Government by Task Force: A Review of the Reviews

Catalyst pamphlet 2.
Published: May 1998
ISBN: 09533224 1 6
Paperback: 48 pages

After only a year in power, New Labour had already set up more than 192 different policy reviews, task forces and advisory groups. In this review of these reviews, Steve Platt has brought together for the first time details of the purpose and membership of these new bodies. There is no central register of these reviews and no government agency has overall responsibility for monitoring them. The sheer volume of new reviews means that many are effectively unaccountable. Even parliamentary questions have so far only elicited an incomplete list.

Although the government claims to have been innovative and democratic in its inclusion on task forces and advisory bodies of people from outside the usual circles of central government, in practice neither women, nor ethnic minorities, nor young people, nor organised labour are adequately represented. On the available figures, the best represented interest group is business and the private sector. In general, producers of goods and services have a voice, whereas consumers do not.

Steve Platt argues that despite the government’s rhetoric of involving the public in the working of government, the reality is that principles have been abandoned and debate repressed. The result is government by elite, which bypasses not only the general public but also parliament. New Labour’s project is merely to widen the range of elites represented in government in order to deliver its policies more efficiently. Power remains strongly concentrated at the centre.

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