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Lords Committee launches inquiry into Government consultation practice

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee of the House of Lords is launching an inquiry into the way in which Government Departments have handled consultation relating to three different sets of Regulations.

The three sets of Regulations the Committee will look at were previously subject to reports from the Committee, when it raised questions about the consultation that had been undertaken around them. The Committee is keen to hear what interested parties think about the consultations, now that the Regulations have come into force. 

It has chosen three case studies, with Regulations laid by three Departments: 

  • Between January and March 2013, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) carried out consultation about easing controls over the siting of street broadband cabinets.  In June 2013, DCMS laid the Electronic Communications Code (Conditions and Restrictions) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/1403). 

The Committee commented that consultation had shown limited support and suggested that the House of Lords might wish to seek better evidence from the Government that the plans would produce economic benefits. 

  • In October and November 2012, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs consulted about proposals to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board and the agricultural minimum wage regime.  In June 2013, Defra laid the draft Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2013; in September 2013, Defra laid the Working Time (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/2228). 

The Committee commented that the overall consultation process had been too short and urged the Government to ‘look more carefully before leaping into secondary legislation”.

  • Between November 2011 and January 2012, the Department for Education (DfE) consulted on proposals to streamline premises Regulations.  In July 2012, DfE laid the School Premises (England) Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/1943). The Committee published information showing that the overview of consultation responses given in the Explanatory Memorandum did not refer to significant opposition to proposals on outdoor space.

Some of the areas the Committee is inviting evidence on include:

  • Were the consultations fit for purpose?
  • Were the right people and groups invited to give their views?
  • Were the responses restricted by closed questions or was there scope to add other viewpoints?
  • Now that the Regulations are in force how do respondents to the consultation view the Department's handling of the process and the outcome?Do respondents feel the Government provided an accurate summary of the views expressed in both its summary and Explanatory Memorandum to the statutory instrument?

The Committee is publishing its Call for Evidence with a deadline for the submission of written evidence of 30 September 2014

Lord Goodlad, Chairman of the Committee, said:

“The Committee sees it as very important that Government Departments take consultation seriously and handle it effectively.

“The Committee reported on these different Regulations when they were laid before Parliament, and commented on the consultation processes.  Now, a year or more after the Regulations came into effect, we are keen to know what has happened in practice.

"We would be pleased to see evidence from anyone with views on the consultation exercises relating to these Regulations.”

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