BIBA Response to Cabinet Office’s Consultation into Effective Consultation

27th September 2007

The British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) is the UK’s leading general insurance intermediary organisation. We represent the interests of insurance brokers, intermediaries and their customers.

BIBA represents 2,300 insurance intermediaries including 98 of the UK’s top 100 insurance intermediaries. Our members handle about half the value of all UK home, contents, motor, travel, commercial and industrial insurance policies. Independent insurance intermediaries distribute nearly two-thirds of all UK non-marine general insurance, of which BIBA members account for more than 80%. They also introduce £20 billion of premium income into London’s insurance market each year.

BIBA is pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the Cabinet Office’s consultation into effective consultation on behalf of its collective membership.

Our responses to the 12 questions set out are as follows:

Question 1:

Do you think the Government’s code of practice has led to an improvement in the way the Government consults and to improved policy outcomes? Please illustrate your answer with any concrete examples you may have.

Yes, we find the process very effective. Background information is usually supplied, key questions asked, timescales and people to respond to is very clear. The only problem we have experienced is knowing when a document is issued as we are not on all the lists of Government departments. The feedback is also sometimes lacking in detail.

Question 2:

Are 12 weeks generally the right amount of time for the formal, written element of Government consultations to last? Do you think that there are circumstances where a shorter or longer duration may be more appropriate?

12 weeks has always been plenty of time although a shorter period should be acceptable for fast-track cases (see answer to question 11).

Question 3:

Is the system for monitoring and promoting performance of departments in relation to the criteria in the current ode of practice on consultation right? What improvements could be made?

We have not experienced any problems in this area therefore do not recommend any changes.

Question 4:

Is the new approach to impact assessment sufficient to improve public consultation on the evidence base for Government policy-making? How could consultation policy improve consultation on impact assessments?

We have found that sometimes the impact assessment has a different “range” to what we would have chosen and therefore suggest contact with key stakeholders to provide input on impact assessment range and details before the consultation document is released.

Question 5:

When in the policy development process do you think the Government should consult stakeholders? Please cite any relevant examples when you feel you have been consulted at the right or wrong time.

BIBA believe that there needs to be a balanced approach to timing.

E.g. In a recent DVLA consultation on the introduction of a new fee structure for driver enquiries we felt that its timing was too advanced and the document should have gone out at an earlier stage. DVLA had already seemingly decided and there was not much left to be consulted on.

Question 6:

Do you think that more emphasis should be placed on alternative or supplementary approaches to consultation in a revised consultation policy? What supplementary approach or approaches would work best for you/your organisation?

BIBA believe that the Department for Transport has taken a very proactive approach here, having meetings with key stakeholders before the consultation document is introduced. This is to be encouraged.

Question 7:

How do you generally become aware of Government consultations and how would you like to learn about upcoming and current Government consultations?

Departments that we work closely with e.g. Department for Transport and HM Treasury usually include BIBA on their consultation list. However other Government Departments e.g. The Home Office and DVLA do not include us and we usually hear of their paper late in the day “through the grapevine”. Obviously the Government has many consultation documents running at the same time (600 a year) and no one firm would want to receive them all. It is also very difficult to look at the different Government department websites regularly to keep track of something that may be relevant.

Perhaps a central registration process could be put onto place where a registration process is set up to ensure that appropriate stakeholders are alerted to consultations of interest. E.g. we would register for financial services, insurance, motor, tax, SME’s, health and safety, flooding etc.

Question 8:

How do you rate the feedback you have seen from Government departments following consultations and what improvements or changes would you like to see in relation to reporting back?

The feedback has been piecemeal, sometimes we receive it from Government but often we have to go and find the general response ourselves. Sometimes we would like to see more detail and justification for a decision.

Question 9:

Is “Consultation fatigue” an issue for you? If so, why is this and how do you think this issue could be overcome?

Consultation fatigue is NOT an issue for us. It is important in a democracy to have this process. However, consultation documents should be succinct and to the point, avoiding repetition and unnecessary paperwork.

Question 10:

Please feel free to give us any other views you any have about the effectiveness of current consultation policy, the future of consultation policy, the case studies in this paper and other examples from the UK or elsewhere.

Current consultation policy is good but could be better with the points raised in our reply (more research on impact assessment, more effort to ensure appropriate stakeholder contacted, more detail in the response and sometimes for the consultation to be made at an earlier stage.)

Question 11:

Do you think any of these options would make for a good consultation policy? If so which option and what changes could be made to improve it?

Option 1

We think a workshop with key stakeholders BEFORE the consultation document is issued is crucial. This would help ensure the document contained the appropriate areas. However the option to invite all stakeholders to another meeting once the document has been produced for a workshop would also be beneficial.

Citizens’ juries, panels and forums are not favoured by BIBA.

Consultation fatigue is not a concern here as stakeholders do not have to go to the meetings if they do not want to. Sometimes Government departments need a follow up meeting to clarify the responses.

Option 2

BIBA support the idea of a fast track service where a very limited number of stakeholders are already engaged with the department on the policy area in question. We have experience of similar situations and would prefer that we did not have to wait 12 weeks when it could be progressed much quicker.

The “suitable circumstances” issue is the main problem and we would suggest that the appropriate department contact key stakeholders to ask their view on fast-tracking and that they receive unanimous support from the fast track process to be allowed to proceed.

Option 3

Although we like the principles based approach we still think that the opportunity to send a written response outlining a stakeholder’s position is important. Especially when it comes to evidencing why a decision is made. Our worry is if there is no consistent structure to respond then things could be missed.

Therefore options 1 and 2 are both acceptable with our suggested improvements; we do not favour option 3.

Question 12:

Are you content with the Government’s preliminary analysis that the options identified in the consultation document would not impose costs on the private or third sectors?

There could be small additional costs with more meetings etc. however, this should not be an issue for concern.

Thank you for taking the time to consider our response. If you have any further queries please contact Graeme Trudgill BIBA’s Technical Services Manager for further information on 0207 397 0218 or [email protected].

Yours sincerely

Eric Galbraith
Chief Executive
[email protected]