Headlines: January 21st, 2004

Government departments and agencies are being given a new code of practice on how to carry out consultation. The code, published by the Cabinet Office will come into force on April 1st and will replace one that has been in force since November 2000. The new rules will apply to all public consultations by government departments and agencies, including consultations on EU directives.The code has been made shorter and clearer and is designed to be easier for departments to use. It has also been drawn up to strengthen the government’s commitment to providing the people and organisations who are being consulted with feedback and to ensure departments follow better regulation best practice in developing policy.

Cabinet Office Minister Douglas Alexander said the revised code would be an essential tool in driving up standards in policy making and would help the government to renew its efforts in the area of consultation.

The code explains clearly how policy makers should apply consultation criteria, instructing them to consult widely throughout the process and to allow a minimum of 12 weeks for written consultation at least once during the development of a policy. It stresses the need for clarity over what a department or agency’s proposals are, who may be affected, what questions are being asked, and the time scale for responses, as well as for clarity and conciseness in the consultation.

The code also calls for feedback to be given on regarding the responses received and how the consultation process influenced the policy and it suggests departments monitor their effectiveness at consultation through the use of a designated consultation coordinator.