Government Publishes New Consultation Principles

Government Publishes New Consultation PrinciplesIn July 2012, the Cabinet Office issued a new set of Consultation Principles (the "Principles") to replace the July 2008 Code of Practice on Consultation (the "Code"). The Principles are intended to afford public authorities greater scope to exercise their own judgement with regards to whether and how to carry out a consultation. The governing principle is to be that of proportionality with a view to "achieving real engagement rather than following bureaucratic process". Although neither the Code nor the Principles are legally binding statements, the Code arguably provided clear guidance on the requirements of a valid consultation process for the benefit of both public authorities and potential stakeholders.  The Principles seek to introduce a far greater degree of flexibility in how, when and who to consult.  For example, whereas the Code suggested that consultations should normally last 12 weeks, the Principles notes that any consultation period between 2 and 12 weeks may be acceptable in the circumstances. The Principles do not, however derogate from the general requirements for consultation derived through case law nor specific statutory obligations to consult.

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