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Coalition’s internet ‘consultation’ sham as ministers reject every single suggestion

Comment 5th August 2010

It was meant to show that the new Government is in listening mode.

But a major public consultation on the coalition Government’s new programme descended into farce yesterday – as it emerged ministers had rejected every single idea for change.

Members of the public were invited in May to send in ideas for tackling the problems facing Britain.

Ministers were bombarded with suggestions that clash with existing policy, including restoring the death penalty, ending all immigration and pulling out of the EU.

In a series of Government responses slipped out at the end of last week, departments simply restated existing policy.

Labour MP Denis MacShane last nightdismissed the exercise as ‘PR gimmickry of the worst sort’.

He said: ‘The Government’s job is to govern. If it runs around asking people what they want it will get answers that it can never deliver on.

'I thought the new Government was pledged to do away with this sort of thing, but they seem to have been infected by the worst of New Labour’s obsession with fake consultations.’

Why does this matter?

Simon Burall, director of Involve, which advises organisations on consultations, said: ‘You have to give the Government some credit for trying to do this, but badly designed consultations like this are worse than no consultation at all.'

The initiative was the Government’s first attempt at so-called ‘crowdsourcing’, which involves drawing on the knowledge and expertise of the public to come up with new ideas.

Two similar initiatives have been launched to generate ideas for cutting waste and suggest laws that can be scrapped.

The latter consultation, launched by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, was branded a farce after members of the public called for the repeal of a ban on marrying a horse and for drugs and murder to be legalised.

The consultation on the coalition’s programme attracted 9,500 responses from the public.

The Home Office received numerous calls to stop all immigration into the UK. But in its response the department said: ‘We are pleased to see broad support for our proposal to limit migration.’

The Department for International Development was bombarded with suggestions that its entire budget should be axed. One member of the public commented: ‘If we are cutting back in the UK why should our own people suffer so we can borrow money to give away overseas?’

The department responded by saying it would stick to its pledge to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on foreign aid by 2013, adding: ‘Dropping this pledge would be a serious mistake.’

The Ministry of Justice faced numerous calls to introduce harsher sentences, including longer jail terms, the reintroduction of the death penalty and even the introduction of medieval-style punishments, such as amputating the hands of thieves.

The department responded by saying it has launched a review of sentencing policy,  although Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has already questioned the effectiveness of tough sentences for many crimes.

The Foreign Office was deluged with suggestions that Britain should leave the EU. In its response the Foreign Office said it understood why ‘so many of you feel jaded and sceptical about the EU’, but made it clear the Government had no intention of quitting the EU.

Taken from the Mail Online
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