Public engagement in policy-making - Public Administration Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1.  In its plan for Civil Service reform, published in June 2012, the Government sets out to improve the ways in which the public could be involved in the process of policy-making. This is both to improve government policy and to provide the public with the opportunity to participate and to influence policy. It wants the Civil Service to be more open to external influence and advice, stating, "open policy-making will become the default. Whitehall does not have a monopoly on policy-making expertise".[1] This would require a different approach to working with the public and a new role for civil servants; the Civil Service would no longer to be the sole source of policy advice.

2.  PASC is an advocate of greater public engagement. In Strategic Thinking in Government: without National Strategy, can viable Government strategy emerge? (April 2012) we recommended that both the Government and Parliament engage with the public continuously to develop a deeper understanding both of how the public perceives our national interests, and of what sort of country the public aspires for the UK to be.[2] Our predecessor Committee also recommended in its report, Governing the Future (March 2007), that there was a need to use outsiders to debate issues and to build consensus, and that the ability to think strategically depended, in part, on a willingness to listen to challenges and contrary viewpoints.[3]

3.  Following the new approach outlined in the Civil Service Reform Plan, we announced an inquiry into open policy-making, looking at how effective and genuine engagement with the public could be best achieved in order to support policy development, and what consequences this may have for the Civil Service. We have examined the Government's proposed approach to policy-making and public engagement, in particular the concept of "open policy-making" and the use of digital platforms to promote direct participation. Our findings in relation to digital engagement will be considered in our forthcoming inquiry into the citizen and public services.

4.  Over the course of the inquiry we received 14 memoranda and subsequently held three oral evidence sessions. Witnesses included Stephan Shakespeare, CEO of YouGov; Roger Hampson, Chief Executive of the London Borough of Redbridge; Catarina Tully of consultancy FromOverHere (and an adviser to PASC on strategic thinking in government);[4] and Professor Beth Noveck, author and former US Deputy Chief Technology Officer. Both written and oral evidence covered a range of issues, including:

  • How current models of engagement promote or discourage people from being involved;
  • The best tools and methods for public engagement in policy-making;
  • The changes to be made by those carrying out public engagement activities; and
  • The ways in which success or failure can be measured.

1   Cabinet Office, The Civil Service Reform Plan, June 2012, page 14 Back

2   Public Administration Select Committee, Twenty-fourth Report of Session 2010-12, Strategic Thinking in Government: without National Strategy, can viable Government strategy emerge?, HC1625  Back

3   Public Administration Select Committee, Second Report of the Session 2006-07, Governing the Future, HC123I Back

4   Catarina Tully was an adviser to PASC in support of its Twenty Fourth Report of Session 2010-12, Strategic thinking in Government: without National Strategy, can viable Government strategy emerge?, April 2012, HC1625 Back

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Prepared 3 June 2013