Chris Grayling publishes Sir Jeremy Sullivan’s NPS bland consultation review report
Chris Grayling appointed the former Senior President of Tribunals, Sir Jeremy Sullivan, to provide “independent oversight of the consultation process.” Apart from the fact Sir Jeremy says he does not use a computer, and has never been involved in a large consultation exercise, he has come out – predictably – finding very little to criticise. He presumes those opposed to the runway will find fault with the consultation. He does say that because of the purdah period before the 8th June election, some of the consultation was curtailed, the government will need to make up for this with more consultation. He acknowledges that the leaflet by the DfT, sent to 1.5 million people, was a bit biased in favour of Heathrow. He says: “…in my view the headline points, as presented in the leaflet, did give the impression of a “hard sell” for Heathrow. It would have been much better if a more neutral leaflet had been distributed …”. But he says (to paraphrase) people should jolly well know that the DfT favours Heathrow, and not be surprised. And they should already know the arguments against the runway, so cannot expect them all to be in the leaflet. … That does not appear to be an acceptable attitude, for someone overseeing the consultation. Chris Grayling has announced that Sir Jeremy “has agreed to oversee the period of further consultation.”
Chris Grayling announces the publication of Sir Jeremy Sullivan’s consultation review report and the launch of a further consultation later this year.
7th September 2017 (DfT website)
……. [the section about Sir Jeremy Sullivan …]
I appointed the former Senior President of Tribunals, Sir Jeremy Sullivan, to provide independent oversight of the consultation process. I am very grateful to him for his hard work in helping to ensure that the consultation was as open, fair and transparent as possible. Today (7 September 2017) I am publishing his report on the initial consultation, and can announce that he has agreed to oversee the period of further consultation.
Report of the Independent Consultation Adviser to the Secretary of State for Transport: consultation on the draft Airports National Policy Statement
[Sir Jeremy Sullivan says: “I do not use a computer.” That is a weird thing for someone to say, in the current times. Does this imply he is not familiar with how websites work, how information is put out on the internet etc? Is he a fit person to judge this matter, if he is not familiar with the internet? ] AW comment.
[He also says: “This is the first occasion on which I have been able to observe the preparation and progress of a consultation from inside the administration. I had not realised just how much work is involved in the planning and execution of a major consultation.” Does that rather imply he is on unfamiliar ground, and not really properly equipped to assess the adequacy, or otherwise, of a huge consultation? ] AW comment.
On the issue of whether the “purdah” period before the 8th June 2017 election had an effect, Sir Jeremy says:
77. Nevertheless, the fact that an impending General Election was announced just over
5 weeks before the end of the consultation on 25th May, and the announcement was
followed by the pre-election “Purdah” period means that there is unfnished business
(see paragraphs 66-69, above) which will have to be dealt with by the new Government
if it wishes to proceed with the designation of the draft NPS. In this sense, the
consultation has not been completed, and this report sets out the “story so far”.
78. While it will be for the new Government to decide how to proceed, I should make it clear
that if best practice is to be adhered to, it will be necessary to re-open the consultation in
order to deal fairly with the unfnished business; and it will be necessary to re-open the
consultation for a period which is suffciently long both to make up for some loss of time
(particularly for local authorities) during the “Purdah” period, and to enable consultees to
have a fair opportunity to consider the implications of the fnal modifed Air Quality plan
and the fnal passenger demand forecasts. My provisional view is that this period would
need to be not less than 8 weeks, excluding main school holiday periods.
On the issue of the leaflet sent to 1.5 million homes by the DfT being unduly biased towards Heathrow, Sir Jeremy says:
28. I did object to the wording that was initially proposed for the press advertisements, and the wording was altered to my satisfaction. Unfortunately, I did not have the same opportunity to influence the wording of the leaflet: Heathrow Expansion – Have Your Say. The changing consultation launch date, some late difficulties trying to secure appropriate event venues and the tight timescale for printing and distributing 1.5 million copies prior to the start of the local events on 13 February meant that I did not see the final version of the leaflet until the day before it was due to be printed. While I did not raise any objection to the leaflet, it is fair to say that any objection at that stage would have jeopardised the start of the programme for the local events.
51. Turning to criticism (a) in paragraph 48, it is true that the “headline points” in favour of Heathrow in the leaflet are prefaced by the words “Why the Government prefers a new Northwest runway at Heathrow”. In that respect it could be said that, as with the display panels at the local events, the leaflet is merely expressing the Government’s preferred policy. I was told by the Department that the points made in headline form in the leaflet were not new, they were extracted from a document published by the Department after the Secretary of State’s statement on 25th October 2016: Airports: The Government’s View. The Department’s intention was to design the leaflet to communicate the Government’s position in the October 25th statement on its preference for new airport capacity and to provide detail on how to take part in the consultation and get further information. However, in my view the headline points, as presented in the leaflet, did give the impression of a “hard sell” for Heathrow. It would have been much better if a more neutral leaflet had been distributed giving more information about the addresses of the local events.
52. I should have picked this up. I had objected to the wording initially proposed for the press advertisements because I felt that it would be seen as too “pro Heathrow” (see paragraph 28, above). However, I do not believe that the “hard sell” impression given by the leaflet could have had any real impact on the effectiveness of the consultation. Given the lengthy history of the proposal for a Northwest Runway at Heathrow (see paragraphs 1-5, above) it would be difficult for any local resident with the slightest interest in the subject to be unaware of the fact that the Government’s claims in the leaflet are hotly contested by those local authorities and residents’ groups who are opposed to Heathrow. The expansion of Heathrow has been such a contentious issue, for so long, that it is difficult to believe that any consultee would have been lulled into a false sense of security on reading the leaflet. Certainly, those who complained to me about the content of the “Heathrow flyer” were well aware of the counter-arguments.
[That is not the point. The leaflet was aimed at tens of thousands of people who may NOT be well informed. Of course those sufficiently well informed to see the failings of the leaflet complained – on behalf of those who were not already so well informed, and may have hoped the DfT would provide them with the proper information. AW comment]
[This is not acceptable. Sir Jeremy is saying people already know enough about the runway so they hardly need any more information. He is saying ordinary people should already know a lot about the negative impacts of the runway, even though opponents generally have only few paid staff, mainly volunteers working in their own time, and very limited budgets with which to put their points. By contrast, the DfT has all the machinery of government to push the arguments in favour of the runway, and Heathrow has millions of £s at its disposal for its promotional materials, endless advertising, wining and dining those in positions of influence etc. It is NOT satisfactory to assume the negative impacts of the runway are well known to everyone. This should have been part of the purpose of the consultation. Sir Jeremy seems to have failed spectacularly in not realising this massive flaw, and not recognising a huge defect in the DfT consultation.] AW comment
And there is more – generally Sir Jeremy is happy with the consultation, and can see few flaws in it. His assessment does not seem to be particularly well informed, or sufficiently critical, and he just assumes that those opposed to the 3rd runway will complain about the consultation process. Bit of a whitewash job …. AW comment
Full document at
Comment from one local resident affected by Heathrow:
At a first glance the Sullivan report seems to show his 7-month love-in with the DfT. Maybe that’s a bit critical, but that’s certainly the impression I’ve got from it thus far. It appears that Sullivan misunderstands the difference between a Consultation and an Exhibition.
Those, whom he terms objectors, were hoping for the former; the Government gave us the later.