» Thursday, October 19, 2006


Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said this morning the Prime Minister had presented at Cabinet details of the policy review programme. The Cabinet had enthusiastically endorsed plans to take forward a formal Whitehall process, which would see every aspect of Government policy come under scrutiny. The programme called "Pathways to the Future" sought to assess the long-term strategic priorities of the UK alongside the Government’s existing policy framework. Through this process a series of questions would be asked and answered, which would point the Government and the country in the right direction as it prepared for the future.

The Cabinet Office would coordinate six working groups, which would take the process forward. They would cover the following areas: economic dynamism; environment and energy; public services; security, crime and justice; the role of the state; and Britain and the world. Each working group would have a range of Ministers, including those with direct department responsibility, as well as those who have outside expertise to offer.

The Prime Minister’s presentation had highlighted some of the Governments key achievements in improving health care, supporting education and reducing crime. The Prime Minister went on to raise a series of key long-term trends, which we needed to take into account. The Cabinet agreed that the working groups would need to look beyond Westminster to agree the right solutions for the country. This would involve engaging members of the public, businesses, voluntary sector, other Government agencies and experts from the policy making community. This process would conclude in the spring, when the Government would publish a series of strategy documents and cabinet ministers would make speeches that set out the basis for their decisions. This would then flow into a range of formal pieces of Government business ranging from the setting of PSAs, the Budget, the CSR, and long term departmental plans.

The Prime Minister said this would be very much an open and conclusive policy process. He had stressed the importance of everyone working together. It was a chance to step back from the day to day and develop a thorough understanding of the challenges of the future. It was about setting out strong directions for the future in a world where the global challenges were speeding up the pace of change all of the time. The announcement of the policy review process had been welcomed from all side of the Cabinet table. The Chancellor had stressed how important he believed this process was and that it would help both the Government and the country address the unprecedented challenges facing the world in the coming years. The Deputy Prime Minister had described it as an exciting project. John Reid had stressed its importance for Government renewal. Patricia Hewitt had said it would strengthen the public’s faith in their democracy.

Asked whether the Prime Minister would be announcing the publication in the spring, the PMOS said that the precise form of the publication would be decided nearer the time. The important point was to get the process underway now. Asked whether the Prime Minister would be there to deliver it, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister would chair the overall process. In terms of the membership of the committees we would make that clear soon. Asked if any Cabinet members would chair committees, the PMOS said the precise nature of the committees would be published next week. Asked if the overall process would cover CSR, the PMOS said that the CSR fitted into this process and as such it would help form the CSR.

Asked whether this moved beyond the departmental ten year plans, the PMOS said people had to recognise, and this had been the theme of the contributions from the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, the Home Secretary, the Deputy Prime Minister and others, the pace of change was picking up all the time. As the Prime Minister had said in his conference speech, the issues we now faced were global. That was impacting on domestic policy as well as foreign policy. Therefore what we had to constantly revaluate were the challenges that faced the country, and how we met those challenges. This meant addressing the need to improve skills in our work force or the environmental challenges. This meant how we influenced and debated not just climate change but ensured energy security for ourselves. These were all issues that were constantly changing. Therefore we needed to constantly revaluate how we faced those challenges.

Asked whether this added on two extra headings to the four that the Prime Minister had announced previously, the PMOS said there had been further development of the thinking on the process. These were the subject areas that the committees would be looking at. Asked what was different between this process and the Conservative parties, the PMOS said that he would not comment on the Conservative Party. However, this process was designed to do what the Prime Minister had said, which was to give the Government a thorough understanding of the challenges of the future and to analyse in detail what that meant in terms of each of these headings. Journalists would see as this unfolded the details of what that process was.

Asked what the Prime Minister’s role in the process would be whilst he remained in his position, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had made clear that he wanted to use his remaining time as Prime Minister to help the country face up to the challenges around. Some of them where present day challenges and some of them were future challenges. The important point was that we were clear in our thinking about what challenges lay down the road. That was not something you should sit down and wait to begin. The process of doing it began now.

Asked whether the Prime Minister had discussed this with the Chancellor before Cabinet, the PMOS said that the whole point of this process was, as the Prime Minister had said, that it was open and conclusive. It should be based on cooperative working and the preparation of the announcement had been in that spirit. Asked repeatedly whether these announcements would come before the Budget, the PMOS said this process would start now. It would start very quickly, and there would be developing thoughts that would emerge as this went on. That in turn would feed into PSAs, the Budget and the CSR. Asked how they would be published, the PMOS said how they would be presented would be a matter to decided near the time when they were finished rather than now.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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