The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee of the House of Lords has today published its report into the Government’s consultation practice. It proposes that the Cabinet Office should publish a yearly report on Government consultation exercises.
The Committee has completed an inquiry which received evidence that, in the absence of systematic monitoring, no-one in Government is learning lessons in an organised way which would serve to improve consultation practice generally. It calls on the Cabinet Office to have a stronger role, in issuing advice on remedying bad Departmental practice, and in publishing a yearly report, to draw on effective monitoring by each Department of its own consultations.
The report states that pressure on Departments to deliver their policies has intensified in this final Session of Parliament. The Committee recognises that Departments have to take their work forward, but states that they must resist such pressure, to ensure that consultations are effective and balance the interests of all concerned.
The Committee welcomes the fact that the Rt Hon. Oliver Letwin, Minister for Government Policy, has indicated that the Government will improve its consultation principles. This will mean that that Departments should set consultation periods that do not coincide with holidays, and that Departments should allow a period between the end of consultation and the laying of a statutory instrument to consider responses. The Committee has seen too many examples where this has not happened.
Commenting, Lord Goodlad, Chairman of the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, said:
“We welcome the improvements to the Government’s approach to consultation: those should be implemented soon. But we are concerned about the issue of overall responsibility for the Government's approach to consultation, and for tackling bad practice by individual Departments.
The evidence that we heard suggests that this is not being taken up at the centre of Government. If neither the Prime Minister nor the Cabinet Office is able to intervene where Departmental consultation is falling short, and if they lack either the information or the commitment to do so, something is badly wrong.
In the interests of transparency, we propose that the Cabinet Office should publish a yearly report on Government consultation exercises, which would allow lessons to be learnt across Government.”