Call for Evidence on the Government's new approach to consultations

31 October 2012

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (formerly the Merits Committee) of the 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, Minister for Government Policy. Your contributions are requested by 30 November.

The Committee is seeking views by 30 November 2012 on this new approach - in particular, on the following issues:

  • in what circumstances the Government may reasonably decide not to consult on policy development;
  • the appropriate timing and duration of consultation exercises;
  • what factors the Government should take into account when deciding on the length of the consultation period, such as when policy is new and contentious;
  • the implications for different groups in society of the Government’s expectation that consultation will be “digital by default”; and
  • whether the Government’s new approach overall will lead to improvements in the consultation process and outcomes.


On 17 July 2012, Mr Letwin made a Written Statement about a new approach to consultation, referring to new guidance published that day. Mr Letwin summarised the essence of the new guidance as adopting a more proportionate and targeted approach to consultation. He highlighted two aspects: Departments would follow a range of timescales rather than defaulting to a 12-week period; and the expectation was that consultation would be "digital by default". He said that the new guidance would replace the code of practice which the previous Government had published in July 2008.

In its scrutiny of policy proposals contained in statutory instruments, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee is always concerned to see an account by Government of preliminary consultation, and an analysis of responses. Done properly, Government consultation exercises and analyses of responses provide the Committee, and Parliament, with an effective overview of interested parties’ concerns and their impact on Government policy development.


Written evidence is sought by 30 November 2012.

The Committee is inviting evidence to inform the oral evidence session with Mr Letwin and does not plan to hold other oral evidence sessions on this subject. The Committee aims to report to the House after that session.

Your response does need not to address all the issues set out above. Written submissions should be provided to the Committee as a Microsoft Word document and sent by e-mail to seclegscrutiny@parliament.uk. Please do not submit PDFs (if you do not have access to Microsoft Word you may submit in another editable electronic form). If you do not have access to a computer you may submit a paper copy to Mark Gladwell, House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW, fax 020 7219 2571. The deadline for written evidence is 30 November 2012.

Short, concise submissions, of no more than four pages, are preferred. A longer submission should include a one-page summary. Paragraphs should be numbered. Submissions should be dated, with a note of the author’s name, and of whether the author is acting on an individual or corporate basis. All submissions will be acknowledged promptly.

Personal contact details supplied to the Committee will be removed from submissions before publication but will be retained by the Committee staff for specific purposes relating to the Committee’s work, such as seeking additional information.

Submissions become the property of the Committee which will decide whether to accept them as evidence. Evidence may be published by the Committee at any stage. It will normally appear on the Committee’s website and will be deposited in the Parliamentary Archives. Once you have received acknowledgement that your submission has been accepted as evidence, you may publicise or publish it yourself, but in doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee. If you publish your evidence separately, you should be aware that you will be legally responsible for its content.

You should be careful not to comment on individual cases currently before a court of law, or matters in respect of which court proceedings are imminent. If you anticipate such issues arising, you should discuss with the Clerk of the Committee how this might affect your submission.

This is a public call for evidence. Please bring it to the attention of other groups and individuals who may not have received a copy direct.

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