The Government's new approach to consultation: Government Response - Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee Contents


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 (17 July).

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 for consultations;
  • how the new principles have affected the length of consultations;
  • 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 to consultations;
  • how consistently the principles are being applied by departments; and
  • whether Cabinet Office should take on a greater oversight role.

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

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