Unfortunately, it is difficult to ascertain from the question what is really being asked. However, consultation takes place every year on a wide range of issues, some affecting all the people of Northern Ireland and others relating to the needs of particular geographic areas, which is what I take the Member to mean by her reference to specific constituency matters.
As the Member implies, it is important that the method and scale of consultation is appropriate to the issue. A variety of methods have been increasingly used to maximise the participation of stakeholders in the consultation process. There is also an increasing emphasis on ongoing active engagement between Government and citizens in the development of policy from the earliest stages and a move away from relying exclusively on set-piece formal consultations. Consultation can therefore range from the traditional method of publishing a consultation document to, for example, roadshows, the facilitation of focus groups and of course direct engagement with local community interests.
To stimulate interest and awareness, consultation documents and details of formal consultation events will also be published through local media as well as online at Northern Ireland Direct and departmental websites.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I thank the First Minister for his answer. I have a situation in Portrush where we have a cross-departmental programme on an initiative. I have had a lot of representations from constituents who are concerned about the lack of consultation with them. I want to know what influence, if any, the First Minister and his deputy have in respect of influencing Departments to actually seek the views of the people who matter.
I do not know the particular case that the Member referred to. If she would like to write to me or even to bring a delegation to see the deputy First Minister and me, we are both always willing to meet people and hear their views on issues that affect our Department. If it is cross-departmental, it may involve another Minister. If the Member wants to speak to me afterwards, I am happy to see if we can assist her in making sure that people's views are heard. The deputy First Minister and I are always willing, when possible, to take those on board.