Criticism that Government’s Heathrow leaflet was “mere propaganda” justified, says judge

The comms team at the DfT has been criticised over a promotional leaflet extolling the virtues of a 3rd runway at Heathrow, which has been branded as a “hard sell”. The retired judge, Sir Jeremy Sullivan, asked to assess and oversee the quality of the DfT consultation said criticisms of propaganda in the DfT’s NPS Heathrow consultation leaflet were justified, but the consultation was otherwise well run.  Sir Jeremy was critical of the mass-produced leaflet, which went to about 1.5 million homes. There was inadequate information in the leaflet about consultation events, and it was unduly biased in favour of the runway.  He said that it “fell short” of best practice and criticisms that it was “mere propaganda” on behalf of Heathrow were justified. “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.” The DfT said they were analysing over 70,000 responses, which “will be fully considered” before the NPS is presented to Parliament for a vote next year.
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Criticism that Government’s Heathrow leaflet was “mere propaganda” justified, says judge

September 20, 2017
by Jonathan Owen (PR Week)

The comms team at the Department for Transport has been rapped over a promotional leaflet extolling the virtues of a third runway at Heathrow Airport, which has been branded as a “hard sell”.

Criticisms of propaganda in the Government’s Heathrow consultation leaflet were justified, said Sir Jeremy, but the consultation was otherwise well run

The damning criticism was made by retired appeal court judge Sir Jeremy Sullivan, who transport secretary Chris Grayling appointed to provide independent oversight of the Government’s consultation earlier this year on its controversial plans to expand Heathrow.

In his report on the way in which the consultation was handled, Sir Jeremy took the DfT to task over a mass-produced promotional leaflet it used.

Around 1.5 million leaflets were printed, but they failed to include the addresses and times of a series of public meetings held during the consultation, which took place between February and May this year.

Furthermore, the “Heathrow Expansion – Have Your Say” leaflet was biased in favour of the Government’s position on Heathrow, according to the former Lord Justice of Appeal.

He said that it “fell short” of best practice and criticisms that it was “mere propaganda” on behalf of Heathrow” were justified.

In his interim report on the consultation, released earlier this month, the former judge stated: “The headline points, as presented in the leaflet, did give the impression of a ‘hard sell’ for Heathrow.”

Sir Jeremy added: “It would have been much better if a more neutral leaflet had been distributed, giving more information about the addresses of the local events.”

However, he praised the “careful thought and preparation” that went into plans “for raising awareness of the consultation, both locally and nationally”.

The publicity campaign for the consultation incorporated both local and regional events, as well as advertising in local newspapers, online, and on local and national radio.

While the “numerous criticisms of the content of the leaflet were justified,” Sir Jeremy concluded that the consultation was “well planned and, with one exception well executed”.

Responding to the criticisms, a DfT spokesperson told PRWeek: “The Government has clearly stated that it prefers the northwest runway scheme at Heathrow, and the information included in the leaflet is consistent with material produced since this was announced in October 2016.”

They added: “We have also been clear that we want to hear everyone’s views and Sir Jeremy Sullivan found the consultation was generally fair, open and transparent. We are analysing more than 70,000 responses, and these will be fully considered before the NPS [National Policy Statement] is presented to Parliament for a vote next year.”

https://www.prweek.com/article/1444924/criticism-governments-heathrow-leaflet-mere-propaganda-justified-says-judge

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See earlier:

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.”    

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2017/09/chris-grayling-publishes-sir-jeremy-sullivans-nps-bland-consultation-review-report/

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Inadequate and unsatisfactory replies from Sir Jeremy Sullivan to complaints about the NPS consultation process

Many people have taken part in the DfT’s consultation on the draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS). The NPS is to provide the policy to support a 3rd Heathrow runway. The DfT appointed Sir Jeremy Sullivan, a retired judge, to oversee the consultation and ensure it was carried out adequately. However, it appears Sir Jeremy is only looking at process, and not at content.  Responses by Sir Jeremy to letters to him, complaining about the consultation, have received some unsatisfactory responses – and some of these are copied below. Sir Jeremy is unconcerned that the material in the exhibitions by the DfT was biased, and gave only partial information. His view is that as the government is in favour of the runway, it would be expected that the material would reflect this. To all those who complained to him, he merely advises that all comments and points should be sent to the DfT in consultation responses. In response to many people who complained about the absence of flight path detail, he comments that “In my view it is still possible to have a fair consultation upon the basis of indicative flight paths, provided it is made clear that they are only indicative.” And on selective quotes from backers of Heathrow (no balance with other comments) he says: “In my view using quotes from business leaders and others which are in support of this position is in keeping with the purpose of the [DfT consultation] events.”  

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2017/05/jeremy-sullivan-inadequate-replies/

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Sir Jeremy Sullivan, given task of overseeing NPS consultation, rejected ban on Heathrow night flights in 2008

The DfT has set up a retired High Court judge to oversee the process of the consultation into the draft Airports National Policy Statement. His brief is to look at the process, and he is not interested in the content of the consultation. Sir Jeremy is reputed to have been a good and popular judge. However it is interesting that he presided over an appeal for a reduction in the number of night flights at Heathrow, in 2008. Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils had taken the DfT to a judicial review at the Royal Courts of Justice, to seek a reduction in the number of aircraft allowed to arrive at Heathrow before 6am. But Sir Jeremy Sullivan ruled in favour of the Government, rejecting the review on all grounds. Mr Sullivan said that while the Government had a policy of bearing down on night noise this did not necessarily mean that it had to make things better. He added that the policy was, therefore, “vacuous.” The councils argued half the planes in this early morning period had been placed in the wrong noise category and if they had been correctly classified they would not have been able to fly. The judge agreed with the DfT that the government did not have to take specific action on the Heathrow problem, as the night flights scheme pooled noise data over the 3 London airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

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