To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Young of Norwood Green on 21 July (WA 336), why the consultation period for the Department for Transport's High Speed 1 charging framework and associated documentation was only three weeks from receipt of the full set of papers; and whether the Cabinet Office will take action to enforce its code of practice on consultations. [HL5355]
The June 2009 consultations by the Department for Transport on the High Speed 1 charging framework and by HS1 Ltd on the High Speed 1 network statement and related arrangements were the culmination of a series of consultations about the High Speed 1 access and charging arrangements which began in October 2007. That preliminary consultation and those launched in September and October 2008 offered consultees three months to consider the documentation and to respond.
The decision to reduce to one month the period for responding to the June 2009 consultations was taken in the light of those earlier consultations. It was designed to provide for the early execution of the access contracts being sought by the passenger train operating companies using the railway.
There are several systems in place to aid compliance with the Code of Practice on Consultation.
Consultation co-ordinators in departments work with policy officials to help them run consultations that are in line with the code. Officials in the Better Regulation Executive in BIS also work with departments on the development of many policies and are therefore often sighted on draft consultation documents where any potential deviances from the code might be spotted.
Transparency also plays a significant role in aiding compliance. In accordance with the code (criterion 6.6), consultation documents cite the criteria of the code and give the contact details of the departmental consultation co-ordinator so that he or she can be contacted by anyone who feels that the exercise is not in line with the code. Moreover, departments are required, in the better regulation chapter of their annual reports, to describe their consultation activity over the year and the compliance of their consultation activities with the code.