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Government Consultation

Volume 548: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2012

Today my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Minister with responsibility for business and enterprise, the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr Prisk) and I are announcing a new approach to Government consultations.

The civil service reform plan commits the Government to improving policy making and implementation with a greater focus on robust evidence, transparency and engaging with key groups earlier in the process.

As a result the Government are improving the way they consult by adopting a more proportionate and targeted approach. The new approach to consultation is based on making the type and scale of engagement proportional to the potential impacts of the proposal. The emphasis is on understanding the effects of a proposal and ensuring real engagement rather than following the same bureaucratic process.

This guidance therefore replaces the code of practice on consultation issued in July 2008.

This will mean that Departments will follow a range of time scales rather than defaulting to a 12-week period, particularly where extensive engagement has occurred before. Policy makers will need to give more thought to how we consult with people. The aim is to replace potentially unproductive process with real engagement with those who are affected—in some cases earlier consultation so groups can shape policy earlier in the process.

Consultation can take different forms but the expectation is that it will be “digital by default.” This approach will need to be varied for vulnerable or other groups whose access to information technology is limited, but it should mean that Departments can be more, not less, effective at reaching particular groups affected by policies.

The principles of the compact between Government and the voluntary and community sector will continue to be respected.

The new consultation principles will be promoted within Whitehall now, and the public will begin to see new guidance take effect after recess. In line with the principles of open policy making we welcome views on how the new approach should operate in practice. Copies of the new guidance have been placed in the Library of the House.