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Developing Democracy Through Citizens’ Policy Forums

Titus Alexander
Convener, Democracy Matters

A Parliament for Health could develop a model for “Citizens’ Policy Forums” to improve democratic government by strengthening public participation and connecting civil society with the political process in new ways, using interactive meetings, the internet and imaginative forms of active participation, round the issues people care about. They would be a form of practical political education, through which people learn how to contribute their experience and expertise about health to the policy-making process.

Regular, statutory Citizens’ Policy Forums could replace ad hoc consultative bodies, strategic partnerships and advisory groups in Whitehall with a more open, accountable and interactive means of involving civil society in politics between elections. They would draw a much wider range of people into the Parliamentary process, contributing to the scrutiny of legislation and Government from the perspective of broad policy areas, rather than a party political perspective. Members of Policy Forums would be obvious candidates for an elected Senate. As a new kind of parliamentary chamber, Forums would also create new routes into Parliament and widen the pool of potential members of Government while strengthening the primacy of the Commons.

Instead of being the last western country to have an elected second chamber, Britain could be the first to create a new kind of parliamentary process which enables citizens to take a more active part in politics between elections through the internet, participatory community meetings and the democratic associations of civil society.

Civil society organisations should take the initiative and create a Health Policy Forums to scrutinise and challenge Government, because the cost of not taking into account the breadth of experience and interests in health is too high.

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