Reports

United Kingdom Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Data
Country : United Kingdom
Dates Under Review : 2016-2017
Report publication year : 2018

In 2018, the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) published the progress report for the UK’s third action plan. The report covers the development and first year of implementation of the action plan May 2016 through October 2017.

In the UK, the findings of the report from the IRM researcher Ben Worthy of Birkbeck College, University of London, are summarized below:

"Commitments in the United Kingdom’s (UK) third action plan have lowered ambition in relation to previous OGP cycles. Institutional change and political context in the country have impacted its level of completion."

The version of the report  is available here. The two-week public comment period closed 30 April 2018.

Commitments in the United Kingdom’s (UK) third action plan have lowered ambition in relation to previous OGP cycles. Institutional change and political context in the country have impacted its level of completion.



✪ 8. Well-being of Future Generations Act – National Indicators for Wales

✪ 9. Well-being duty on specified public bodies in Wales



Process

Countries participating in OGP follow a process for consultation during development of their OGP action plan and during implementation. Stakeholders and CSOs were regularly consulted during both development and implementation of the action plan. The steering group met once every 4–6 months. There was online interaction with the broader network through the sharing of updates, online forums, and a series of events and meet-ups. There were also activities within sub-networks in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Government-CSO meetings were held during the implementation process. They involved updates on progress and discussion of future issues and obstacles. Overall, the process allowed for collaboration and dialogue between the government and CSOs. The UK government’s draft self-assessment was published on 17 November 2017. The draft was open for public comment until 1 December 2017. It was publicised via the OGN website and via emails to members of the OGN.

Who was involved?

Civil Society Involvement
Beyond "governance" civil society
Mostly "governance" civil society
No/little civil society
Narrow / little government consultation Primarily agencies that serve other agencies Significant involvement of line ministries and agencies
Government Involvement

Involvement

CSOs took part in the planning and implementation process through a CSO steering group elected by the UK Open Government Network (OGN). The OGN consists of more than 2,000 members, including civil society, developers, academics, journalists and citizens

OGP Co-Creation Requirements Followed

Commitment Performance

As part of OGP participation, countries make commitments in a two-year action plan. The United Kingdom’s action plan contains 27 commitments. Table 1 summarises each commitment’s level of completion and potential impact. Table 2 provides a snapshot of progress for each commitment and recommends next steps. In some cases, similar commitments are grouped and reordered to make reading easier. 

The UK received two starred commitments (commitments 8 and 9 from Wales). Note that the IRM updated the criteria for starred commitments in early 2015 in order to raise the standard for model OGP commitments. Under these criteria, commitments must be highly specific, relevant to OGP values, of transformative potential impact, and substantially completed or complete.  

Implementation Figure / Commitments Completed

Current Plan

Year 1: 7.4074074074074%

Prior Plan(s)

Ambition Figure

Current Plan

Year 1: 11.111111111111%

Previous Plan (s)

Starred commitments

Current Plan

Year 1: 7.4074074074074%

Prior Plan(s)

IRM Recommendations

  • A Parliamentary committee (and respective other devolved equivalents) to oversee transparency policies 
  • High Profile Intervention or an event in support of the OGP process 
  • A focus on more information and data on the impact of Brexit on everyday life 
  • Continue to experiment with new ways of engaging CSOs 
  • High profile cross-cutting ‘signature’ reforms that are cross-cutting and high-profile (of a kind seen in the third action plan such as Beneficial ownership)

Countries participating in OGP follow a process for consultation during development of their OGP action plan and during implementation. Stakeholders and CSOs were regularly consulted during both development and implementation of the action plan. The steering group met once every 4–6 months. There was online interaction with the broader network through the sharing of updates, online forums, and a series of events and meet-ups. There were also activities within sub-networks in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Government-CSO meetings were held during the implementation process. They involved updates on progress and discussion of future issues and obstacles. Overall, the process allowed for collaboration and dialogue between the government and CSOs. The UK government’s draft self-assessment was published on 17 November 2017. The draft was open for public comment until 1 December 2017. It was publicised via the OGN website and via emails to members of the OGN.

 

NAME OF COMMITMENT

RESULTS

  • 1. Beneficial ownership
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Moderate
    • Completion: Limited

This commitment aims to introduce legislation to create a public register of beneficial ownership for foreign companies who own or buy property in the UK or who bid on UK central government contracts. So far, the government has only conducted a consultation process and confirmed the timeline for legislation approval. It expects the

registry to be in place by 2021.

  • 2. Natural resources transparency
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Moderate
    • Completion: Substantial

This commitment seeks to increase company disclosure regarding payments to government for the sale of oil, gas and minerals. So far, 24 out of 100 companies are reporting. The UK also published its second Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) report. However, many CSOs have withdrawn from the EITI process in the UK.

  • 3. Anti-Corruption Strategy
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Limited

This Strategy will provide a long-term vision, priorities and objective for anti-corruption activities across government. However, the proposed scrutiny mechanism is not well defined.

  • 4. Anti-Corruption Innovation Hub
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Moderate
    • Completion: Limited

While the anti-corruption hub offers an important space for cooperation and innovation, procedural and legal issues have delayed its operationalisation.

  • 5. Open contracting
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Complete

The existing contract portal has been updated and now implements the Open Contracting Data Standards. There was ongoing engagement with CSOs throughout the process, though some were concerned that the commitment lacked elements of citizen engagement and oversight.

  • 6. Grants data
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Moderate
    • Completion: Limited

This commitment would allow the government to improve the quality and quantity of data available on grant making by its different departments. The complexity of the process and asymmetry of available data has limited its completion.

  • 7. Elections data
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Moderate
    • Completion: Limited

This commitment seeks to create a standard procedure for collecting election data. Changes in local governments and funding constraints have impacted progress in its implementation.

  • 8. Enhanced transparency requirements and revised FOI Act Code of Practice
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Limited

As a result of an independent inquiry, guidance for the FOI Act has been updated for the first time since the law came into force. However, the new code was published 16 months behind schedule.

  • 9. Identifying and publishing core data assets
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Moderate
    • Completion: Limited

This commitment looks to improve the open data infrastructure.

  • 10. Involving data users in shaping the future of open data
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Limited

This commitment aims to inform data management, use and availability through citizen engagement. The mechanisms the government will use to transform citizen input into changes in practice are unclear.

  • 11. Better use of data assets
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Substantial

The government seeks to strengthen institutional capacity to improve data availability and its use for policy making. Legislation on better access to data across government departments and levels has been passed, but implementation of the law is still pending.

  • 12. GOV.UK
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Substantial

Changes to the GOV.UK website have improved accessibility and navigation. Better communication of results is required, given the internal nature of the process.

  • 13. Ongoing collaborative approach to open government reform
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Substantial

The government aims to collaborate with CSOs and other stakeholders on an ongoing basis. While dialogue and engagement activities took place, there was limited progress on updating existing commitments and publishing new ones.

Scotland

  • 1. Effective open government for governments at all levels
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Limited

Scotland seeks to improve collaboration among actors across the UK involved in the OGP process by holding a summit in April 2018.

Northern Ireland

  • 1. Develop & trial effective open policy making and public engagement methods
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Moderate
    • Completion: Limited

This initiative would allow the government and CSOs to experiment with new approaches to particpation. Delays on the pilot co-design process have impacted completion of the subsequent milestones.

  • 2. Promote greater levels of public sector innovation
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Limited

This commitment looks to address major societal and environmental challenges by supporting innovation through a new fund, using data analytics among other initiatives. However, the activities are not well specified.

  • 3. To investigate implementation of the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS)
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Substantial

The government has begun to explore the current framework at numerous star ratings with new data published.

  • 4. Open up government for greater accountability, to improve public services and building a more prosperous and equal society
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Limited

This commitment aims to continue engagement with partners, while promoting a culture of open data. Many of the commitment’s activities had begun prior to the action plan.

Wales

  • 1. Open data plan
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Substantial

This commitment focuses on implementation of an existing Open Data Plan. It is unclear if activities other than data publication will be implemented.

  • 2. Open data service
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Substantial

StatWales now offers more data in machine- readable format, while the Lle platform now features an interactive mapping tool. Development of the Open Data Catalogue has been limited due to lack of resources. These activities resemble a small component of the broader Welsh Government open data plan.

  • 3. StatsWales
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Substantial

This commitment improves users’ ability to connect data available on StatsWales to other databases. The government has developed training materials for the public. Future steps could include data visualisation and applications that appeal to a broader audience.

  • 4. Administrative Data Research Centre Wales
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Substantial

Government data is being made available to produce research that informs public policy. Even though data access is limited to researchers, the resulting work addresses issues of public interest such as the link between health and homelessness. A pilot programme on techniques to provide data is yet to be completed.

  • 5. Government Social Research Publication Protocol
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Substantial

This commitment is based on an ongoing initiative by the Welsh government to standardise the publication of research. The concrete steps the government will take are not clear.

  • 6. Gov.Wales
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Minor
    • Completion: Limited

A new version of the Gov.Wales website will centralise information published by the Welsh government, ensuring consistency. The timetable for this commitment runs outside of the action plan. So far the government has only launched a series of consultations in experimental format.

  • 7. Code of practice for ethical employment in supply chains
    • OGP Value Relevance: Unclear
    • Potential Impact: Transformative
    • Completion: Substantial

While this commitment has transformative potential to change business and organisational practice, the commitment is focused on external companies rather than on the government. The Code commits public, private and third sector organisations.

  • ✪ 8. Well-being of Future Generations Act – national indicators for Wales
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Transformative
    • Completion: Substantial

This commitment aims to involve civil society and other bodies in publishing indicators and goals on the 2015 Well-being of Future Generations Act, which includes key social, economic, environmental and cultural goals. The Welsh government held an extensive national conversation with the public, published the indicators, and prepared a report on progress.

  • ✪ 9. Well-being duty on specified public bodies in Wales
    • OGP Value Relevance: Clear
    • Potential Impact: Transformative
    • Completion: Complete

The government seeks to implement the well- being framework at the local level. All 19 public services boards, which include CSO representation, have set and published well-being objectives. They have also conducted assessments of well-being in their respective areas.

Researcher

Partner(s)

I. Introduction

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The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to their citizenry to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. OGP provides an international forum for dialogue and sharing among governments, civil society organisations, and the private sector, all of which contribute to a common pursuit of open government.

The United Kingdom (UK) began its formal participation in 2011, when Prime Minister David Cameron declared his country’s intention to participate in the initiative as one of the founding members.

In order to participate in OGP, governments must exhibit a demonstrated commitment to open government by meeting a set of (minimum) performance criteria. Objective, third- party indicators are used to determine the extent of country progress on each of the criteria: fiscal transparency, public official’s asset disclosure, citizen engagement, and access to information. See Section VII: Eligibility Requirements for more details.

All OGP-participating governments develop OGP action plans that elaborate concrete commitments with the aim of changing practice beyond the status quo over a two-year period. The commitments may build on existing efforts, identify new steps to complete ongoing reforms, or initiate action in an entirely new area.

The UK developed its third national action plan from July 2015 to April 2016. The official implementation period for the action plan was 1 May 2016 through 1 May 2018. This year one report covers the action plan development process and first year of implementation, from May 2016 until October 2017. However, it is important to note that the devolved government’s commitments only became part of the UK OGP plan in December 2016.

Beginning in 2015, the IRM started publishing end-of-term reports on the final status of progress at the end of the action plan’s two-year period. Any activities or progress occurring after the first year of implementation, October 2017, will be assessed in the end- of-term report. The government published and consulted on its draft self-assessment in November 2017 before publishing it in December 2017.

In order to meet OGP requirements, the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) of OGP has partnered with Ben Worthy of Birkbeck College, University of London, who carried out this evaluation of the development and implementation of the UK’s third action plan. To gather the voices of multiple stakeholders, the IRM researcher held a series of interviews and created an online survey. The IRM aims to inform ongoing dialogue around development and implementation of future commitments. Methods and sources are dealt with in Section VI of this report (Methodology and Sources).

II. Context

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The third action plan was implemented amid considerable upheaval in British politics following the UK’s referendum to leave the European Union (EU) in June 2016. The UK government and devolved governments did, however, work closely with civil society in developing the strategy and implementation of the action plan.

2.1  Background

The UK ranked 35th out of 111 countries in Freedom of Information Law in the latest Access/CLD rating,1 joint second with Australia in the Global Open Data Index of 20162 and 10th out of 176 countries in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.3 The UK decreased slightly in the International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Survey, from a score of 75/100 in 2015, to 74/100 in 2017.4

The UK underwent considerable political upheaval and uncertainty following the referendum to leave the EU in June 2016 (‘Brexit’). The referendum resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron in June 2016 a General Election in June 2017 that led to a hung parliament (where no party has an overall majority) and the beginning of the exit negotiations in June to July 2017.5

There was considerable discussion and disagreement between parts of the UK in the wake of the referendum, including in Northern Ireland and Scotland, both of which largely voted ‘Remain’. In Scotland, a new independence referendum was proposed and discussed. In Northern Ireland, political disagreement between the main parties after the Northern Ireland Assembly elections of March 2017 led to the collapse and suspension of the Assembly. As of January 2018, the Assembly remains suspended amid wider political uncertainty, including complex negotiations around the status of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as the UK government negotiates Brexit.6

Nevertheless, a series of open government related reforms took place outside of OGP as part of the new Prime Minister’s corporate governance reforms. In terms of pushing further openness, the new government of Theresa May continued to champion mandatory reporting of gender pay gaps, meaning all businesses with more than 250 employees must publish details between April 2017 and April 2018. There were recommendations over opening up Executive (CEO) pay and publishing pay ratios between the lowest and highest paid in companies.7

The UK also proposed a new audit on racial disparity across government, which was published towards the end of 2017.8 In July 2017, a controversy over the salaries of TV presenters occurred when the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC, the UK taxpayer subsidized broadcaster) published salary details for the first time.9 The policies, though not part of OGP, reflect open government values of fiscal transparency and access to information.

There were also attempts to limit government openness. A Law Commission consultation examined the possibility of strengthening the Official Secrets Act, which would make whistleblowing more difficult, according to campaigners.10 The government proposed floating fees for the second tier of appeals for Freedom of Information (FOI), though a ruling on a related issue over access to justice from the Supreme Court in July 2017 put this policy in doubt.11

Perhaps most significantly, the government passed the Investigatory Powers Act in 2016 that gave legal right to bulk data collection by intelligence agencies and, as one newspaper put it, ‘legalises a range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services’.12 Although there were independent judicial checks built into the Act, there was widespread national and international concern at the potentially wide ranging powers it gave intelligence agencies.13 In early 2018, the Act was struck down at the Court of Appeal over its lack of safeguards.14

 

In 2017, there were calls for a future discussion in Scotland around its separate FOI Act. In June 2017, the Scottish Government committed to publish all FOI responses online.15 This came amid calls for wholesale review of government practices following an open letter from a group of Scottish journalists who were ‘increasingly concerned about the way in which the legislation is being interpreted and implemented’.16 By the end of 2017 both the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Information Commissioner were proposing separate investigations17.

In a further development, in September 2017, 10 organisations, including Oxfam, Global Witness and Transparency International, withdrew from the UK Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) following what they called a ‘decision to give special status to one civil society organisation over its peers’, which the organisations felt goes against EITI’s founding principles.18

2.2  Scope of Action Plan in Relation to National Context

The UK government could move towards greater openness around the Brexit process, as well as in other areas where changes happened outside the OGP process but influence openness and the values around OGP.

As interviewed stakeholders acknowledged to the IRM researcher, the repercussions of Brexit meant that less attention was paid to implementation, and time and energy was often focused elsewhere.19 Both groups recognised that progress on the commitments was slower as a result and some fell behind schedule or, in a few cases, took a different form. In addition, the hung parliament after June 2017 meant there was less space in the parliamentary timetable and so primary legislation would be less likely to happen.

The highest priority theme would be for greater openness around Brexit. The European Commission’s approach has been to publish a range of timelines and position papers setting out how the Brexit process will occur and the sequencing and the position of the EU on certain important areas such as citizen rights and a potential financial settlement.20 Both the EU and UK are committed to engaging and informing their respective parliaments, though the exact level of openness is unclear.21

So far, the UK government has been criticised for its reticence around the process, publishing fewer position papers and seeking to keep its positions confidential.22 It has, however, published a White Paper and a major Prime Ministerial speech but these have been seen as lacking in detail.23 Details on the legal reforms for the UK when leaving the EU have also been vague.24 While there may be certain logic to this position as part of the negotiations, any benefits have been undermined by continual leaking and disagreement.25 This was symbolized in December 2017 when, following FOI requests and select committee pressure for the 58 studies of the impact of Brexit, the government admitted that they did not exist as ‘assessments’.26

Given their importance, the UK government could improve transparency around the Brexit negotiations in two ways. First, the government already publishes its proposals and regularly provides updates to Parliament and the public on the progress of the negotiations (at set times such as after each negotiation round, via the Liaison committee with the Prime Minister and through other select committee appearances). The government should, where possible, supplement these updates with data about the impact and changes Brexit may bring to the public. It could also ensure all plans, positions, and speeches are published online.

Second, given the division and uncertainty across the UK, the government could involve the public in more deliberative forums and discussions. This would help reduce uncertainty among groups likely to be affected and strengthen the position of the UK government.

 

 

The issues of surveillance and lobbying remain important areas and could be subject to some analysis, especially following the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act of 2014 (on lobbying) and Investigatory Powers Act of 2016 (on surveillance powers). Both laws were passed outside of the OGP process but could carry profound consequences for civil rights. These laws could be subject to scrutiny by a joint select committee of both Houses of Parliament to see how they have functioned since being passed and how they could, if necessary, be reformed.

Finally, some of the open government activities outside of OGP could be incorporated into future action plans to give extra international profile and momentum. The reporting of gender pay gaps, in particular, would benefit from the extra publicity and scrutiny being placed in a future action plan would bring, given the comparatively slow uptake by private companies.

 

1 Access Info/CLD ‘Global Right to Information Rating’ RTI Rating website, http://www.rti-rating.org/country- data/

2 Open Knowledge Foundation (2016) Global Open Data Index, https://index.okfn.org/place/

3 Transparency International (2016) ‘United Kingdom’, https://www.transparency.org/country/GBR

4 International Budget Partnership (2016) ‘United Kingdom: December Update’, https://www.internationalbudget.org/opening-budgets/open-budget-initiative/open-budget-survey/country- info/?country=gb

5 Hung Parliaments, Worthy, Ben ‘What is a Hung Parliament and How Long Will It Last?’ (blog post 12 June 2017), http://10-gower-street.com/2017/06/12/what-is-a-hung-parliament-and-how-long-will-it-last/, and Brexit Huffington Post ‘What A Hung Parliament Means’, http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/alexandra-runswick/what-a- hung-parliament-me_b_17179186.html, and BBC ‘Brexit: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32810887

6 For background, NI Open Government Network Blog (2018) Have you noticed that we don’t have a Government?, https://www.opengovernment.org.uk/2018/02/02/ni-open-government-network-blog-have-you- noticed-that-we-dont-have-a-government/

7 Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service and Government Equalities Office Guidance: Gender pay gap reporting: overview, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/gender-pay-gap-reporting-overview, and provisional analysis by the author, Worthy, Ben ‘Gender Pay Gap Transparency: Will It Work?’, https://opendatastudy.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/gender-pay-gap-transparency-will-it-work/

8 Corporate governance reforms including pay transparency. Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy: Consultation outcome Corporate governance reform, https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/corporate-governance-reform

9 Coverage of the BBC ‘BBC pay: How much do its stars earn?’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts- 40653861

10 Information and Law Policy Centre ‘Submissions to the Law Commission’s consultation on ‘Official Data Protection’: Open Rights Group’, https://infolawcentre.blogs.sas.ac.uk/2017/05/31/submissions-to-the-law- commissions-consultation-on-official-data-protection-open-rights-group/, and Campaign For Freedom of Information ‘Whistleblowers and journalists face prison for revealing information that could be obtained under FOI’ , https://www.cfoi.org.uk/2017/05/whistleblowers-and-journalists-face-prison-for-revealing-information-that- could-be-obtained-under-foi/

11 Campaign For Freedom of Information ‘FOI implications of the Justice Committee’s report on Courts and Tribunals Fees’, https://www.cfoi.org.uk/2016/07/foi-implications-of-the-justice-committees-report-on-courts-and- tribunals-fees/

12 Guardian ‘Extreme surveillance' becomes UK law with barely a whimper’, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/19/extreme-surveillance-becomes-uk-law-with-barely-a-whimper 13 Analysis of the new law, Legislation.gov.uk ‘Investigatory Powers Act 2016’, https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=investigatory+powers+act+2016&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b- ab&gfe_rd=cr&dcr=0&ei=OK-yWY2UHMP38AemsYygBw, and Matt Burgess ‘What is the IP Act and how will it affect you?’, http://www.wired.co.uk/article/ip-bill-law-details-passed

14 Guardian (2018) UK mass digital surveillance regime ruled unlawful, https://www.theguardian.com/uk- news/2018/jan/30/uk-mass-digital-surveillance-regime-ruled-unlawful-appeal-ruling-snoopers-charter

15 Scottish Government (2017) Boost to open government (news item 20 Jun 2017) https://beta.gov.scot/news/boost-to-open-government/

16 BBC ‘Scottish journalists voice fears over freedom of information requests’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk- scotland-scotland-politics-40120002, BBC ‘MSPs condemn government over freedom of information system’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-40356988

17 For more detail see Andy McDevitt (2017) Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): Scotland Final Report 2017 18 Global Witness (2017) Joint statement: Civil Society Network withdraws from UK Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), https://www.globalwitness.org/en/press-releases/joint-statement-civil-society- network-withdraws-uk-extractive-industries-transparency-initiative-eiti/

 

 

19 Across interviews with CSOs and government the effects of Brexit on the process was discussed. Worthy, Ben, Brexit and Open Government in the UK: 11 Months of May, https://ssrn.com/abstract=2988952

20 EU Commission ‘EU Position Papers on the Article 50 negotiations’, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/publications/eu-position-papers-article-50-negotiations_en

21 EU Commission (2017) ‘The European Commission's approach to transparency in the Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom’, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/brexit-negotiations/european-commissions-approach- transparency-article-50-negotiations-united-kingdom_en and IFG (2017) ‘In Brexit, transparency is a tool – and Europe is using it’,

https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/blog/brexit-transparency-tool-and-europe-using-it 22 IFG (2017) ‘In Brexit, transparency is a tool – and Europe is using it’, https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/blog/brexit-transparency-tool-and-europe-using-it 23 Guardian ‘The White Paper on Brexit: A Wish List Disguised as a Strategy’,

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/02/the-white-paper-on-brexit-a-wish-list-disguised-as-a-strategy, and EU law analysis ‘As Bad as It Gets: The White Paper on Brexit‘, http://eulawanalysis.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/as-bad-as-it-gets-white-paper-on-brexit.html

24 Public Law For Everyone ‘the Government’s White Paper On the Repeal Bill: Some Preliminary Thoughts’, https://publiclawforeveryone.com/2017/03/30/the-governments-white-paper-on-the-great-repeal-bill-some- preliminary-thoughts/

25 Worthy, Ben (2017) ‘How Parliament’s campaign of attrition forced the government to open up about Brexit ‘, https://opendatastudy.wordpress.com/2017/12/01/how-parliaments-campaign-of-attrition-forced-the-government- to-open-up-about-brexit/

26 UK Parliament (2017) EU Exit - Sectoral Analysis: Written statement - HCWS231, http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written- statement/Commons/2017-11-07/HCWS231/

 

III. Leadership and Multistakeholder Process

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The UK government continued its relatively successful process of consultation with regular and detailed meetings and publications, and frequent updates.

 

3.1Leadership

This subsection describes the OGP leadership and institutional context for OGP in the UK. Table 3.1 summarises this structure while the narrative section (below) provides additional detail.

 

Table 3.1: OGP Leadership

 

1. Structure

Yes

No

Is there a clearly designated Point of Contact for OGP (Individual)?

X

 

 

Shared

Single

Is there a single lead agency on OGP efforts?

X

 

 

Yes

No

Is the head of government leading the OGP initiative?

 

X

2. Legal Mandate

Yes

No

Is the government’s commitment to OGP established through an official, publicly released mandate?

X

 

Is the government’s commitment to OGP established through a legally binding mandate?

 

X

3. Continuity and Instability

Yes

No

Was there a change in the organization(s) leading or involved with the OGP initiatives during the action plan implementation cycle?

 

X

Was there a change in the executive leader during the duration of the OGP action plan cycle?

X

 

 

The Cabinet Office is responsible for coordinating OGP activities in the UK. The Cabinet Office is well placed to push the OGP agenda as it serves the Prime Minister and is the corporate lead for the UK government that is also responsible for important policies. It worked in consultation with government departments and other bodies responsible, particularly devolved governments that each led on their commitments. Some of the non- government bodies and the devolved governments decided separately on their own commitments and what was to be done.

The Cabinet Office had a dedicated team of two staff (one part-time member and one working 75 percent of a full-time equivalent), plus commitment points of contact for the departments responsible for OGP commitments. There is funding of £100k per year from the Minister for Cabinet Office for funding starting FY 2015/16 and ending 2018/19. The Cabinet office’s role as lead coordinator for the third action plan was similar to its approach of the second action plan. For the third action plan, as with the previous plan, the Cabinet Office and CSOs held regular meetings (Section 3.3 describes these activities).

The government’s commitment to OGP does not have a specific legal mandate. The UK has a relatively centralised political system with strong control over local government, though the last few decades have seen increasing power given to the UK’s constituent nations. The

 

devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have considerable autonomy and, in the case of the third action plan, independently developed and implemented separate proposals.

During the period of the third action plan, four important events took place. On 23 June 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU in a country-wide referendum.1 Prime Minister David Cameron resigned the day after the referendum and was replaced by Theresa May, causing considerable political upheaval in the following months and year. In June 2017, Theresa May called for a General Election that led to a hung Parliament. In addition, in Northern Ireland, which has four OGP commitments, the Executive was suspended between 2 March 2017 and the summer of 2017 until the end of the time period for this report.

3.2Intragovernmental Participation

This subsection describes which government institutions were involved at various stages in OGP. The next section will describe which nongovernmental organizations were involved in OGP.

Table 3.2: Participation in OGP by Government Institutions

 

 

 

Ministries,

Legislative

Judiciary

Other

Subnational

How did

institutions participate?

Departments, and Agencies

 

(including quasi- judicial agencies)

(including constitutional independent or autonomous

governments

 

 

 

 

bodies)

 

Consult: These institutions were invited to or observed the action plan, but may not be responsible for commitments in the

action plan

 

 

8

 

 

0

 

 

0

 

 

2

 

 

3

Propose: These institutions proposed commitments for inclusion in the

action plan

 

4

 

0

 

0

 

1

 

3

Implement:

These institutions are responsible for implementing commitments in the action plan whether or not they proposed the

commitments

 

 

8

 

 

0

 

 

0

 

 

2

 

 

3

 

Participation in OGP involved a wide range of government bodies coordinated by the Cabinet Office. This included six central government departments, a representative body of local government, two arms-length bodies and two non-government agencies. Table 3.2 above details the number of institutions that were involved in OGP process.2

 

 

The process was pursued through a series of joint working groups and meetings between CSOs and the central and devolved governments. Drawing on previous action plan assessments, including the previous IRM report, the government and CSOs developed a series of key themes for the third action plan.3 The government took the 28 ideas from the crowdsourced Open Government Network (OGN) manifesto as thematic starting points and held a series of discussions around the country, as well as meetings between area experts in the government and civil society. The commitments were then created by consensus. In parallel, the government and civil society worked with devolved governments and the open government CSO networks in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The process was built around a series of meetings held every three months, with the lead bodies and the CSO stakeholders’ steering committee to discuss progress on the commitments and issues. Minutes and agendas of the meetings were published online.

According to both CSOs and government, the meetings were regularly held and well attended, with regular representation from both government commitment leads and CSO representatives. Interviewed CSO representatives viewed these high level, regular meetings as important in pushing forward the implementation, especially as contact with individual commitment leads could be variable.4

Commitment 13 of the third action plan addressed feedback from CSOs and a recommendation from the IRM progress report for the previous action plan by pledging to work more closely with devolved governments. In December 2016, four open government commitments by the Northern Irish Executive, one by the Scottish government and nine by the Welsh government, covering openness policies of the government of their respective countries, were incorporated into the broader plan.5 The Scottish government’s commitments are being assessed separately as part of the OGP’s Subnational Government Pilot Program.6 These were developed in a similar collaborative process between the individual country CSOs and devolved administrations, though both the UK government and OGN provided help and advice.

3.3Civil Society Engagement

Countries participating in OGP follow a set of requirements for consultation during development, implementation, and review of their OGP action plan. Table 3.3 summarizes the performance of the UK during the 2016-2018 action plan.

 

 

Table 3.3: National OGP Process

 

Key Steps Followed: 7 of 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before

 

1. Timeline Process & Availability

2. Advanced Notice

Timeline and process available online prior to consultation

Yes

No

Advance notice of consultation

Yes

No

 

 

3. Awareness raising

4. Multiple Channels

 

 

Government carried out awareness raising activities

Yes

No

4a. Online consultations:

Yes

No

 

 

 

4b. In-person

consultations:

Yes

No

 

5. Documentation & Feedback

Summary of comments provided

Yes

No

 

 

During

6. Regular Multi-Stakeholder Forum

6a. Did a forum exist?

Yes

No

6b. Did it meet regularly?

Yes

No

 

 

 

 

 

After

7. Government Self-Assessment Report

7a. Annual Self-Assessment Report published?

Yes

 

7b. Report available in English and administrative language?

Yes

 

 

 

7c. Two-week public comment period on report?

Yes

 

7d. Report responds to key IRM

recommendations?

Yes

No

 

 

 

As with the second action plan, the UK government worked closely with a range of CSO. The public participation CSO Involve coordinated the civil society network. CSOs themselves began consulting and developing ideas in advance of the formal development of the action plan through a series of quarterly meetings in London. An online forum generated 79 possible commitments for the action plan, which was launched as an open government manifesto in October 2015.7 At the CSO stage, all events were open invitation.

According to the government’s self-assessment report, the government began working with the Open Government Network (OGN) in July 2015 to identify the overarching narrative and priority themes for the third action plan, including working with CSOs within OGN.8 The government argued that ‘having robust discussions early on enabled us to include ambitious commitments in the areas of anti-corruption, open contracting, and freedom of information’. This meant that by December 2015, five priority themes at the UK level were established to help frame the development of the action plan: access to information; anti- corruption; civic participation; open data; and public accountability, with evolved issues developing more organically.9

There were then a series of events and workshops, including four in February 2016. In April 2016, the Cabinet Office and OGN hosted three additional workshops in Manchester,

 

 

Birmingham and Newcastle to discuss progress on the action plan and to gather ideas for future commitments.10

There were quarterly meetings between the CSO steering group and government leads, as well as engagement on an individual level.11 There was also continued interaction between CSO and government leads for each commitment, though this decreased in some places. Meetings were open and regular and online consultations were publicised. The government publicised different OGP commitments on blogs and press releases.

There was a wide breadth of consultation lead by the CSO steering group -elected by the OGN- who regularly asked for input from their networks before each meeting and when updates were published. The CSO steering committee shared feedback from their wider networks with the government via a Google document (where members could add comments, questions, and thoughts).12 This was shared mostly online through the forum and email. The minutes and notes of the meetings were also published online, as were drafts of government updates. The main problem was navigation on the government website (gov.uk), so material was later placed on the UK open government network site, where it was easier to find and more accessible to CSOs.13

Table 3.4: Level of Public Influence

The IRM has adapted the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) “Spectrum of Participation” to apply to OGP.14 This spectrum shows the potential level of public influence on the contents of the action plan. In the spirit of OGP, most countries should aspire for “collaborative.”

 

 

 

Level of public input

During development of action plan

During implementation of action plan

 

Empower

The government handed decision- making power to members of the

public.

 

 

Collaborate

There was iterative dialogue AND the public helped set the agenda.

Involve

The government gave feedback on

how public inputs were considered.

 

 

Consult

The public could give inputs.

 

 

Inform

The government provided the public with information on the action plan.

 

 

No Consultation

No consultation

 

 

 

3.4Consultation During Implementation

As part of their participation in OGP, governments commit to identify a forum to enable regular multi-stakeholder consultation on OGP implementation. This can be an existing entity or a new one. This section summarises that information.

The stakeholders and CSO network was built on the OGN developed during the first and second action plans. By the third plan, the OGN had more than 2000 members, including CSOs and other interested people such as developers, academics, journalists and citizens.

 

 

The stakeholders and CSO groups were regularly consulted during implementation. The government-CSO meetings were well attended and included updates on progress and discussions of future issues and obstacles. CSOs also raised questions from the wider group.15 The CSO steering group met in person every quarter, in addition to a series of meet-ups and events, and shared updates through the online discussion forum.16 The UK OGN network, which was open to all, used its forum and social media to discuss ongoing issues and to reach more people.

A survey by the Cabinet Office found more than half of respondents (made up of CSOs and government officials) felt CSOs were involved to a moderate or large extent in the process, with 67 percent feeling CSOs were involved in individual commitments.17 Sixty percent felt that the ‘strength of the partnership between key government officials and civil society organizations was ‘strong’ or ‘very strong’.

Though the forum was held in London, the online forum was open to all and there were also sub-networks for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The sub-network included CSOs and interested people from across the Open Data and FOI community. Given the membership, it is unclear what the gender balance was.

Notes and minutes of all the meetings were posted online and various drafts of letters were also circulated for comment.18 The government updates were also circulated through the forum as a Google document, allowing members to publicly add ideas and comments that then went back to the government.

3.5Self-Assessment

The OGP Articles of Governance require that participating countries publish a self- assessment report three months after the end of the first year of implementation. The self- assessment report must be made available for public comments for a two-week period. This section assesses compliance with these requirements and the quality of the report.

The UK government published its draft self-assessment on 17 November 2017.19 The draft was open for public comment until 1 December 2017 and feedback could be left on a Google document or through email. The draft self-assessment covered all parts of the commitments, as well as discussions of the consultation process. It also included a detailed survey of officials and CSOs and their views on implementation and involvement in the process. Some of the commitment updates contained links to evidence, while most were included updated progress. The UK self-assessment was published alongside separate draft documents covering the Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish commitments in the same period with the same comment period. It was publicised via the OGN website and via email to members of the OGN.

 

 

3.6Response to Previous IRM Recommendations

Table 3.5: Previous IRM Report Key Recommendations

 

 

Recommendation

 

Addressed?

Integrated into Next

Action Plan?

 

 

1

Achieve deeper engagement between government and CSOs throughout the process of the development and implementation of the next action plan, with frequent meetings and keeping of personnel changes to a minimum (where possible). This needs to be sustained

throughout the implementation process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

Promote wider engagement with a more varied group of CSOs. Although some proposals are by their nature technical and niche, an overall strategic vision may allow for a greater appeal to

more organizations.

 

 

 

 

 

3

Promote wider engagement with numerous governmental bodies across the UK, particularly the devolved assemblies and local government,

who should be co-authors of the next report.

 

 

 

4

Focus on key gaps in the second action plan, particularly on how innovations can link to public

participation and accountability.

 

 

5

Focus on some vital emerging issues, particularly government surveillance and lobbying.

 

 

 

The UK government and CSOs incorporated four of the recommendations from the second action plan into the third action plan. CSOs such as Involve worked to extend and expand the range of people and government bodies involved in OGP through regional meetings, the creation of separate networks across the UK and growth of the forum. The need to have greater participation was partly met by the open-ended commitment in the third action plan to ‘Involve data users in shaping the future of open data’.

In response to the previous action plan’s lack of devolved involvement in the second action plan for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Commitment 13 of the third plan committed to an ‘ongoing collaborative approach to open government reform’. This led to the inclusion of commitments from the Welsh and Northern Irish devolved governments in the third plan, with a series of meetings and communication with their separate CSO networks and governments also taking place.

The fifth recommendation was not addressed, in part because of the prioritisation of other policies following consultation. It may also have been because a major piece of legislation, the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, came into force on surveillance. However, given the questions surrounding this law, there should be regular examination by a select committee given its potential effect on civil rights.

 

1 BBC, ‘Brexit: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics- 32810887

2 The lead bodies were as follows Central Departments: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial strategy, HM Treasury, Department for International Development, Home Office, Cabinet Office and Government Digital Service. Executive agency (linked to the Cabinet Office) Crown Commercial Service. Arm’s length/Independent

 

 

Regulator: Financial Conduct Authority, Office of National Statistics. Outside Bodies/Associations: Local Government Association, Involve. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland participated through their Executive Offices.

 

3 Cabinet Office (2016) Open Government National Action Plan 2016-18 TSO: London (commitment update for July 2016).

4 Interview with Tim Hughes, Involve, 20 July 2017.

5 Cabinet Office ‘Commitments from the Northern Ireland Executive’, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/commitments-from-the-northern-ireland-executive, and Cabinet Office ‘Commitments from the Welsh Government’, http://www.opengovernment.org.uk/resource/2016-18-uk- open-government-action-plan-commitment-from-the-welsh-government/

6 Opengovernment.org.uk ‘Scotland’s 2017 Subnational Action Plan’, http://www.opengovernment.org.uk/scotlands-2017-subnational-action-plan/

7 OGP blog, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/stories/co-creation-uk and the manifesto, http://www.opengovernment.org.uk/2015/10/01/open-government-manifesto-launched/

8 Cabinet Office ‘Open Government Partnership National Action Plan 2016-18:

Mid-term Self Assessment Report’ (UK government report September 2017) passed to author pre-publication.

9 Cabinet Office ‘Open Government Partnership National Action Plan 2016-18:

Mid-term Self Assessment Report’ (UK government report September 2017) passed to author pre-publication.

10 Cabinet Office ‘Open Government Partnership National Action Plan 2016-18:

Mid-term Self Assessment Report’ (UK government report September 2017) passed to author pre-publication. 11 Opengovernment.org.uk ‘About’ (CSO network website 2017) http://www.opengovernment.org.uk/networks/uk/ the steering group are:

Andy Williamson, Democratise

Colm Burns, NI Open Government Network Gavin Freeguard, Institute for Government

Jess Blair, ERS Wales & Welsh Open Government Network

Lucy McTernan, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) & Scotland Open Government Network

Martin Tisne, The Omidyar Network Michelle Brook, The Democratic Society

Rachel Davies, Transparency International UK Tim Davies, Practical Participation

12 The Google document was shared with the author July 2017: Meeting between CSO and government (telephone conference call July 2017).

13 Tim Hughes, Involve.

14 For more information on the IAP2 spectrum see, http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.iap2.org/resource/resmgr/foundations_course/ IAP2_P2_Spectrum_FINAL.pdf.

15 Meeting between CSO and government, telephone conference call, July 2017.

16 Opengovernment.org.uk ‘2016-18 Open Government Action Plan implementation meeting | 27 July 2017 | Meeting note ‘, http://www.opengovernment.org.uk/2017/08/02/2016-18-open-government-action-plan- implementation-meeting-27-july-2017-meeting-note/

17 Tables from Cabinet Office Self-assessment online survey - summary of results (online survey September 2017) 18 Open Government Network (2016) Information on third action plan commitments engagement activities, https://www.opengovernment.org.uk/resource/information-on-nap3-commitments-engagement-activities/

19 Open Government Network (2017), ‘For public comment: UK Open Government National Action Plan 2016-

IV. Commitments

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All OGP-participating governments develop OGP action plans that include concrete commitments over a two-year period. Governments begin their OGP action plans by sharing existing efforts related to open government, including specific strategies and ongoing programs.

Commitments should be appropriate to each country’s unique circumstances and challenges. OGP commitments should also be relevant to OGP values laid out in the OGP Articles of Governance and Open Government Declaration signed by all OGP-participating countries.1

What Makes a Good Commitment?

Recognizing that achieving open government commitments often involves a multiyear process, governments should attach timeframes and benchmarks to their commitments that indicate what is to be accomplished each year, whenever possible. This report details each of the commitments the country included in its action plan and analyzes the first year of their implementation.

The indicators used by the IRM to evaluate commitments are as follows:

  • Specificity: This variable assesses the level of specificity and measurability of each commitment. The options are:
    • High: Commitment language provides clear, verifiable activities and measurable deliverables for achievement of the commitment’s objective.
    • Medium: Commitment language describes activity that is objectively verifiable and includes deliverables, but these deliverables are not clearly measurable or relevant to the achievement of the commitment’s objective.
    • Low: Commitment language describes activity that can be construed as verifiable but requires some interpretation on the part of the reader to identify what the activity sets out to do and determine what the deliverables would be.
    • None: Commitment language contains no measurable activity, deliverables,  or milestones.
  • Relevance: This variable evaluates the commitment’s relevance to OGP values. Based on a close reading of the commitment text as stated in the action plan, the guiding questions to determine the relevance are:
    • Access to Information: Will the government disclose more information or improve the quality of the information disclosed to the public?
    • Civic Participation: Will the government create or improve opportunities or capabilities for the public to inform or influence decisions?
    • Public Accountability: Will the government create or improve opportunities to hold officials answerable for their actions?
    • Technology & Innovation for Transparency and Accountability: Will technological innovation be used in conjunction with one of the other three OGP values to advance either transparency or accountability?2
  • Potential impact: This variable assesses the potential impact of the commitment, if completed as written. The IRM researcher uses the text from the action plan to:
    • Identify the social, economic, political, or environmental problem;
    • Establish the status quo at the outset of the action plan; and
    • Assess the degree to which the commitment, if implemented, would impact performance and tackle the problem.

Starred commitments are considered exemplary OGP commitments. In order to receive a star, a commitment must meet several criteria:

  • Starred commitments will have “medium” or “high” specificity. A commitment must lay out clearly defined activities and steps to make a judgement about its potential impact.

 

  • The commitment’s language should make clear its relevance to opening government. Specifically, it must relate to at least one of the OGP values of Access to Information, Civic Participation, or Public Accountability.
  • The commitment would have a "transformative" potential impact if completely implemented.3
  • The government must make significant progress on this commitment during the action plan implementation period, receiving an assessment of "substantial" or "complete" implementation.

 

Based on these criteria, UK’s action plan contained two starred commitments: commitments 8 and 9 from Wales:

  • Well-being of Future Generations Act – National Indicators for Wales
  • Well-being duty on specified public bodies in Wales

Finally, the tables in this section present an excerpt of the wealth of data the IRM collects during its progress reporting process. For the full dataset for the UK and all OGP- participating countries, see the OGP Explorer.4

General Overview of the Commitments

The UK’s third national action plan covered a broad range of domestic and international issues. It included many areas, from local elections data and grant spending to natural resources openness. The third action plan built on the previous plan in two ways. First, many of its themes overlapped. Notably, an emphasis on anti-corruption emerged from the May 2016 London Anti-Corruption conference, and four commitments focused on this theme. Second, a number of the policies and commitments continued or expanded on commitments from the second plan, such as extending beneficial ownership or filling gaps in the UK’s participation in the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

One key difference, following recommendations from the previous IRM report, is that the action plan covers all four nations of the UK. Although the plan initially covered 13 UK-wide commitments, in December 2016 a further nine were added specifically for Wales, four for Northern Ireland and one for Scotland. These brought the total number of commitments to 27.

Editorial Note: commitment texts presented in this report have been shortened for brevity. Full texts are available on the action plan: http://bit.ly/2EfHnFt.

 

 

 

1 Open Government Partnership: Articles of Governance, June 2012 (Updated March 2014 and April 2015), https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/attachments/OGP_Articles-Gov_Apr-21-2015.pdf

2 IRM Procedures Manual. Available at: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/IRM-Procedures- Manual-v3_July-2016.docx

3 The international Experts Panel changed this criterion in 2015. For more information visit: http://www.opengovernmentpartnership.org/node/5919

4 OGP Explorer: bit.ly/1KE2WIl

 

V. General Recommendations

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The UK’s current action plan emphasises commitments aimed at preventing corruption. The Brexit process is a relevant area of interest for future OGP cycles, given its impact on institutional practice and lives of citizens in general.

 

This section aims to inform development of the next action plan and guide completion of the current action plan. It is divided into two sections: 1) those civil society and government priorities identified while elaborating this report and 2) the recommendations of the IRM.

5.1Stakeholder Priorities Current Action Plan

According to the UK government, the UK’s action plan commitments are structured around four priority areas:

  • Fiscal transparency
  • Tackling corruption
  • Improving transparency around government and elections
  • Investing in our national information infrastructure1

One of the main priorities concerned anti-corruption, especially as the action plan was created during the time the UK planned its anti-corruption conference in May 2016. A number of the commitments, on the anti-corruption hub and anti-corruption strategy, flowed from this, while others, such as beneficial ownership, were also linked to it.

Next Action Plan

One key area of concern is the process of leaving the EU and what may happen afterwards. Overall, CSOs were concerned by government secrecy over the process and how Brexit- related issues could be incorporated into the next action plan. This could encompass a range of possible commitments, from openness about the effects of leaving to greater transparency over what legislation would replace EU laws.

5.2IRM Recommendations

As the UK self-assessment put it, ‘since the launch of the action plan in May 2016, there has been a lot of institutional change that has taken place in the UK’. The government explained that ‘this has meant that some commitments have been delivered more slowly than first anticipated’.2 Much of the delay in implementation for the third action plan was a result of the ‘Brexit paralysis’, with a referendum in June 2016, a change of government in July 2016 and a General Election in June 2017 that resulted in a hung Parliament. Additionally, in the first 16 months of the third action plan, the UK had two Prime Ministers and three different lead Ministers.

Stakeholders and government officials in the UK and devolved bodies widely praised the Cabinet Office for its enthusiasm and willingness to help. Nevertheless, while officials, and the Cabinet Office in particular, were seen as committed, politicians were not. There was a general sense that the OGP process was derailed with ‘no strong commitment to values’ and support for the ‘letter not spirit’ of openness from senior politicians.3 The IRM researcher sees these as worrying signs when combined with others signals that, for example, FOI and open data activities are slowing down both in the UK and Scotland. This is especially concerning for a country embarking upon a controversial process of leaving the EU.

 

1.A Parliamentary committee (and respective other devolved equivalents) to oversee transparency policies

The IRM researcher recommends that a Parliamentary Select Committee (a House of Lords or joint committee) take an overview of the openness process. Equivalent committees in the devolved bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should do the same. As one CSO pointed out ‘the process needs a strong political champion...to ensure that the action plan commitments remain on track’4. Interest from a series of select committees would help provide pressure, scrutiny and oversight of the ongoing and complex openness policies across the UK. This could be through regular examination of different policies or audits of transparency policy as a whole.

2.High Profile Intervention or an Event in support of the OGP process

As the UK government self-assessment pointed out, key events such as summits, speeches or announcements can help build support, networks and interest in OGP commitments. The London Anti-Corruption Summit in May 2016 was a good example of how a well-organised event can create momentum.

There was no Prime Ministerial intervention or speech on openness until a letter in December 2017, which is unusual given that every Prime Minister since Tony Blair has made at least one speech in favour of government transparency. Nor has there been Cabinet level or Ministerial speeches or policy papers.

Theresa May’s letter on openness in December 2017 was an important intervention. In the future, greater Prime Ministerial and senior political interest would be welcome and provide much needed energy and momentum. This should take the form of high profile speeches and interventions in favour of openness and in support of the OGP process.

3.A focus on possible changes to everyday life and politics during Brexit

The next action plan should focus on the process of Brexit and its impact. This is not about opening up the negotiations themselves (though the evidence is that such openness improves rather than hinders negotiations), but rather opening up information that would be useful for citizens, whatever their political views.5

The government is already reporting to parliament through set piece updates and appearances at select committees. This recommendation seeks, to give greater information on the effects of Brexit on everyday life, rather than high policy negotiations. Brexit will involve major legal and regulatory changes that will go beyond Parliament’s power to scrutinise and assess, and greater transparency and dialogue can help the public understand what these changes could mean.6 The IRM researcher recommends thinking of more innovative ways to involve the public through deliberative forums and other experiments. For example, the joint UCL/Involve Citizens Assembly on Brexit, where 45 members of the public have ‘detailed, reflective and informed discussions about what the UK’s post-Brexit relations with the European Union should be’.7

This is not simply a matter of democratic principles. Openness would build legitimacy and allow greater public understanding of the potential consequences and trade-offs. One former official who worked on the negotiations in Downing Street explained:

Given the size of this upheaval, there is a basic civic imperative to explain to people what it will mean...the more the U.K. can communicate frankly with its citizens and its negotiating partners about the reality of the trade- offs it faces, the better. Not only that, explaining it will help the U.K. secure a deal that has the consent of its people.8

 

 

3.Continue to experiment with new ways of engaging CSOs

The IRM researcher recommends that the government and CSOs continue to experiment with new ways of engaging with wider civil society and the public. CSOs expressed concerns that more could be done to apply pressure and work together. The CSOs that engage with OGP should improve their capacity to share their progress and concerns as a group and ensure their learning feeds into the next action plan.9

In the UK, the CSO Involve has promoted local meetings and a successful crowdsourcing experiment that could be copied. In Scotland, the SCVO have matched their openness goals to the Sustainable Development Goals and human rights issues to give them greater relevance to everyday life, and have also worked with an open Wikisite and meetups to broaden their reach.10

CSOs always face difficulty in time, resources and focus, especially now in the UK. One option would be to aim for fewer transformative or signature issues in the next action plan, which is also likely to be overshadowed by Brexit. As the UK government itself suggested:

The second lesson we’ve identified is that we should focus government’s and civil society’s efforts in key priority areas, rather than spreading them across multiple commitments.11

4.High profile cross-cutting ‘signature’ reforms

The IRM researcher recognises the advantages in having a few high profile, cross-cutting signature reforms rather than many competing and diverse issues. The second action plan had a number of cross-cutting and broad reforms, such as beneficial ownership. This would allow CSOs to focus their activity and time and, if chosen correctly, attract greater engagement. There are, of course, trade-offs and problems involved in choosing or excluding other competing ideas.

Another possibility would be to emphasise local or regional government, where most people have most interaction with government in their everyday lives. The UK now has several new regional Mayors who could become powerful sub-national champions, especially as local government is often the place for successful openness experiments. 12

However, as Commitment 7 demonstrates, co-ordination is difficult and resources are limited at the local level, so any emphasis on local openness would need to be accompanied with resources and support: ‘Local authorities have limited capacity and resources and are unlikely to be able to participate unless the process can be made simple.’ One compromise could be to use devolved bodies and Metro Mayors alongside the Local Government Association (who may be involved in the planned summit described above).

Scotland

As outlined above, Scotland has a rather different OGP process, with one separate commitment in the UK’s second action plan and now separate process of reforms due to its pioneer status, which puts greater emphasis on local government transparency. The planned summit of cross-UK open government representatives and CSOs will, however, represent an important step in further developing a UK-wide policy.

Wales

Wales began from a different point, and, though part of the UK’s third action plan, its commitments should be regarded as the first action plan for Wales. Wales has had less time to build networks in civil society or develop original commitments in and outside of government.13 Nevertheless, both the supply chain transparency code (commitment 7 of the Welsh commitments) and the Well-being Act 2015 (commitments 8 and 9 of the Welsh commitments) represent important openness policies.

 

 

There is a determination to aim in the future for original policies rather than ongoing work.14 The IRM researcher recommends starting a process of building greater awareness and support among government and CSOs around openness. This could be done in multiple ways but the new Well-being Act 2015 and Public Service Boards offer an important means to build networks and develop new ideas across different bodies at local and devolved level.

There could also be regular forums for discussing openness and means of scrutiny and tracking progress, such as regular annual events or a series of workshops. This would be helped via a committee in the National Assembly scrutinising openness. As with the UK more generally, high profile speeches by the First Minister and senior politicians would also help apply pressure.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland also began from a different point, and, though part of the UK’s third action plan, its commitments should be regarded as its first action plan. The Northern Ireland Executive has been pushing an openness agenda since 2015. The four commitments showed progress but underlined the need for greater awareness and support for openness among government and CSOs.

The IRM researcher recommends pushing for a signature issue or policy/policies in the next action plan that can help attract attention, support and interest (as happened with the Well- being Act in Wales in 2015). Showcases and examples also help to spread the message and convince officials and politicians. Given the size of Northern Ireland, there is perhaps greater opportunity for CSOs and different levels of government to work closely together through joint boards and steering committees that already exist. The IRM researcher believes that openness could help create legitimacy, public support and interest at an important and difficult time for Northern Ireland in the wake of Brexit.

The IRM researcher recommends detailed scrutiny from a high-profile body to provide added publicity and pressure. The exact form may depend on the future governance arrangements of Northern Ireland. Scrutiny could come from the Northern Irish Assembly if the Assembly is up and running soon - and could be headed by the Committee for Finance (the department that leads on openness). Another possibility, if Direct Rule is re-imposed, would be for a small OGP-style committee of experts, CSOs and officials to meet and monitor progress outside of the formal OGP to ensure scrutiny is maintained (possibly with OGP sponsorship). As with the UK more generally, high profile speeches by the First Minister and senior politicians would also help apply pressure.

Table 5.1: Five Key Recommendations

 

1

A Parliamentary committee ( and respective other devolved

equivalents) to oversee transparency policies

2

High profile intervention or event in support of the OGP process

3

A focus on more information and data on the impact of Brexit on

everyday l i fe

4

Continue to experiment with new ways of engaging CSOs

5

High profile cross- cutting ‘ signature’ reforms that are cross- cutting and high- profile ( of a kind seen in the third action plan such as

Beneficial ownership)

 

 

 

1 Cabinet Office, ‘Open Government Partnership National Action Plan 2016-18:

Mid-term Self-Assessment Report’ (UK government report September 2017) passed to author pre-publication.

2 Cabinet Office, ‘Open Government Partnership National Action Plan 2016-18:

Mid-term Self Assessment Report’ (UK government report September 2017) passed to author pre-publication.

 

 

3 Interview with Tim Davies

 

4 Survey by IRM, July-September 2017

5 IFG ‘Taking back control of trade policy’, https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/IFGJ5448_Brexit_report_160517_WEB

_v2.pdf#page=25

6 Hannah White, ‘How can Parliament conduct effective Brexit scrutiny?’, https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/blog/how-can-parliament-conduct-effective-brexit-scrutiny, Ascher Nathan, ‘Brexit at Westminster: can parliament play a meaningful role?’ https://constitution- unit.com/2017/03/23/brexit-at-westminster-can-parliament-play-a-meaningful-role/

7 Constitution Unit, ‘Citizens' Assembly on Brexit’ (blog post September 2017) http://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution- unit/research/europe/citizens-assembly-on-brexit

8 Politico.eu O’Toole, Matthew ‘Florence Brexit speech: An overdue opportunity’, http://www.politico.eu/article/brexit-theresa-may-florence-speech-an-overdue-opportunity/ 9 Survey by IRM July-September 2017

10Open Government Network Scotland ‘Scotland’, http://www.opengovernment.org.uk/networks/scotland/, and Open Government Network Scotland ‘Wiki: Main Page’, https://opengovpioneers.miraheze.org/wiki/Main_Page, and Open Government Network Scotland ‘Opening up Edinburgh because it's Our Democracy Meetup’, https://www.meetup.com/Scotland-Open-Government-Meetup/?_cookie-check=ZG6048URNFuzGCom

11 Cabinet Office, ‘Open Government Partnership National Action Plan 2016-18:

Mid-term Self Assessment Report’ (UK government report September 2017) passed to author pre-publication.  12 Centre For Cities, ‘Everything you need to know about metro mayors: an FAQ’, http://www.centreforcities.org/publication/everything-need-know-metro-mayors/, Maire Williams ‘Open Data or Closed Doors?’ Better use of data can unlock economic growth in UK cities’, http://www.centreforcities.org/publication/open-data-or-closed-doors/

13 Cabinet Office, ‘Open Government Partnership National Action Plan 2016-18:

Mid-term Self Assessment Report’ (UK government report September 2017) passed to author pre-publication.

14 Cabinet Office, ‘Open Government Partnership National Action Plan 2016-18:

Mid-term Self Assessment Report’ (UK government report September 2017) passed to author pre-publication.