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Lords committee criticise government changes to process for public consultations

The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee have called on the Government to hold an immediate review of the Consultation Principles introduced in July 2012.  They make the recommendation in a report published today, in the light of evidence from a wide range of organisations calling for greater consistency and transparency in the Government's approach to consultation.  

To ensure that consultation processes are improved, the Committee recommend that the review should be carried out by an independent external body, and that the review report should be published by Easter this year.

Evidence from over 70 organisations and individuals, including the TUC and the CBI, suggested that the Government need to do more to ensure consultations are effective and provide a real opportunity for engagement for stakeholders. 

Under guidance dating from 2008, the normal duration for Government consultations was 12 weeks; the new approach announced in July 2012 dropped this ‘norm'.  Between January and July 2012, 56.5% of the 253 Government consultations held lasted more than 12 weeks, but between July and December 2012 only 26% of the 207 consultations did so.  A number of respondents voiced concern that the shorter duration made it harder for interested parties to provide evidence-based responses.
The Committee recommend that the Government show a clearer commitment to engaging with vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups in their consultations. They also call for greater transparency, such as a single website listing all open consultations.

Commenting Lord Goodlad, Chairman of the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, said: 

“We have been struck by the volume of evidence we received and by the extent of concern over the Government's July 2012 Consultation Principles.

“We believe that the process needs to be reviewed urgently.  We are calling for the review to be done by an independent organisation such as the National Audit Office, and for the outcome of the review to be published by Easter.”