Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex B


1.  Consultation Process

  Defence Estates has been consulting with non-government organisations representing the public on the drafting of both the Estate Strategy and the Strategic Environmental Appraisal. These documents were commitments in the Strategic Defence Review (SDR).

  At the time of the SDR, a number of voluntary sector organisations approached the Department making representations about our management of the rural estate, and in particular requesting a wide ranging review of our rural landholdings. As a result, MOD agreed to produce a rural estate strategy (which subsequently became part of a wider estate strategy). These organisations formed the core of a group we continued to consult with during the drafting of the estate strategy.

  From this large group we formed a small "working group" of organisations which we (and they) believed could represent the broad range of external stakeholding interests. This working group met monthly over a period of about a year during the drafting of the rural parts of the strategy. In general, they made useful and valuable inputs to the process.

  Conferences at which a wider range of bodies could be present were also organised.

  The process was extended to apply to the Strategic Environmental Appraisal of the SDR programme. This separate project covered a number of environmental topics. Confidentiality issues inhibited the Department from engaging the voluntary sector as closely as we and they would have liked. Nevertheless, the Department was able to inform the voluntary sector of our approach to the subject and we received valuable advice.

2.  Ways in which decision-making processes have been adapted to take account of public participation

  See above. The adaptation of the decision-making process was considerable.

3.  Lessons learned regarding good (and bad) practice in consultation


    —  The consultation process meant that key national voluntary sector bodies made a significant input into the drafting process at working level.

    —  They had a very deep specialist knowledge in certain areas, which we were able to draw on.

    —  They represented a large constituency.

    —  There was a significant amount of buy-in from organisations which had hitherto been extremely sceptical of the department's use and management of its rural land.

    —  There was a reduced level of confrontation and increased confidence; we could both understand each other's positions much better.

    —  Being part of the process meant they were less likely to criticise the end product.

    —  The product itself was undoubtedly better than it would have been if we had not consulted as widely as we did.

    —  The extent of redrafting was reduced because we took on external stakeholders direct views at the start; ie we had a better chance of getting it right first time.


    —  It was significant cultural adjustment for the Department to sit down with organisations which had previously been seen as hostile to our use of rural land (the work came hard on the heels of the difficult Otterburn public enquiry).

    —  "Confidentiality" was a particular issue. The voluntary sector did not always treat the information we gave them appropriately, and often over-reacted to our entreaties to handle them with care and sensitivity.

    —  Some of the voluntary sector organisations were small and lacked the resources needed for the staff work that inevitably arose.

    —  There were risks that a small core group was not representative of the very wide spectrum of views which existed in the wider community.

    —  Other Government Departments and Agencies were initially uncertain about this consultative process.

    —  It was difficult to define the role of the voluntary sector. Initially the Department focused on providing information but as the process developed we were able to engage in a debate.

    —  The voluntary sector does not have a clear hierarchy and their national HQs may not always fully represent the views of members on the ground. It was often unclear who represented what.

    —  It took a lot of time and effort.

  Overall the process was undoutedly beneficial and we continue to work with the voluntary sector as well as other government departments and agencies in respect of both projects.

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