Govt Letters 1st August 2022

Minister Heather Wheeler > Chair of UK OGN

Dear Kevin,

Re: Request for support / Open Government Multistakeholder Forum, 22nd June 2022

It was a pleasure to meet you last month and to co-chair the Open Government Multistakeholder Forum. As you rightly outline in your email, these are important issues and I’m pleased to note the good progress being made around commitments in the areas of Official Development Assistance (Foreign Aid), Diversity & Inclusion, and Freedom of Information.

On the issue of a public standards engagement, you will be aware that the Government is working on a response to multiple proposals for reforming standards arrangements in central government, as contained in reports from the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) and Nigel Boardman. On 15 July, the Government laid a Written Ministerial Statement in Parliament on Government Transparency and Accountability, which covered work already undertaken in response to these reports, and made clear that such work continues and will be informed by the views of the next Prime Minister.

In responding to those reports, the government is aware of – and considering – the views of a number of Civil Society Organisations who contributed written and oral evidence to the Committee on Standards in Public Life, including the Institute for Government, Transparency International and Spotlight on Corruption. I want to reassure you that the government’s evaluation of CSPL and Boardman recommendations takes into account the perspectives of CSOs, as published by CSPL. The government is grateful for the wide-ranging contributions made by CSOs to the CSPL review.

It would therefore not be in the best interests of efficient government to establish a parallel workstream to cover the same issues again and anew, which may have the adverse effect of delaying the government’s response to those reports. It would also not be possible for civil servants to participate in any joint working group, as they would be bound by obligations of confidentiality to not discuss any advice on these matters already sent up to ministers.

For these reasons I have decided not to proceed with the establishment of a joint government-civil society working group to discuss public standards. The Government is committed to updating the House when a response to outstanding CSPL and Boardman recommendations is issued, and I will ensure that you and CSOs are also updated at this point. I know we will continue to work together collaboratively on the areas that will be included in the upcoming and future National Action Plans and will be closely monitoring the progress of my officials over the summer.

With kind regards,

Mrs Heather Wheeler MP

This was in response to this letter from the Chair of the UK OGN.