Maude: publish more evidence

Government’s “default setting” should be to “publish the evidence and the data on which policy is based,” according to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude – but departments should not be “limited” to introducing policies with a strong evidence base.

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By Suzannah.Brecknell

14 Oct 2013

Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference last week, Maude argued that creating an expectation that evidence should be published will help ensure that policies are evidence-based: “Too often, policy gets made on the basis of assertion and assumption rather than evidence. I’d like to see us moving to a position where the default setting is that we publish the evidence and the data on which policy is based. That would induce a greater degree of rigour in policymaking.”
However, he said that sometimes there will not be evidence to back up a policy – for example, where government is leading the way with a new model of service delivery. In these cases, he said, government must be “confident enough to say: ‘We think this is right for these reasons’, and base the policy on argument.”
As an example of a policy which had no evidence base, he cited the privatisations of the 1980s. “There wouldn’t have been a huge body of evidence because we were the first people to do it,” he said. “If we’d waited for the evidence, we’d still be waiting and so would most of the world, which followed our lead. By doing it we provided the evidence.”
Maude also criticised the “bias to inertia” within the civil service, which means that “proposals to change things get subject to enormous, nit-picking examination and scrutiny.”


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