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Central government consultations during covid

Those of you who have been around for a while will recall that at the beginning of the year, my colleague Sarah and I published a review of the central government consultations of 2019, looking at their source, number and status. In the background we have been continuing that tracking work, and thought we might take a brief pause as we approach the middle of the year to consider how the government has been doing, in light of the circumstances. This is not going to be the comprehensive update that we did at the beginning of the year, more a general appraisal of the current situation.

Looking at our monitoring sheet, it has to be said that the government has done rather well in it’s ongoing consultations. Many have been extended, with the extensions ranging from two weeks to a couple of months. The consultations that have been extended have largely been those that are complex or lengthy in nature, or those where significant numbers of stakeholders are likely to be occupied with other matters due to the Covid-19 crisis. Those that have not have tended to be those which are smaller in scope, or which might not be expected to garner many responses. In this the Government deserve praise for their efforts- the extensions demonstrate clear thought as to the impacts of Covid-19 on people’s ability to respond.

Those of you who read our ‘Briefing Paper 38: Exit from Lockdown- the case for consultation’ will be aware that the Institute is firmly behind a more consultative end to lockdown. The government has increasingly paid lip service to the idea of consultation, and some degree of consultation has clearly been going on behind the scenes- but this latter part is somewhat problematic. Proper public consultation should be wide-ranging and should involve all stakeholders. It should be an open and transparent process, not being done away from the public eye. Though the government may be doing well on the alteration of pre-existent consultations to take account of the new circumstances, if clearly has work to do on consulting on other covid-19 related areas.

About the Author

Stephen serves as the Institute’s Legal and Parliamentary Officer. Before joining the Institute Stephen studied Law at Bangor University and pursued a Masters’ degree in Aviation and Space Law at McGill University in Montreal. After this, he returned to London and was called to the bar in 2016 at the Honorable Society of Gray’s Inn, before deciding not to go into practice and move towards public policy work instead. Within the Institute, Stephen provides legal, political and policy analysis of UK and global current affairs of interest to consultors and consultees.

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