Government consultations

Lord Norton

I serve on the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee.  The Committee examines Statutory Instruments and reports on those that merit the attention of the House.  We rarely take oral evidence, but we have decided to do so in respect of the Government’s recent guidance on public consultations, which entails Departments being able to hold a consultation period shorter than the standard twelve weeks.  The new approach was announced without itself being subject to consultation.  Following correspondence with Oliver Letwin, the Minister for Government Policy, the committee has decided to take oral evidence from him.  We have also decided to invite written submissions.  You can see the call for evidence here. 

10 comments for “Government consultations

  1. ladytizzy
    31/10/2012 at 10:18 pm

    My fingers were poised above the keys of my laptop, and then I read:

    We would be grateful for concise written responses by 30 November 2012 in advance of an oral evidence session with Mr Oliver Letwin, MP, Minister for Government Policy which is expected to take place in mid-December.“*

    Would it not have been preferable for the public to hear Mr Letwin before they decided how, and whether, to respond?

    • Malden Capell
      02/11/2012 at 10:32 am

      Ladytizzy: the purpose of the inquiry is to get public views on the Government’s new approach to consultations, which was presented by Letwin in a written statement in July. At present the oral session with the SLSC would probably just constitute him repeating that verbatim.

      The call for evidence is to get the public’s views, so they can inform the Committee, help them think of questions to ask, and to challenge his assertions with counter-assertions by the public. It makes more sense to have it this way round.

      • ladytizzy
        02/11/2012 at 4:55 pm

        MC: the first sentence within the above link certainly confirms your comment –

        “…House of Lords has issued a call for evidence about the Government’s new approach to consultation in preparation for a meeting on 11 December where it will take oral evidence from Mr Oliver Letwin…”

        However, apart from the murder of the English language, there is little within Mr Letwin’s written statement that could be usefully critiqued by members of the general public. For example, one sentence reads, ” As a result the Government is improving the way it consults by adopting a more proportionate and targeted approach.” Further on, “This will mean that departments will follow a range of timescales [sic] rather than defaulting to a 12-week period, particularly where [sic] extensive engagement has occurred before.”

        Understandably, given they were unable to obtain some form of clarity after corresponding with Mr Letwin, the Committee wish to examine him in person.

        I do not know whether a public consultation on public consultation time scales was in the pipeline prior to Mr Letwin’s statement but I have assumed that the Committee’s call was entirely due to his statement and his subsequent (unseen) responses. Based on this premise, my initial comment above was questioning whether it was more or less useful for the Committee to have submissions before the public discover Mr Letwin’s rationale for his actions.

        The whole thing is a cart beore horse
        and that it was reasonable for the public to hear/read what he has to say

        The number of publicly spirited individuals who respond to consultations is so tiny and should rightly be a concern to all involved.

        • maude elwes
          06/11/2012 at 12:50 pm


          Murder of the English language? It’s been dead for years and unlikely to be raised like Lazarus. Especially when so few, in London that is, have any grasp on it whatsoever.

      • ladytizzy
        02/11/2012 at 5:00 pm

        Sorry, so sorry, for abrupt ending of above – the curse of premature play.

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          24/11/2012 at 10:16 am

          ladytizzy: The point is to get views on whether the standard 12-week period should be retained and whether it should be Departments themselves that determine whether the length of the consultation should be three, four or however many weeks. Can organisations respond without difficulty if the consulation period is substantially shorter than twelve weeks? Some organisations need time to research material and agree a submission.

  2. Lord Blagger
    01/11/2012 at 11:21 am

    Ah yes. We all know why that is.

    Why didn’t you consult people..

    We did

    But you only told them after the event.

    Shades of.

    “But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.”
    “Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything.”
    “But the plans were on display …”
    “On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
    “That’s the display department.”
    “With a flashlight.”
    “Ah, well the lights had probably gone.”
    “So had the stairs.”
    “But look, you found the notice didn’t you?”
    “Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”

  3. Gareth Howell
    05/11/2012 at 3:45 pm

    Blagger Ha!Ha!Ha!

    You should spend all your time looking at notices on publiclamposts, then you would know what is going to happen.

    If you have a bad reputation with public lampposts and telegraph poles then you will just have to get a dog, to make your enquiries legitimate.

    • Lord Blagger
      05/11/2012 at 7:24 pm

      Well, just like Arthur Dent, I’ve found one of those documents.

      Still with fiddled numbers (the discount rate to make them look smaller)

      The new ONS estimates provide useful and interesting additional information on Government
      pension obligations. In terms of their scale, it is interesting to compare the new estimates of
      unfunded Government pension obligations at the end of December 2010, at around £4.7 trillion, with
      the level of Public Sector Net Debt (PSND) at that time.

      All hidden off the books.

      Also note this bit

      pensions are contributory benefits paid in accordance with government policy and are expensed as
      incurred (Note 6). Contributory benefits are funded from National Insurance Contributions, and are
      administered by the Department of Work and Pensions on behalf of the National Insurance Fund.
      Future state pension benefits are not recognised as a liability as they are only entitled to be paid as
      they fall due

      Paraphrasing this. It’s not a debt if we plan on not paying the state pension.

      Note. This is on top of the 1.1 trillion borrowing liability. The only bit of debt that’s official.

  4. maude elwes
    05/11/2012 at 3:46 pm

    The government consultations I am interested in are those put forward by Michael Heseltine recently. Especially his raising of the issue regarding too many companies buying up parts of the UK industry when they may not be in the best interests of us all.

    How is it we never really get the grist of this kind of discussion on this blog.

    On this, it sounds to me as if Heseltine has his finger on the right key, but, the Liberal, Vince Cable, doesn’t like his interference. Of course we all know Cable is a man of the world rather and a man of this nation. Globalization, no matter what the tune it plays out, is a always a Cable melody.

    I felt Heseltine was PM material long ago. He has his finger on the smart button. Muffling potential is always a big mistake.

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