In an article for yesterday's Sunday Times, Anthony Browne, Boris Johnson's chief policy adviser, called for the government to set up and fund a new body to evaluate the success of policy innovations:
"We do too many projects, with too few that are evidence-based. We should do more of what we know works and less of what we are guessing works. Even those projects that are evidence-based often aren’t implemented effectively and if they are implemented effectively it is usually locally rather than nationally. To guide our thinking we should set up a national institute of policy evaluation, answerable to parliament, which would analyse the cost and benefits of each policy and guide government on where to spend its money to have the desired outcome."
He cites the Washington State Institute for Public Policy as a possible model.
The idea of a impartial expert class is deceptively attractive but the recent differences over drugs policy between Professor David Nutt and the Home Secretary illustrate the political dangers of trusting experts.
Tory MP Douglas Carswell blogs as to why he opposes the idea:
"Anthony makes the mistake that many very intelligent people make when contemplating public policy; if only expert policy-makers used evidence-based research to ascertain what works, we'd have good public policy. The trouble is, who decides "what works"? Who determines what evidence to apply to the evidence base? Why would experts be any better at deciding public policy than they were once supposed to be at running the economy? …Over the past generation – and under both parties – a vast alphabet sea of national bodies have sprung up, overseeing public policy on the basis of what they tell us is the evidence; the “evidence-based” NICE, MPC, PCTs, both FSAs, the CSA, EA, HA et al. It is they that are responsible for so much of the waste and public policy failure that Anthony rightly recognises."
Douglas Carswell says the people who need to do the evaulation of public policy are the MPs.