Speak out now or risk losing your voice in Whitehall

The government has brought in new guidance allowing ministers to provide just two weeks to consult the public on their proposals rather than the usual 12 weeks.

Without enough time to gather strong evidence and write a clear and considered response, the public has been put at a serious disadvantage when it comes to having our say in policies that affect us all.

This appears to be nothing less than an ideological attack designed to stifle opposition to the government’s policies.

Join us in our campaign to raise our voices on this issue, or risk losing your chance to speak out in the future

To read our longer report on the change to the government’s approach to consultation, click here.

To send a letter to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, which has called for evidence from the interested parties on the change to consultation, please complete the instructions below.

We would also appreciate it if you would join in our fight to have consultation periods extended by forwarding this information to your friends and colleagues.

The deadline for responses is 30th November, so please do not delay!

  1. Click here to open an email to the Committee
  2. Copy and paste the below text into the body.
  3. IMPORTANT: Remember to sign the letter with your name, profession and organisation and feel free to amend any of the text you wish.

For the attention of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

I am writing to indicate my opposition to the government’s new approach to consultation, in which new guidance states consultations may run for just two weeks instead of the usual 12.

This drastic shortening of consultations makes it prohibitively difficult for organisations and interested parties to gather evidence and submit a clear and considered response to proposals. As such, the new approach to consultation effectively leaves some sections of the public without a voice.

This has been recently evidenced in the cases of two consultation periods that were reduced to three weeks. Responses to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ consultation on “Implementing Employee Owner Status” required a large amount of research due to the far-reaching implications of creating a new status of worker. Three weeks was insufficient for organisations to gather strong evidence of the repercussions to workers, employers, tribunal procedures and any complications with EU law.

Elsewhere, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ “The future of the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales, and Agricultural Wages Committees and Agricultural Dwelling House Advisory Committees in England” consultation did not provide enough time for Unite the Union to complete its legal analysis of the proposals, which it was suggested may have been illegal. Where major organisations like Unite are struggling to meet such tight deadlines, smaller bodies with fewer resources are effectively locked out of the consultation altogether.

I believe every consultation period should be 12 weeks long in order to ensure all interested parties, regardless of their wealth or size, are able to provide evidence.

I also do not agree that any previously held public consultations have been unnecessary and thus oppose any change in guidance to ministers that suggests some policies can be legislated on without public consultation. Even where a change to legislation may be described by some as a “technical amendment”, there can be far-reaching implications to UK law.

This has recently been evidenced by the case of the amendment to (s)47 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 that was added to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill without consultation. This amendment is not simply a technicality but in fact overturns employers’ 114-year-old strict liability for the health and safety of their employees, causing major changes to people’s real-life experience of employment law. The government should have consulted the public before making this amendment.

Finally, I oppose any attempt to restrict responses to digital only. I believe such a move would disempower those without access to technology. I also believe on-line responses allow less flexibility in the way respondents answer the questions.

I urge the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee to rescind the government’s new approach to consultation to ensure the voice of the public continues to be heard in Whitehall.

Signed

First issued by the Institute Of Employment Rights on November 16th.

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