The shock of the new – how Government Copes with Innovation
By Jill Rutter
21 October 2013 on The Institute for Government Blog
It is very unusual to read a leader in the Daily Telegraph lauding MEPs for stopping a policy endorsed by the UK government. Yet this is what that newspaper did recently, hailing the revolt by Conservative and Lib Dem MEPs which threw a spanner in the works of an attempt by the Council and Commission to regulate e-cigarettes as medicines.
This sounds a pretty obscure subject. And on the face of it, the government’s policy sounds harmless enough. After all cigarettes are very bad for you – and having let the smoking genie out of the bag, surely governments are right to be cautious about something that sounds very like them.
But this is where the story gets interesting.
There is now a new public health minister and this will be near the top of her in-tray. But government not only needs to take the chance to have another look at its stance towards e-cigarettes – but to look at how it copes with innovations.Open policy making could be the key:
• Being open about how to frame an issue – rather than box it from the start in a way that almost predetermines the outcome
• Involving innovators and not just incumbents
• Consulting self-identified potential beneficiaries – as well as self-appointed ‘experts’
• Giving as much weight to potential dynamic benefits as to possibly hypothetical risks.
The alternative is to stick not just with closed but ‘closed mind’ policy making