Ministers slammed over failures to respond to consultations

Written by Tevye Markson on 10 August 2022 in News

Labour claims Conservatives are operating as a ‘zombie government’ as 15 online feedback-gathering exercises have been left dormant since 2019 election

Credit: Messala Ciulla/Pexels

Ministers have yet to respond to fifteen government consultations during this parliament, leading to accusations from that the exercises are “pointless”.

The Labour Party has accused the government of opening “pointless” consultations and then failing to act on them after a minister confirmed that 15 launched since the 2019 general election are still awaiting a formal government response.

Treasury minister Alan Mak shared the figure in response to a parliamentary question from Labour shadow chancellor secretary Rachel Reeves last month.

Ministries regularly launch formal consultations on proposals in which experts and the wider public are asked to submit feedback related to a government proposal. The exercises typically set out the major questions to be answered, and key parties that government wishes to hear from 

Once the process has been concluded, government will then publish a formal response summarising the findings and setting out any changes to the proposed policy or project before it is presented to parliament.

Labour has looked further back and told the Mirror it had found 25 consultations that ministers have not responded to in total, including two from seven years ago.

They cover topics including social investment tax relief; travel and subsistence, pre-paid funeral plans; and encouraging innovation in regulated utilities.

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The party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner accused the government of making “empty” promises and opening “pointless” consultations and “then hoping the public won’t notice when they fail to actually govern”.

She also said that the government had “checked out” amid the Conservative Party leadership campaign for the next prime minister. Rayner warned that the chop-and-change that has seen three prime ministers in six years, with a fourth to come next month, is creating a “zombie government”.

The government has closed 280 consultations since 1 January 2014, according to Downing Street, meaning those closed but not answered make up close to a tenth of all consultations over that period.

Meanwhile, more than half of the key government departments have pulled ministerial announcements at short notice, stalled legislation or missed deadlines for publishing policy documents, according to the Observer. 

This includes a white paper on reforming gambling laws which has been delayed until a new PM is appointed; an online safety bill to protect children which ministers said was delayed until autumn to allow a confidence vote in the government to take place; and a Prevent review announced in January 2019 which was delayed when the initial reviewer was forced to quit.

Shadow House of Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire accused the government of “delaying major projects, missing deadlines and yet again failing to deliver on the promises they made”.

A government spokesperson said: “The government is working hard to tackle the key issues which matter to people. Since December 2019, we have passed 78 bills through parliament including bills to deliver Brexit, support the country through Covid, make the streets safer and improve people’s standard of living. The prime minister has been clear that ministers should continue to focus on delivering for the people that we serve.”


About the author

Tevye Markson is a reporter at PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World, where a version of this story first appeared. He tweets as @TevyeMarkson.

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