In his December statement to the House of Commons, Philip Hammond said the HS2 consultation would be “one of the biggest and most wide-ranging ever undertaken by Government”.
Having set such an ambitious goal for the consultation, one would hope that the Government was interested in finding out what people really wanted from their proposed high speed rail network. Indeed, the consultation summary document says
“the Government is interested in whether or not you agree with its proposals and why, as well as in any additional evidence that you feel it should consider in reaching its final decisions.”
However, the format of the questions the Department for Transport have chosen to use are an unusual choice if expanded answers are the Government’s goal.
Six of the seven questions start “Do you agree…”
This closed-question format is often used in situations where the questioner has decided the answer they want you to give. It’s frequently used by telephone sales reps, as if you answer ‘yes’ to the first few questions, you are more likely to agree to buy whatever it is they are selling.
If you are dealing with a telephone sales rep, it is often recommended that you answer ‘no’, ‘maybe’ or ‘don’t know’ to some of their questions.
Of course, nobody would suggest that the Government is made up of sales reps.
The consultation documents ask you to expand on your answers: starting tomorrow, and over the consultation period, we will be suggesting different things you may wish to consider when you answer the questions.
PS The Local Action Groups, Agahst and HS2 Action Alliance, as well as Stop HS2, are all looking closely at the consultation material. A number of FOI requests are being made, and these groups will have more advice later.