Propriety and Ethics

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Guidance on written consultations during an election period

The following guidance applies to all UK central government departments who are undertaking public consultations during the UK General Election period.

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), express permission should be sought from the Propriety and Ethics Team in the Cabinet Office.

Departments should not take any steps during an 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 process.

As these restrictions may be detrimental to a consultation departments are advised to decide on steps to make up for that deficiency while strictly observing the guidance. That can be done, for example, by:

In many cases (for instance, consultations aimed solely at professional groups) the election campaign (and the restrictions on publicity it brings) will not have such an impact as those where a very public and wide-ranging consultation is required. Departments need, therefore, to take into account the circumstances of each consultation. Some may need no remedial action - but this is a practical rather than propriety question so long as Departments observe the election guidance.

Cabinet Office
May 2001