Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport

My Department and its many sponsored bodies have used, during the past few years, a variety of novel approaches to public consultation and participation. Five specific examples follow:


  I met the chairs and/or chief executives of the Department's NDPBs before the Departmental Spending Review announcement on 24 July 1998. In September 1998, Ministerially-led seminars for broad, albeit invited, audiences took place in all the English regions, organised jointly by my Department and the regional cultural forums—informal bodies drawn from the range of DCMS areas of responsibility. Responses to the DSR consultation document A New Cultural Framework were invited by e-mail as well as in writing.


  The national tourism strategy, launched in February 1999 in the document Tomorrow's Tourism, was drawn up with help of a "Tourism Forum" and a series of specialist Working Groups. The Forum, a 57-member body drawn from the many constituent parts of the tourism and hospitality industry and from organisations representing local authority, consumer, conservation and other interests, met twice under my Chairmanship during 1998. At the same time a series of Working Groups, each led by a Forum member but drawing in expertise from other sources, looked in more detail at particular issues—for example business tourism, visitor attractions, widening access, and the way the industry presented itself to various audiences—and recommended actions or objectives for inclusion in the strategy.

  These recommendations were channelled through a Strategic Planning Working Group, consisting of around a dozen Forum members, which met monthly under my Chairmanship until the end of 1998. Since the publication of Tomorrow's Tourism, the Forum has been reconstituted and expanded under the auspices of our NDPB, the English Tourism Council, to monitor implementation of the strategy from the industry's point of view.


  A few weeks ago, on 1 March, the British Library held its first ever on line meeting to allow users and non-users an opportunity to question the board and senior management on the Library's operations and its recently published annual report. This made the British Library the first DCMS sponsored body to respond to the Open Government White Paper's call for publicly open NDPB board meetings in this way. 300 users logged into the site and 60 questions were answered in six hours, many more than could have been accommodated in a traditional style Annual General Meeting and at a fraction of the cost.


  All four consultation documents issued by our Libraries Division in 1999 were made available on the Department's website as well in paper form.


  The National Lottery Charities Board (NLCB) uses a "selection by lot" process for identifying potential Regional Awards Committee members. Following an evaluation in two England regions (London and Yorkshire and Humberside), the NLCB's Regional Awards Committees now select two committee members by lot, using the Lottery draw numbers to identify potential members from the electoral roll. Members chosen under this scheme are recruited for an initial period of one year, to be extended up to a maximum of six years depending on the rotation of other members of the Committee.

  You also asked about ways in which my Department's decision-making processes have been adapted to take account of public consultation, and about whether we have learned any lessons in the sense of good, or bad, practice. As far as decision-making processes are concerned, I can say that our thinking and decisions have been genuinely influenced by the outcome of consultation. Responses to our DSR consultation document, which I mentioned above, showed that much of our thinking on modernising the administrative structures in DCMS areas of responsibility was widely shared. In some cases, however, where consultation responses strongly supported alternative ideas, we significantly changed our ideas—for example in the decision to keep the national tourism body for England on a statutory footing.

  As another example of how public involvement has influenced the decision-making process, the "promoting a sustainable approach" section in our Tomorrow's Tourism strategy was formulated largely on the basis of responses to our 1998 consultation paper Tourism—Towards Sustainability. This document was sent to some 8,000 interested individuals and organisations, generating 322 responses containing around 4,700 individual suggestions or ideas for action—showing the value of involving the wider public in such exercises, rather than relying every time on those with a special interest in the subject under consideration. Responses to consultations which are too narrowly distributed may not always be fully representative of the general view.

  As to good and bad practice, we naturally seek to avoid the bad and build on the good. We seek to learn from the successful use of innovative methods by using them again. In particular, we are now using the model of industry forums or working groups—such as the Tourism Forum I have described above—much more widely. For example, we have established the Creative Industries Task Force and the Music Industry Forum. This represents a real partnership-based approach to developing policy towards the industries for which my Department is responsible.

  Should the Committee need further information, I shall be happy to provide any help I can.

Chris Smith

Secretary of State

31 March 2000

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