I was trying it on, but clearly you will not be indulgent, Mr. Gale.
Without further ado, I shall proceed to amendment No. 29, which concerns the question of public consultation. We debated the subject of consultation by the Department earlier today, and it is something to which I would like to return in my concluding remarks.
The amendment would require the Secretary of State to carry out a public consultation before making an order to define prescribed expenditure. Three months is the Cabinet Office recommended period for Government consultations. Consultation responses would have to be published and reasons would have to be given by the Secretary of State for his decision. The amendment would ensure that the Secretary of State undertook appropriate consultation before making any orders to prescribe the expenditure of the fund. The argument is much the same as for previous amendments on consultation. Our aim is simply public accountability and I look forward to hearing whether the Minister, who is such a fan of consultation, will accept the amendment.
Before I conclude, I will turn the clock back to something that the Minister said this morning about his Department suffering from consultation fatigue. He asked me to produce the documentation in support of the allegations that I made, and I see that he has it in front of him. I have a précis of that document. It is clear that, during consultation on the compact advocacy programme, there were various rounds, and in each round there seems to have been some dispute between the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Department.
I will not rehearse it all, and nor would you allow me to, Mr. Gale, but it is true that on 5 September the NCVO wrote to the Minister to outline its concerns about the lack of the 12-week consultation period that is normally required under the compact. That, it maintained, created breaches in several areas in the compact code of good practice on consultation and policy appraisal. There were various exchanges. Indeed, the Minister wrote to consultees on 25 July that he was conscious of not allowing the full 12-week period for consultation but did not provide a reason for that action.
The NCVO has made various allegations. It is concerned that the consultation process is contributing to the lottery consultation fatigue that it has identified in this sector and to which the Minister alluded earlier, suggesting that some of his officials were suffering from it. The lack of proper consultation has served to undermine the trust between the NCVO sector, which is the seminal sector, and the Department, at a time when relations should be good and communications should be open. The consultation credibility deficit has had an unfortunate consequence.
I shall not dwell on the matter because the Minister has the document before him.He will doubtless wish to reconsider his remarks as a result, and respond in the normal way at the conclusion of the debate.