APPENDIX 1: GOVERNMENT CONSULTATIONS:
GOVERNMENT RESPONSE |
Thank you for your letter of 10 January
informing me of the publication of the Lords Secondary Legislation
Scrutiny Committee's report: The Government's new approach
to consultation: 'Work in Progress'.
The report makes thoughtful and valuable recommendations
which we will consider in detail as part of our planned review
of the operation of the consultation principles.
Format of the review
The Committee suggested that the review should be
carried out by a unit independent of government, with a Stakeholder
Reference Group advising it. We recognise the value in having
external scrutiny of the impact of the consultation principles.
For that reason, we will set up an external advisory panel to
inform the review, although the review itself will be conducted
by the Cabinet Office. This will enable us to produce a quick,
targeted analysis of the operation of the principles. We will
be able to work collaboratively with departments to gain evidence
of how the principles have been used in practice and seek their
views of how they could be improved. We will invite a representative
from the National Audit Office to sit on the panel, alongside
two other apolitical appointees. I would also like to invite the
Committee to nominate a further member of the panel.
Our natural inclination is to provide an opportunity
for other interested parties to comment on the review by holding
a short call for evidence. However, we are wary of 'consulting
on consultations' and so will seek additional views only if the
Committee feels there is merit in this approach. In any case,
we will fully take into account the submissions you received as
part of the preparations for your report.
I understand the Committee's desire to begin this
review expeditiously. However, for the review to be effective,
I believe we should allow long enough to exclude the possibility
of seasonal quirks, or variance as departments become familiar
with the new regime. Therefore, I propose to begin the review
on 5 April. This will enable us to resource the review properly,
and will allow us to take into account the Committee's views on
the call for evidence as well as on membership of the independent
advisory panel before we recruit the panel and start work.
My intention is to ask officials and the independent
panel to provide both Ministers and the Committee with the conclusions
of the review on the anniversary of the launch of the principles
I would welcome any feedback from the Committee on
those findings, before Ministers respond to the conclusions and
introduce any consequent changes to the principles. I hope that
any changes could be in operation from the time when Parliament
is back in full swing after the Party Conference season.
I propose that the review should address the following
issues that the Committee raised in its report:
- what range of timescales is appropriate
- how the new principles have affected the length
- whether the principles should include specific
rules dealing with holiday periods;
- how Government can most effectively engage with
key groups before a consultation is launched;
- how hard to reach groups can best be engaged
in consultations, especially in the light of the Government's
'digital by default' approach to communication;
- how consultations are listed online, and the
feasibility of a single webpage for all consultations, listed
in the order they close;
- whether responses to consultations should be
published as a matter of routine;
- how departments analyse responses and respond
- how consistently the principles are being applied
by departments; and
- whether Cabinet Office should take on a greater
I would be grateful if the Committee could let me
know whether it feels that there are additional issues that the
review should address.
With regard to the possibility of a third session
de-regulation Bill, this could cover a wide range of measures
including the repeal of obsolete or unused legislation. It could
include a wide range of topics, so a single consultation on all
of the Bill's proposals would be both unnecessary and impractical.
However, the measures most significantly affecting businesses
and individuals will rightly have been subject to public consultation
before the Bill receives Parliamentary scrutiny.
I should end by repeating my offer to appear again
before the Committee to discuss the conclusions of the review.
7 February 2013