Note 9: Consultations
1. In general, consultations should not be launched during the election period. If there are exceptional circumstances where launching a consultation is considered essential (for example, for safeguarding public health), permission should be sought from Cabinet Secretariat, who will seek advice from the Permanent Secretary as required.
2. If a consultation is ongoing at the time an election is called, it should continue as normal for the standard, 12‐week period. Officials should not, however, take any steps during the election period that will compete with Parliamentary candidates for the public's attention. This effectively means a ban on publicity for those consultations that are still in progress.
3. As these restrictions may be detrimental to a consultation, staff are advised to decide on steps to make up for that deficiency while strictly observing the guidance. That can be done, for example, by:
- Prolonging the consultation period to give the required 12 clear weeks; and/or
- Putting out extra publicity for the consultation after the election in order to revive interest.
4. In most cases, consultations aimed solely at professional groups and which carry no publicity will not have such an impact as those where a very public and wide‐ranging consultation is required. Officials need, therefore, to take into account the circumstances of each consultation. Some consultations may need no remedial action - but this is a practical rather than propriety question so long as staff observe the election guidance. In all cases, however, external public activity should cease during the election period.
5. During the election period, officials may continue to receive and analyse responses with a view to putting proposals to the next administration, but they should not make any statement or generate publicity during this period.
6. For further information, please contact Cabinet Secretariat:
- Robin Benn or
- Duncan Beamish