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Is policy now decided in Think Tanks rather than by parties and Ministers?

(29 Posts)
PippaZ Tue 10-Aug-21 10:18:01

I don't know the answer to this. It does seem to me that all the big ideas come from somewhere other than the government department. More to the point they are not often in any parties manifesto. If this is the case it's no wonder no one feels responsible for their actions.

I just wondered if this was true, mainly true or only happens now and again.

maddyone Tue 10-Aug-21 10:40:22

I think this has been happening for some years Pippa. Whether or not it’s a good thing, I’m not sure.

Baggs Tue 10-Aug-21 10:56:08

Think tanks are useful. MPs and ministers don't have the time (or the skill in most cases) to do all the research themselves into every new thing that needs researching. Then, ideally, government ministers are informed of the think tanks' findings. Think tanks themselves are not technically able to "decide" policy; that is down to MPs in Parliament.

It would of course take a very wise government not to be much swayed by think tank results not in line with their political ideologies. And there lies the rub.

Baggs Tue 10-Aug-21 10:58:03

Think tanks also publish their findings/ideologies so voters can see them and decide which suggested policies they want to support and thence which way to cast their votes.

PippaZ Tue 10-Aug-21 10:59:52

maddyone

I think this has been happening for some years Pippa. Whether or not it’s a good thing, I’m not sure.

I'm not sure, either maddyone. Think tanks do provide a great deal of information but they all seem to come at what they are studying from a particular direction. That would be okay if the politicians hear the counterargument but I don't think they do.

Namsnanny Tue 10-Aug-21 12:38:40

Isnt Boris heading up a new situation whereby a relevant 'expert's can become a temporary MP without having to have a constituency?
They are given an office and staff until their expertise is no longer needed (estimates of months not years were quoted).
Attached to the relevant department so they can be accountable.
They intend to release findings to the public. Rather than as now just to the House.
This is supposed to make decision making quicker, and more transparent.

Sorry if I havent explained myself well enoughsmile

Whitewavemark2 Tue 10-Aug-21 13:10:44

I can accept their necessity, providing full transparency over who funds them etc.

At present this is certainly not the case, and indeed where they are registered as a charity they need examining by the charities commission where transparency is not the case.

PippaZ Tue 10-Aug-21 13:22:46

Namsnanny

Isnt Boris heading up a new situation whereby a relevant 'expert's can become a temporary MP without having to have a constituency?
They are given an office and staff until their expertise is no longer needed (estimates of months not years were quoted).
Attached to the relevant department so they can be accountable.
They intend to release findings to the public. Rather than as now just to the House.
This is supposed to make decision making quicker, and more transparent.

Sorry if I havent explained myself well enoughsmile

Surely not MPs? I know it wouldn't stop Johnson but it does seem anti-democratic.

growstuff Tue 10-Aug-21 13:37:09

Whitewavemark2

I can accept their necessity, providing full transparency over who funds them etc.

At present this is certainly not the case, and indeed where they are registered as a charity they need examining by the charities commission where transparency is not the case.

I agree with you. Many think tanks do serious research, which MPs or the civil service would not be able to do. I don't include sham research groups such as the European Research Group, which receives government funding and seems to be nothing more than a way for MPs to get a bit more for their pet projects.

What is concerning is that the relationships between think tanks, lobbyists, the media, funding and MPs isn't transparent.

Whitewavemark2 Tue 10-Aug-21 13:38:55

Like £7million for Cameron?

growstuff Tue 10-Aug-21 13:44:36

Greensill wasn't a think tank (unless I've missed something). The issue is the cronyism.

Whitewavemark2 Tue 10-Aug-21 13:47:59

Yes I thought as I posted it “whoops” 😄.

GillT57 Tue 10-Aug-21 13:48:59

Think tanks are a good idea if they are truly independent, their financing is transparent, and no party donors are involved. If it is a group of responsible, relevant experts then they should be listened to, as long as there is no conflict with parliamentary democracy of course.

Namsnanny Tue 10-Aug-21 13:58:39

PippaZ surely not MPs
So I gather.
But I'm prepared to be mistaken, it wont be the first time!
It should be easy to look up, this news is a week or two old now.
In fact I was surprised no one started a thread on it.
I thought in essence, anything that led to transparency was a good move.

PippaZ Tue 10-Aug-21 14:13:07

Anythings possible Namsnanny. Perhaps someone will come along and enlighten us smile I did try looking it up but couldn't find anything although this thread came up. Were famous!

PippaZ Tue 10-Aug-21 14:16:57

Were famous! Honestly !!! We're famous.

PippaZ Tue 10-Aug-21 14:17:21

Tue 10-Aug-21 13:48:59

I agree GillT57 but it must, as you say, be transparent and, I would say, at arms length.

MaizieD Tue 10-Aug-21 20:52:31

I think the idea of an 'expert' in the scenario posted by Namsnanny is positively bizarre. Experts are already consulted in the drafting of legislation, but to be involved in policy making seems very odd.

I believe that think tanks are probably pretty influential already, which is fine if they do it by research and reports, but I think that there is probably a degree of closeness with some think tanks which is unhealthy. The Tufton Street ones for a start...

growstuff Tue 10-Aug-21 22:51:42

This is a list of UK think tanks:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_think_tanks_in_the_United_Kingdom

They're not all shadowy and malevolent organisations.

I've just picked out three - Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Sutton Trust and UK in a Changing Europe - which I know do serious, well-researched work. They produce analysis which no parliamentary or civil service group would. Sometimes they're worth comparing with the "official" reports to give a better, more multi-dimensional picture.

I don't think there's anything wrong with them. The government should take notice of the major reports and be aware that its own policies might exacerbate any problems which are highlighted.

However, as already stated, the think tanks themselves should be transparent about their funding and agendas and be honest about their links to MPs.

Namsnanny Wed 11-Aug-21 10:06:59

MaizieD

I think the idea of an 'expert' in the scenario posted by Namsnanny is positively bizarre. Experts are already consulted in the drafting of legislation, but to be involved in policy making seems very odd.

I believe that think tanks are probably pretty influential already, which is fine if they do it by research and reports, but I think that there is probably a degree of closeness with some think tanks which is unhealthy. The Tufton Street ones for a start...

It would help if I could find the info for you to read for yourself!

MaizieD Wed 11-Aug-21 10:11:13

Namsnanny

MaizieD

I think the idea of an 'expert' in the scenario posted by Namsnanny is positively bizarre. Experts are already consulted in the drafting of legislation, but to be involved in policy making seems very odd.

I believe that think tanks are probably pretty influential already, which is fine if they do it by research and reports, but I think that there is probably a degree of closeness with some think tanks which is unhealthy. The Tufton Street ones for a start...

It would help if I could find the info for you to read for yourself!

Don't worry. It's probably just one of Johnson's stupid wheezes that will die a quiet death.

If it's taken up there will then be lots about it in the media.

PippaZ Wed 11-Aug-21 10:13:31

MaizieD

I think the idea of an 'expert' in the scenario posted by Namsnanny is positively bizarre. Experts are already consulted in the drafting of legislation, but to be involved in policy making seems very odd.

I believe that think tanks are probably pretty influential already, which is fine if they do it by research and reports, but I think that there is probably a degree of closeness with some think tanks which is unhealthy. The Tufton Street ones for a start...

But the existing "experts" are civil servants who work for the state Maizie. I wonder it the new experts are expected to work to the parties aims. If so I would like to know who is paying them.

growstuff Wed 11-Aug-21 10:20:45

What about think tanks like the Joseph Rowntree Foundation? As I expect you know, they produce reports on child poverty, which frequently contradict the "official" government line.

MaizieD Wed 11-Aug-21 10:21:25

But the existing "experts" are civil servants who work for the state Maizie. I wonder it the new experts are expected to work to the parties aims. If so I would like to know who is paying them.

Well, no, they're not, Pippa. Independent experts are brought in to advise. I know, because I know several independent experts who have advised on the development of a small area of education. As far as I am aware, none of these experts were paid.

Before legislation is proposed, i..e a Bill is drawn up, it is usual for the civil service to consult independent experts 'in the field'. Civil servants are generalists, not specialists (I think that was one of Cummings' complaints, lack of CS expertise)

growstuff Wed 11-Aug-21 10:22:23

If a government were to commit itself to reducing child poverty (fat chance), I'd certainly want to consult/involve people who have spent decades working on the issues.