-they tell us, "We do not want to take the decision, because the experts need to listen to what we think, but we want them to take the decision because, actually, they are able to weigh up lots of different interests." Engaging the public is not about abdicating leadership. In fact, the leadership that is needed when you engage the public is not the from50yearsago macho leading from the front. It is actually creating political space and holding political space open in the face of special interests and media campaigns. That is where leadership is needed.

Q129 Paul Flynn: A practical issue: in a place not 100 miles from Newport, they are looking to site a Gypsy encampment and they are going out to public consultation. How many people do you think in the public would say, "We want an encampment in our area"? I can give you the precise number if you like. Somebody has to decide. If you go on that, you would have no Gypsy encampment. The point of having government is someone has to take the tough decisions.

Simon Burall: Indeed they do, yes. You can ask the public in different ways. IPPR did work on migration and immigration, and they engaged in a deliberative forum. They got people coming in saying, "We want no more immigrants," and by the end of the process that group of people-selfselecting, open access-reached something that was very close to the Government’s position on immigration. If you ask the public, "Do you want this? Yes or no?" you will get a knee-jerk reaction. If you ask them a very different question in a different way and hold the space open differently, you will get a much more thoughtful response.

Q130 Paul Flynn: Example?

Simon Burall: IPPR’s work on migration.

Q131 Alun Cairns: One of your colleagues talked about identity and how to protect identity. It was the subject of PICTFOR, an allparty group based on IT, just some weeks ago at Portcullis House. One of your colleagues suggested that to conceal their identity, they put false information in. How does that square with the Government’s plans for representation and whether identities should be shared accurately or not?

Mike Bracken: I am going to have to ask you to expand on the meeting, because I was not privy to that. Could you just give me a bit of context to that?

Q132 Alun Cairns: It was quite widely reported at the time. The BBC certainly picked up on it. PICTFOR is an allparty IT group. They had a oneday conference. A senior official was present. They were talking about guarding identities. That became a subject. The suggestion was, whether it was tongue in cheek or flippant, that people should put in false information in terms of their identity when they are engaging. How does that square with the Government’s policy for better engagement and should they be accurate with their personal details or not?

Mike Bracken: Yes, I believe we should. I can remember that incident. I believe you should; I do not believe that is appropriate advice to give to anybody about how they identify themselves to government. We are building an identity service, and how we are doing that is very much in the public domain. We have some pilots working at the moment, and the heart of those pilots is to build a culture of trust, where we build trust between users, businesses and the state. I do not believe this is the place to give the detailed technical view about what we are doing, but at the heart of that is trust. What we are trying to create is trust in users to identify themselves in a way that they believe is appropriate to deal with government. Many of the users of digital services in the UK already have a high level of trust with intermediaries, whether they are a bank, post office or a third party. We are looking to leverage that degree of trust back into government services.

Professor Shadbolt: I would echo that. I think the trick here is not to revert back. Part of the challenge is to get beyond 20thcentury IT solutions, where the view is you are aggregating services. We trust, relatively speaking, the logon credentials when we go on to a bank site, utility sites or telephone mobile sites. Use of those together with the services you want to get from government is very different. If you can use those credentials, you have a very powerful set of distributed identities. It is very hard then for any individual to subvert them.

Q133 Robert Halfon: When you were setting up the new internet infrastructure, the petitions and the new information systems and so on, did you involve the public or was it just designed from Whitehall?

Mike Bracken: There are various products that stand alone, while the Government Digital Service and the Strategy that we have published are crossgovernment. We involve the public with the underlying platforms, with GOV.UK, and we have an ongoing dialogue with the public on that basis. As I mentioned before, we have an awful lot of user testing programmes and thousands of people giving us feedback on an ongoing basis. It is more than a set consultation; it is an ongoing conversation.

Q134 Robert Halfon: When you set up the epetition system, for example, you involved the public and got them to design the epetition system with you. Is that what you are saying?

Mike Bracken: As we do with most products, we start at what we call an alpha version, which is a quick and dirty version. We publish that and then we invite feedback. We listen to that feedback and we make changes based on that feedback.

Q135 Robert Halfon: How much feedback did you have on the epetition system, for example?

Mike Bracken: I do not have those numbers to hand, but it will be substantial because of the nature of the product. I will happily provide those.

Q136 Chair: Is the Government’s Digital Strategy on opensource policymaking an exemplar of what it is trying to promote?

Robert Halfon: Can I just come in on that? Is the Government just saying we should have open policymaking or is it genuinely open source? Is it an old IBM mainframe or is it Linux, in essence, or the equivalent?

Mike Bracken: If I can take the technical terminology bits of this, open policymaking should be seen separately from opensource technology. We use opensource technology for GOV.UK as a platform, because we believe that is the most appropriate platform and set of tools for that job, and we think that there are more opportunities around the government estate for opensource technology, but we do not have a set position on that. We will take each task in hand and deal with that in the way that we think is most technically appropriate. In terms of open policymaking, I do not believe that that is, at heart, a technology decision. It is a more of a culture and policy provision decision.

Simon Burall: Would you allow me to pick up on two things? Firstly, I think that GDS is an example of where government is really trying to reach out and do things in a different way. Its blog is remarkably honest and open. I am not really well sighted as to whether it could do more, but they are an example I often use when talking to other bits of government.

The petition question is a very interesting one, because I do not think it is a technical question. I do not think it is about the tech of a particular petition site. It is about how the petition is connected into Government and Parliament. That is a question not for GDS but for the politicians who have to listen to the petition site, and I do not think the politicians either asked or engaged with the public about what they would like. If one of my petitions got 100,000 signatures, what would I, member of the public, expect Parliament to do on that basis? That is where the engagement did not happen. I do not think it is fair to blame GDS on that one.

Professor Shadbolt: Keeping very separate the notion of open engagement and the underlying opensource software, something very interesting about opensource products is that they have resulted very often from the collective wisdom of programmers, with a very organised process of submitting, commenting and revising. I submit that many of the principles there are ones that could apply very effectively in deliberative consultations. The reason they are successful is that they have had so many sets of eyeballs and talents on them to pick and probe and make them better.

Mike Bracken: One of the tenets of opensource software is that you add something back. Once you use it, you change it and add something back for the common good. That has to be entirely consistent with creating products and services for the public with public money.

Q137 Kelvin Hopkins: I have to say that my view is that this consultation with the public, wonderful though it is, is a bit of a con trick. The reality is that governments today want control at the centre. They want to make the decisions. They will have a massive public consultation, but they will take the decisions. The object is to restrict choice as much as possible. If, for example, tomorrow there was the decision to have a referendum on membership of the European Union, we know that all three major party leaders would gather together on the stayintheEuropeanUnion side, with control at the centre. They would want to avoid that question if they possibly could.

Something that has been missed out in all of this is political parties and political activists. When I go to the meetings and say, "What would you like?" people look blank. If I say, "Would you prefer our railways to be nationalised or to continue with privatisation?" they come up with a view, and especially if I give them a view. They respond. You have to engage in a real political debate with real politicians, not just, "What would you like?" The ultimate examples were the fatuous focus groups launched by New Labour. I am a member of the Labour Party who has never associated with New Labour. Again, it was just a con trick to pretend that they were consulting people, when the real decision was being made by Mr Blair on his sofa in the quiet of Downing Street. Is that not the reality?

Simon Burall: The big political decisions to which you are referring are right, but a lot of my work is around science and technology, and developments in science and technology and how they are going to influence policy and impact on citizens. Those are issues where there is no right or wrong answer around what we should be doing with GM, synthetic biology or other areas. There is a whole set of tradeoffs that you are making as you try to develop that set of technology. Politicians know almost as much as the public, which is very little, because most of us are not trained in what synthetic biology means, and yet it will have profound impacts on my children and my grandchildren.

The sorts of work you can do there to engage the public to influence policy and affect the trajectory of the technology can be really quite significant. For the Government, the spectre of GM and BSE hangs right over all that whole agenda for growth and innovation. The Government knows that, if it does not engage properly on some of these really important technologies, the risk is a backlash, because they can go in ways that the public support and ways the public do not. Getting the policy right very early on is really important. That is the sort of work that Sciencewise is doing in engaging in the Civil Service-training and embedding public engagement within the Civil Service-so that government can engage properly on some of these technologies.

Q138 Kelvin Hopkins: People come alive when political parties represent different philosophies and give people real choices. You know if you are voting for one party, you are going to have full employment, redistributed taxation and public ownership. With the other one, you are going to have markets, privatisation, PFI and all the other nonsense that we have had in the last 20 years. If you are given those choices, then you will say, "I know who I am going to vote for. I am going to vote for that lot, because that is what I believe."

Simon Burall: I think that is right, but the manifestos do not have anything in them about some of these technologies I am talking about or some of the decisions that come up later on because of events. Those are the areas where the political philosophy does not give you a way forward, because nobody knows what the impact of these things is. Engaging the public can help you steer policy.

Q139 Kelvin Hopkins: If it is explained and you put it down as a genuine coherent alternative that would work because it works elsewhere-for example, in Scandinavia perhaps-and you say, "It does work because it is shown to work in other countries. We could do that here," what do you say? That is real political debate.

Professor Shadbolt: That would be the case. Coming back to the issue around evidence, we have some quite dramatic examples. One that is quite well known is what happened in the UK when death rates among consultant cardiologists were revealed. There was of course a bit of an outcry at the time, but what Sir Bruce Keogh and others have shown is that we now have some of the best performing cardiology survival rates in Europe. The argument is that that gets everybody to pay attention to best practice and to share best practice. Presumably, in any political dialogue or discourse, people will be wanting to look for evidencebased improvements that you would not stand against.

Q140 Kelvin Hopkins: I am in favour of evidencebased policy, but I spoke to a fairly senior civil servant three or four years ago, and he said, "Yes, we all talk about that but, in reality, in my Department"-I will not say which Department it was-"I put forward evidence which leads to a particular policy. They don’t like the policy, so they get rid of the evidence." This is a civil servant saying what politicians do.

Professor Shadbolt: This is where the entire direction of web and information systems we are encountering now will be so disruptive. The scarcity of information that led to those positions being available is less and less tenable. We have information abundance, where you can actually find out some of these facts of the matter in ways that the state does not control.

Q141 Robert Halfon: Can I ask you how much you think you can use existing social media to do government digital engagement-the Facebooks, the Twitters, Google+ and so on? Is that practical or not?

Mike Bracken: Yes, in many Government services we already do. We have very active conversations and feedback via social media, often via Twitter and other places. We have made a reasonable start in getting some senior civil servants and politicians using those channels of engagement as well. Whilst we do have some ground to cover, the early evidence includes people running the Civil Service. We have a blog for Sir Bob Kerslake, Jeremy Heywood and others, which shows that civil servants are using these channels and valuing them.

Q142 Robert Halfon: Are they using it as information or to directly engage?

Mike Bracken: I think a combination. They will use it to engage, to broadcast, to publish and also to have conversations.

Simon Burall: They are great relationship tools. One of the things that is in not great abundance for government is trust. They can be one way of building trust. If what government does is say, "This is the only way we are going to engage"-to be a broken record-that is where you run into problems. You need a mix of methods for different things. Twitter, Facebook and other things are brilliant for some things but not for others. If you just use them to engage, you then run the risk of getting rule by mob.

Q143 Chair: Can I just press you a little bit further? People are very cynical about government consultations that the Government has already decided. Obviously this process is about getting the public involved before the policy is decided supposedly, but there is this other question: that somehow this is sort of sanitising politics, and political parties, and their prejudices and gut reactions, are going to be sidelined by this supposedly much more objective process of consultation and involvement. It is almost done on a scientific basis. Those leading questions that are always evident in opinion polls are going to be just as evident in the shape of the Government’s consultation to lead people to a particular conclusion. Mr Burall, you yourself said that if you engage people in the right form of conversation, you can change people’s views, for example about immigration.

Simon Burall: No, you do not change them. I am sorry if I said that. What you do is allow them to deliberate on what they hear in the round and then, collectively, they come to a different opinion.

Q144 Chair: Indeed, this is why we believe in the wisdom of crowds. A lot of these questions are decided by who you feel you are, what your identity is and what sort of country you feel you want to live in. This will lead you to very different conclusions about whether or not we should have nuclear weapons, for example, or whether we should be more closely associated with the United States or with the European Union, for example. How do you consult the public on these very topline issues, before getting into the nittygritty as to whether the citizens of Nigeria should be required to have visas in order to come to this country or whatever?

Simon Burall: You have to be really clear that you want to listen, you are willing to listen to what the public say and you are willing to not necessarily do what the public want you to do, but you are willing to say, "I have heard what you say, but the other evidence I have had says I am going to go in this direction anyway." That is where the leadership comes in. The public have to believe that you are going to listen first of all.

Q145 Chair: Is it about being clear about where you are leading?

Simon Burall: Yes, it is. It is about being very clear about the questions you are asking. That is why I think the Spending Challenge got it very wrong. It was not clear about the question from the public’s perspective of what it was asking. The public heard one thing. It was wrong in micro-language, in terms of asking the public to rank rather than rate. It was wrong; the public heard a different question. You have to be very clear about where the public will have an influence and where they will not. If the public will not have an influence on the relationship with America from that politician’s perspective, then you should not be asking the question.

Q146 Lindsay Roy: Can I just conclude by asking you what the key performance indicators would be to determine success or failure of public engagement programmes? It is the "so what?" factor. You are doing all this; what is the outcome?

Simon Burall: My answer to you is that it depends why you are engaging, because you can engage for a multitude of reasons. You can engage because the public have new ideas that you do not have and all the other reasons I gave before. Your success or failure in part is whether you achieve the purpose that you set out to engage with. I realise it is a slightly weaselly answer, but it is the best answer I have. However, some other indicators of success would be: has there been cultural change inside the organisation that has done the engagement? Has the organisation learned and changed its structures, the decisions it makes and the way it makes them? There will also be: have you reduced conflict? For example in the environmental field, you can see where conflict leads to a significant cost to the public purse. If you were to engage in a different way, can you reduce those costs to the public purse through legal challenge and so on? There are a number of different measures you might use, but you have to start from why you are engaging.

Mike Bracken: I would agree with that, and I would just add another indicator, which is whether the debate is happening in places where users already are; so it may not be directly with government, but the question is whether existing conversations and debates in this area are now being representative of that policy debate.

Professor Shadbolt: We have voices coming into the conversations that we simply did not have before. CP Snow wrote eloquently about this many decades ago around the two cultures. We have to try to bring into this discussion people who have the skills and talents to provide new solutions, which is why it is cool to be a geek in politics now. This is a very different environment we have.

Q147 Lindsay Roy: What baseline data should the Government be collecting to measure success? Another question I have is around leadership style. Is there something there that needs to be explored further?

Mike Bracken: In terms of data, it depends on the service, but one of the key sets of data that we should be looking at is cost per transaction and successfully completed transactions. The biggest single way we engage with users is via transactions. Central government has 672 transactions, and the data set we should be looking at is how many people, when they started a digital transaction, were able to fully complete that transaction? Only then will we get an idea of how successful our public services are. In terms of leadership, we would all like to see leadership in government that took that data in and then looked at the existing transactions, and made ongoing and systemic reform of those transactions based on that data, rather than publishing a transaction once and then just leaving it there for the life of the contract.

Q148 Lindsay Roy: Does that demand a different style of leadership and, if so, what?

Mike Bracken: It involves an engaged and involved style of leadership. It involves a style of leadership that is focussed on user needs and is aware of user needs. It also requires a style of leadership in Departments and agencies where key transactions have people and individuals with digital skills-we call them service managers-who are actually living and breathing that product, rather than seeing it as an IT contract that can be let. That is a radical change of leadership that is required in many of our agencies. We do not have many of those people.

Q149 Lindsay Roy: And an openness and transparency that might not have been there before?

Simon Burall: And a willingness to focus strategically as well and to take risks.

Professor Shadbolt: Trust people with their own data. Trust the citizen with the information that government holds about them in these key services. That will be a very dramatic shift of the dial.

Q150 Paul Flynn: Very briefly, I would like to give Mr Bracken a chance to convince me, being an openminded person. The example you gave of the 100 changes that came out was a matter of monumental insignificance. Could you think of a better example of one of these 100 changes?

Mike Bracken: No, I cannot, because they are all quite small changes.

Q151 Paul Flynn: They are all even less significant, are they, than the one you gave?

Mike Bracken: In aggregate, they are significant. What is significant is how quickly they were made and how cheaply.

Q152 Paul Flynn: They were crossing ‘t’s and dotting ‘i’s, were they?

Mike Bracken: Many of them were, but we do a bewilderingly large range of services in government, and the fact that we can change those based on user need, very cheaply and very quickly, is in itself a radical departure.

Q153 Paul Flynn: There were 100 amendments that were of great insignificance, one could say.

Mike Bracken: You could take that view.

Paul Flynn: You can prove me wrong.

Q154 Robert Halfon: With consultations as they currently are, most people are quite cynical about consultations and they believe that they are mostly predetermined, even if they feed stuff through. How would you use digital engagement to change that?

Mike Bracken: There are many ways, many tactics and techniques, one of which would be to publish and show sentiment analysis. It is not just to make a binary decision around a policy to say, "We have decided this or that," but to show the range and depth of sentiment. Using digital tools and services, whether Twitter or any other of the mechanisms that we have at our disposal, you can measure both the strength and the volume of feeling and actually publish that back so that, when a decision is made, it is published in the context of the wider information collected.

Simon Burall: We did a twoandahalfyear research project called Pathways through Participation taking life histories from citizens, both those who were not engaging at all through to those who engage quite a lot, and not one of them had a good example of consultation, so I think that is absolutely right. It made them disengage more. The conclusion that I draw from that is the work that the Digital Service is doing is brilliant at engaging the public with where they are at. The problem that government suffers from is it thinks of the policy cycle in silos; "We have done this policy and now we are moving on." If the public are engaging, we need to start seeing that much more strategically. If the public are willing to leave in a negative comment on a government website, that should be a step in a process of engaging in the long term. We need to see this move from individual policies to something much more long term for citizens.

Q155 Robert Halfon: Let us say, for example, the Government says it is going to have a consultation on increasing the price of cheap alcohol in supermarkets, and then many, many people write in and get involved on the internet, whether through epetitions or whatever it may be, saying that they disagree with this. How then would they see that the Government has reacted to their concerns?

Professor Shadbolt: The problem is that, by the time you frame that question, you have missed the opportunity to have a discussion about what the underlying issues are that that question gives rise to. The conversation you can then have at scale, which is to your point earlier, is much more around using the crowd to surface some of the unanticipated consequences of this bright idea as it is, or probably not so bright idea, or flush out all of the underlying issues that ought to be in the consultation, and which would mean we would have a much more constructive engagement.

Q156 Robert Halfon: Other than just seeing their words on the internet, which is what you seem to be saying-you are saying to publish a lot of what is said-how do you really show the public that you are listening to the consultation?

Simon Burall: You would be clear about what you thought the problem was and what you thought the solution would lead to. It may be fewer alcohol deaths or whatever the reason is that you are implementing the policy. Even if you go against the public, you are showing them the data that shows what the impact of the policy is and allowing them to actually use that data and engage with you beyond that consultation itself. If the policy was not working and you were responsive to their concerns and the data, that would then begin to show that you were listening to their concerns. The problem is that government implements policy and just moves on, and then the engagement stops at that point.

Chair: If there is nothing really urgent further that we need to ask, I am afraid we must draw it to a close. May I thank you very much for your evidence? It has been a very interesting session and I am sure we have learned a very great deal from it. May I just advertise that we are launching our own opensource consultation on Twitter, #AskMaude? We have the Minister for the Cabinet Office in front of us very shortly and we are inviting the public to submit questions to us, which we will consider asking on their behalf. We would be interested to see what suggestions we get.

Prepared 31st May 2013