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Political Studies (1998), XLVI, 727747

Arenas without Rules and the Policy Change


Process: Outsider Groups and British
Roads Policy
GEOFFREY DUDLEY AND JEREMY RICHARDSON1
University of Staordshire and University of Essex
A key task of governments is to construct and manage systems of consultation
whereby the vast array of interest groups seeking to inuence public policy can be
accommodated. Conventional wisdom holds that key insider groups secure for
themselves special privileges, not least of which is an ability to prevent radical policy
change. A concomitant view is that public policy emerges from relatively stable
networks of actors who have some mutual resource dependencies. One reason why
this paradigm is showing signs of intellectual fatigue is that it seems weak in
explaining policy change. Yet, policy change does take place. Indeed, it is one of the
characteristics of the 1980s and 1990s. This article examines an example of the traditional modalities of consultation failing to accommodate new interests, knowledge
and ideas. This breakdown appears to have occurred by the use of alternative policy
`arenas without rules' by outsider groups, leading to a radical new `framing' of
transport policy. Moreover, government has failed to constrain the new policy issues
in predictable and stable systems of consultation.

One of the central tasks of modern governments is the management of consultation with the wide range and large numbers of interest groups seeking to
inuence the formation and implementation of public policy. In the British
case, the established traditions of consultation have been well documented.2
Conventional wisdom holds that the grip of established insider groups on key
policy sectors has been strong, and that this in part explains the diculties
which governments encounter in bringing about radical policy change. A
concomitant of this view is that certain types of groups tend to be excluded from
key policy decisions, being regarded as outsiders on the classication rst
suggested by Grant.3 A related paradigm suggests that policy emerges from
1 This article forms part of a research project on Policy Communities and Policy Networks Over
Time: British Transport Policy 194595, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council
(Reference Number: R00023482801). The authors would like to thank civil servants, ministers, and
group ocials who agreed to be interviewed, and the Editor and two anonymous referees for their
valuable comments on earlier drafts.
2 E.g. A. G. Jordan and J. J. Richardson, `The British Policy Style or the Logic of Negotiation?'
in J. J. Richardson (ed.), Policy Styles in Western Europe (London, Allen and Unwin, 1982), pp. 80
110, W. Grant, Pressure Group Politics and Democracy in Britain (Hemel Hempstead, Philip Allan,
1989); and J. J. Richardson, `Interest Group Behaviour in Britain: Continuity and Change' in
J. J. Richardson (ed.), Pressure Groups (Oxford, University Press, 1993), pp. 8699.
3
W. Grant, `Insider Groups, Outsider Groups and Interest Group Strategies in Britain',
University of Warwick, Department of Politics, Working Paper No. 19, (1978).

# Political Studies Association 1998. Published by Blackwell Publishers, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK and 350 Main
Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.

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Outsider Groups and British Roads Policy

relatively stable networks of policy actors who have some mutual resource
dependencies.4 Yet, as Smith suggests, the aw in the paradigm is that network
analysis tends to be a static model.5 Thus, one reason that network analysis is
showing some intellectual fatigue is that it seems weak in explaining how policy
change comes about.6 Yet, policy change does take place. Indeed, the 1980s and
1990s have seen pretty well all Western democracies going through a continuous
process of radical policy change. No doubt there are many causes of this change
process, but even policy areas such as agriculture and roads policy hitherto
thought to be in some kind of corporatist grip have shown signs of loosening
up, with shifts in the distribution of power, and at least the potential for major
policy change.7
Our case study is essentially a story of the failure of the traditional modalities
of consultation to accommodate the increased diversity of interests claiming
some `stakeholder status'8 in the transport sector. These interests found that
existing processes did not enable them to raise, eectively, new issues which
challenged the then policy core beliefs of the hegemonic policy community. The
institutional site for structuring the process of consultation (in this case Highway
Inquiries) worked only when the participants did not abuse the unwritten rules
of the game and accepted the dominant `framing' of the transport problem.
Once new knowledge and ideas began to suggest the possibilities of alternative
`frames', new interests began to exploit the Highway Inquiries as an `arena without rules', just as Parnell and the Irish had exploited the (then) lax rules of the
House of Commons in the cause of Irish independence in the nineteenth
century. In both cases, the new interests exploited an existing institutional site
which was designed with `gentlemen' in mind.
Policy determining major road construction in Britain was perhaps a classic
case of an insider group securing for itself enormous inuence over public
policy. For example, Finer's now classic study of the `roads-lobby'9 demonstrated just how eective those interests likely to gain from a major trunk road
building programme had become. However, the policy area some forty years
later looks quite dierent. At least four major changes seem to have taken place.
First, the public and elite discourse has changed, from a perception of road
building as a solution, to road building as a problem. Secondly, the range of
interest groups claiming some kind of stakeholder status has expanded considerably. Thirdly, the market for policy ideas and the knowledge base of the
policy area have been widened greatly. Fourthly, there are signs that policy itself
may be undergoing some fundamental changes partly as a result of these new
4
R. A. W. Rhodes and D. Marsh, `Policy Networks in British Politics. A Critique of Existing
Approaches' in D. Marsh and R. A. W. Rhodes (eds), Policy Networks in British Government
(Oxford, Clarendon, 1992), pp. 1213.
5
M. J. Smith, Pressure. Power and Policy (Hemel Hempstead, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993),
p. 72.
6
K. Dowding, `Model or metaphor? A critical review of the policy network approach', Political
Studies, 43 (1995), 13658.
7 See Smith, Pressure, Power and Policy and G. F. Dudley and J. J. Richardson, `Why does policy
change over time? Adversarial policy communities, alternative policy arenas, and British trunk
roads policy 19451995', Journal of European Public Policy, 3 (1996), 6383.
8
See J. J. Richardson, `Policy-Making in the EU: Interests, Ideas and Garbage Cans of Primeval
Soup' in J. Richardson (ed.), European Union Power and Policy-Making (London, Routledge, 1996),
pp. 2332.
9 S. E. Finer, `Transport interests and the road lobby', Political Quarterly, (1958), 4758.

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factors. The purpose of this article is to focus on the relationship between institutions and ideas as a `spark' for policy change over time.
The main thrust of our argument is that an analysis of the exploitation of a
particular institutional structure in this case formal Public Inquiries into
trunk road schemes (so-called Highway Inquiries) by anti-road protesters,
illustrates the conditions under which an institutional arena can function as an
eective site for agents seeking policy change. One of the key conditions, we
suggest, was that Highway Inquiries were essentially arenas without rules which
allowed interests not part of the inner core, or policy community,10 to introduce
new knowledge and ideas into the policy process and to challenge existing
policy. Moreover, when this arena ceased to be seen as an eective site for policy
change, these same interests were able to move to dierent `arenas without rules',
enabling them to further undermine the hegemony of the old `roads lobby'. The
history of the use by these outsider groups of `arenas without rules' also
illustrates the more general problem which modern governments face, as politics
increasingly becomes a multi-level, multi-arena game. Just as Heclo was correct
to jolt our perceptions of iron triangles and policy communities as the dominant
procedural norms of modern policy making, when he suggested that policy
making was much messier than those neat `models' suggested,11 so we need to
take account of the fact that this multiplicity of actors uses a multiplicity of
arenas or venues to use a term suggested by Baumgartner and Jones.12 We also
need to take account of the fact that the extended participation in the policy
process and the use of multiple arenas almost inevitably expands the market for
ideas, making it rather more dicult for the old hegemonic and corporate
relationships to survive.
Before discussing our case study and its broader implications, we turn to a
discussion of the general question of how ideas and institutions might interact in
order to bring about major shifts in the direction of policy. We describe these
major shifts as changes in the `policy ow'. Drawing upon Kingdon's revealing
interview with a Washington ocial, to the eect that public policies were not
like rivers one could not identify the specic source of the policy as one could
for a river13 we suggest that, nevertheless, as with rivers, the general direction
of policy can shift over time, in quite major ways. Without even the participants
realising it, policy can end up moving in a quite dierent direction. One of the
conditions for this change of direction to take place is that policy-makers are
made to confront new ideas and new knowledge (as well as new interests) and,
thereby, policy problems come to be `framed'14 dierently. This, in turn, opens
up new possibilities in terms of policy solutions.

10
J. J. Richardson and A. G. Jordan, Governing under Pressure (Oxford, Martin Robertson,
1979).
11
H. Heclo, `Issue Networks and the Executive Establishment' in A. King, (ed.), The New
American Political System (Washington DC, American Enterprise Institute, 1978), pp. 87124.
12 F. R. Baumgartner and B. D. Jones, Agendas and Instability in American Politics (Chicago
University Press, 1993).
13 J. W. Kingdon, Agendas. Alternatives and Public Policies, 2nd ed. (New York, HarperCollins,
1995), p. 73.
14
M. Rein and D. A. Schon, `Frame-Reective Policy Discourse' in P. Wagner, C. H. Weiss,
B. Wittrock and H. Wollman (eds), Social Sciences Modern States, National Experiences and
Theoretical Crossroads (Cambridge, University Press, 1991), pp. 26289.

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Outsider Groups and British Roads Policy


Ideas, Institutions and Changing the Policy Flow

Kingdon suggests that we miss a great deal if we see public policy solely in terms
of such concepts as power, inuence, pressure and strategy. The contents of the
ideas themselves, far from being mere smokescreens or rationalizations, are
integral parts of decision making in and around government hence the notion
of an idea whose time has come.15 Similarly, institutions are important.16 In our
case, a particular institutional site (Highway Inquiries) was structured by few
rules and this helped to facilitate the key process by which new ideas enter the
political discourse.
The process by which new ideas are transmitted is, as Hall suggests, dicult
to model. He sees change as coming about through a process of social learning
in which (quoting Heclo) `powering' and `puzzling' often go hand in hand.17 In
discussing the importance to the policy process of the transmission of ideas, he
notes that the terms of political discourse privilege some lines of policy over
others, and that the struggle for leverage with which to alter the terms of
political discourse is a perennial feature of politics. In a key passage, he
concludes that:
Organised interests, political parties and policy events do not simply `exert
power'; they acquire power in part by trying to inuence the political
discourse of their day. To the degree they are able to do so, they may have a
major impact on policy without necessarily acquiring the formal trappings
of inuence. The resultant ow of ideas is an important dimension of the
process in which policy is made.18

The transmission of ideas, therefore, is not simply an attempt to push a


particular item to the top of the political agenda. Those who transmit the ideas
are seeking to alter the whole terms of the policy debate. Thus, Rein and
Schon use the term `policy discourse' to refer to the interactions of individuals,
interest groups, social movements, and institutions through which problematic
situations are converted to policy problems, agendas are set, decisions are
made, and actions are taken.19 From this `policy discourse', they use the
concept of `framing' to describe a way of selecting, organizing, interpreting,
and making sense of a complex reality so as to provide guideposts for knowing, analysing, persuading and acting. Consequently, a frame consists of the
`underlying structures of belief, perception, and appreciation' on which policy
positions rest. Policy disputes arise when the contending parties hold conicting frames.20 In terms of our case study, as we shall see, the concept of framing
is especially useful. The history of British trunk roads policy is a story of rival
interests competing to dominate the framing process and of one set of interests
15

Kingdon, Agendas. Alternatives and Public Policies, p. 125.


As Weaver and Rockman argue, specic institutional arrangements are insucient to
guarantee a high or low level of a specic capability, but they may exacerbate failures of government
or help to make society more manageable. R. K. Weaver and B. A. Rockman, Do Institutions
Matter? (Washington DC, The Brookings Institution, 1993), p. 446.
17 P. A. Hall, `Policy paradigms, social learning and the state: the case of economic policy-making
in Britain', Comparative Politics, 25 (1993), 2889.
18
Hall, `Policy paradigms, social learning and the state', p. 290.
19
Rein and Schon, `Frame-Reective Policy Discourse', p. 263.
20
D. A. Schon and M. Rein, Frame Reection. Toward the Resolution of Intractable Policy
Controversies (New York, Basic, 1994), p. 22.
16

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which had generally been excluded from traditional forms of consultation


the anti-roads lobby using a particular arena (the Highway Inquiry) to
challenge existing policy frames, as a means of securing policy change.
There is a methodological diculty, however, in assessing change, just as
there is in assessing power. When is change `radical' or `major' and what indicators can be used? Moreover, at what point does apparently incremental and
successive change end up as a major shift in what we term the `policy ow'? In
the context of an issue acquiring a new policy `frame', Hall provides a useful
taxonomy of three orders of change. First and second order changes can be
regarded as cases of `normal policy making', such as budgetary changes from
year to year (rst order) and new systems for controlling public expenditure
(second order). On the other hand, third order change reects a process marked
by the radical changes in the overarching terms of policy discourse associated
with a `paradigm shift'.21 It is important to note, however, that a paradigmatic
shift at the centre in terms of ideas and values may not be immediately expressed
in terms of policy outcomes government may have ongoing commitments
which cannot easily be jettisoned; there may be a time lag while a consultative
process takes place; or a degree of inertia may be present in the policy process as
the implication of the new ideas (and new knowledge) is absorbed by policy
makers and as the broader climate of opinion (for example amongst voters)
`catches up'. Thus, as Sabatier suggests, what he terms the `policy core' beliefs
which represent an advocacy coalition's basic normative commitments will be
slow to change.22
However, as March and Olsen propose political structures are also important.
They create and sustain islands of imperfect and temporary organization in
potentially inchoate political worlds.23 One feature of these political structures
is, of course, the existence of rules which constrain behaviour and secure a
degree of predictability. In practice, March and Olsen dene rules as
the routines, procedures, conventions, roles, strategies, organisational forms
and technologies around which political activity is constructed. We also
mean the beliefs, paradigms, codes, cultures and knowledge that surround,
support, elaborate and contradict those rules and routines.24

In our study, we turn this description on its head, as it were. If `arenas with
rules' can provide stability, then equally it could be said that `arenas without
rules' can sometimes provide instability. If an arena lacks formalized procedures, conventions and cultures, then it is open for shrewd actors to exploit
this situation and adapt the arena to their own objectives by transmitting new
ideas to other arenas and actors. In the 1970s, the Highway Inquiry was a
particularly eective instrument for this purpose. The relative lack of procedural
rules allowed environmental activists to manipulate proceedings in order not
only to disrupt the policy implementation process, but also to attempt to
21

Hall, `Policy paradigms, social learning and the state', p. 279.


P. A. Sabatier, `Policy Change Over a Decade or More' in P. A. Sabatier and H. C. JenkinsSmith (eds), Policy Change and Learning: an Advocacy Coalition Approach (Boulder CO, Westview,
1993), pp. 334.
23
J. G. March and J. P. Olsen, Rediscovering Institutions. The Organisational Basics of Politics
(New York, Free, 1989), p. 16.
24 March and Olsen, Rediscovering Institutions, p. 22.
22

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Outsider Groups and British Roads Policy

transmit their own ideas and values to policy makers, to other policy actors,
and, perhaps more importantly, via the mass media to the general public.
The Use of Highway Inquiries as `Arenas without Rules'
A paradox of characterizing Highway Inquiries as `arenas without rules' is that
they have the image of a court of law, with evidence submitted by counsel for
both sides, and witnesses cross-examined, before an impartial judge. In reality,
however, the ultimate judge of any road scheme is the Department which
proposed it. The Minister's powers and duties were set out in the 1959 Highways
Act, which consolidated a considerable amount of earlier legislation. A detailed
examination of the statutory framework for trunk roads lies beyond the scope of
this study, but the fundamentals of the process have remained relatively
unaltered. After the Minister is satised that a strong case exists for an improvement to an existing road, or for the construction of a new road, design work
begins on the basis of the known trac data, a provisional estimate of cost and
an outline of possible solutions. Once practicable routes have been identied, a
process of consultation takes place. Those consulted include not only statutory
bodies such as local authorities, but also national interest groups such as the
National Farmers' Union, the Country Landowners' Association, and national
and local amenity societies. Nowadays, there is usually an exhibition, where
members of the public can study the line options. Once the chosen line is
published as a draft scheme there is then an opportunity for people to make
representations or objections. If the objections cannot be satised by a further
consultative process, only then will the possibility arise of a Public Inquiry.
Statutory objectors, such as local authorities, can insist on an Inquiry being
held.
After the Inquiry, the Inspector writes a report and gives his or her recommendations to the relevant Ministers. The Secretaries of State for the Environment and Transport will then decide whether to accept the draft schemes,
modify them, or abandon them altogether. If the proposals are extensively
changed, then the Inquiry may be re-opened, or the draft schemes withdrawn
and new ones published. Once the schemes are published, objectors then have
the right to apply to the High Court for the consents to be quashed on such
grounds as statutory powers being exceeded, or the requirements of the Act not
being complied with. In recent years, objectors also have the option of making a
complaint to an alternative policy-making arena in the form of the European
Commission, on grounds such as the UK government's failure to conduct a
proper Environmental Impact Assessment as set out in an EC Directive of
1985.25
Highway Inquiries, therefore, play a political consultative rather than a
judicial role. This consultative purpose is the principal explanation for there
being no statutory procedural rules. Instead, the Inquiry Inspector has considerable discretion, even though the Inquiries are part of the total statutory
framework supporting the building of trunk roads. In a sense, the Inquiries
themselves should be seen as part of the hegemony of the road lobby's
`framing', in that they were there to facilitate the overall policy of building more
trunk roads. History was to show that they could `work' only when all of the
25

Directive 85/337.

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interests who participated accepted certain behavioural norms and, more


importantly, existing `framing' and the broad objectives of policy.
Humdrum Policy Making: Highway Inquiries in the 1950s and 1960s
Although certain interests, such as environmentalists, eventually perceived the
consultation processes enshrined in Public Inquiries as `sham consultation', the
very existence of the Inquiry system is a reection of the strong cultural tradition
of consultation and participation. Though the policy area appeared to be
dominated by a specic set of interests, leading to a hegemonic `framing',
governments nevertheless felt obliged to devise a consultative process. The socalled `aected interests' had to be given the chance to participate, consistent
with the British policy style. Indeed, even in the 1950s and 1960s, prior to the
exploitation of Public Inquiries by a new breed of environmentalists, the
administrative process for deciding to build a new trunk road was extremely
drawn out, as it was (in contrast to France, for example) for all major infrastructure projects. Even without disruption of existing procedures, `planning' in
Britain was not easy. Thus, as Gregory noted in 1967:
Any student of British government who claims to detect a disquieting trend
towards administrative ruthlessness and arrogance in the interests of speed
and eciency and at the expense of the rights and property of the individual
should draw comfort from an examination of the procedure through which
the Ministry of Transport goes when planning the route of a motorway and
acquiring the land necessary for its construction.26

Gregory maintained his ironic tone when he noted that it came as no


surprise to nd that, while the actual construction of the M1 from London to
Rugby took twenty months, the preparatory stages occupied eight years.27
Yet, of course, the motorway was built, i.e. the main lines of public policy
were not overturned by this long and drawn out consultation process. Time
consuming though the process was, the concessions were largely at the margins
of policy.
The Highway Inquiry holds, therefore, only a potential position as one arena
within a long and complex process. In the 1950s and 1960s, its lack of use placed
it in the category of what might be termed a `potential institution'. This reected
the hegemony of `roads as a solution' as much as it did the failure by objectors
to recognize the potential of this particular institutional site for securing or even
suggesting major policy change. Thus, Ministers were keen to project the image
of the motorway building programme as part of the essential modernisation of
post-war Britain and as part of the new consumer revolution, giving voters
greater freedom of mobility. This appeared to secure widespread support. As
Levin observes:
During the 1960s the need for motorway and trunk road building was
widely taken for granted. Such objections as were made were often disposed
26
R. Gregory, `The Minister's Line: or the M4 Comes to Berkshire' in R. Kimber and
J. J. Richardson (eds), Campaigning for the Environment (London Routledge and Kegan Paul,
1974), p. 104.
27 Gregory, `The Minister's Line', p. 106.

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Outsider Groups and British Roads Policy


of without recourse to an Inquiry: . . . in 1967 only 11 per cent of `motorway
miles' and 16 per cent of `trunk road miles' went to Public Inquiry.28

The politics of trunk road building was based on the Nimby principle (Notin-my-back-yard) rather than on any lofty notions of bringing about a new
policy discourse and a shift on the framing of policy problems. Moreover, the
benets of trunk roads policy were front-loaded. The disbenets such as the
health risks caused by vehicle pollution, and the risk of global warming were
largely unheard of at that time. The existing institutional modalities for consultation were, it seems, underpinned by a fairly strong `policy core'.29 While this
policy core remained relatively unfractured, all was well and broader problems
of governance presented by groups who would not play the game remained well
hidden. Potential opponents could be `accommodated' by gradual procedural
reform, long-drawn out processes, and concessions at the margin of policy.
Policy Discord: Exploiting `Arenas without Rules'
A key feature of the Inquiry system as a consultative mechanism was its informal
character, itself reecting the age of consensus politics. Once consensus began to
break down, the system was exploited and almost destroyed when new actors
entered the arena. Indeed there is some political irony in the fact that Highway
Inquiries only found their identity as an institution when exogenous changes
placed trunk roads policy on an altogether higher level of political salience.
From the early 1970s there was a general heightening of awareness of environmental issues in many policy areas.30 Thus, there was a `mood change'31 or shift
in the broad climate of opinion which policy makers in a number of sectors
could not ignore. This exogenous change sparked endogenous shifts in perceptions of problems by actors at the sectoral level. A second major exogenous
inuence was the severe restriction on public expenditure, dating from 1973.
Traditionally, a capital programme such as roads is particularly vulnerable
during public expenditure crises, and in 1976 alone there were three signicant
cuts made to the trunk roads programme. Consequently, at 1978 prices,
expenditure on trunk roads construction and maintenance declined from 741
million in 197576 to 520 million in 197980.32 A cynical view of the dynamics
of policy change might be that environmental arguments against road building
are always more fashionable with governments during public expenditure crises.
Although there is no doubt some truth in this hypothesis, it fails to take account
of the techniques adopted by the environmental lobby to take advantage of
these favourable exogenous circumstances, or `policy windows'.33
The propitious shift in the general climate of opinion, together with the
window of opportunity presented by the need to curtail public expenditure,
allowed a new breed of environmental activist to be more entrepreneurial in their
28
P. H. Levin, `Highway inquiries: a study in governmental responsiveness', Public Administration, 57 (1979), p. 22.
29 Sabatier, `Policy Change over a Decade or More', p. 35.
30 See Kimber and Richardson, Campaigning for the Environment.
31
A. King, `Governmental responses to budget scarcity', Policy Studies Journal, 113 (1985),
47693.
32
Basic Road Statistics, 1980.
33 Kingdon, Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies, p. 20.

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tactics. In particular, a `policy entrepreneur'34 emerged who saw the potential of


the existing Highway Inquiry system for opening up the market for policy ideas.
John Tyme, a zealous individual who believed that the motorway programme
posed a consummate evil, and constituted the greatest threat to the nation in all
its history,35 toured the country appearing for objectors at a large number of
Public Inquiries. Notwithstanding his apparently eccentric stance, he proved to
be a shrewd political tactician, making particularly skilful use of the mass media
to convey the new image and new message to a wider audience and to other
arenas. In order to achieve this goal, he adopted some highly unorthodox
techniques.
For example, from the early stages of his campaign he realized that, as a
leader of a minority coalition,36 his distinctive style of civil disobedience could
only work if he had large numbers of his supporters in the hall. This technique
worked well at the Aire Valley Inquiry in Yorkshire, where support was
particularly large and enthusiastic, and two attempts to open the Inquiry were
abandoned by the Inspector when objectors repeatedly interrupted proceedings.37 Tyme was taking advantage of a situation where people aected by the
line of a proposed road were deeply disillusioned by what they considered to be
the Government's failure to take adequate notice of their views. In eect, the
fact that Tyme and others could mobilize such wide support (and action) was a
clear indicator that the traditional British institutional modalities, through
which those aected by public policy were consulted, could no longer accommodate the range and number of new claimant stakeholders in this policy area.
More importantly, perhaps, it illustrated the fact that trunk roads policy was no
longer a relatively narrow technical issue. Thus, over time, issue expansion had
occurred and this had implications for the way politics could be conducted.
Tyme's campaign achieved its peak of political salience during the M3
extension Inquiry at Winchester in 1976. The ultimate signicance of this
proposed road cannot be overstated. The actual line of the M3 bypass to the east
of the ancient city of Winchester had already been approved at an Inquiry in
1971 in a more quiescent phase38 of the policy process. The 1976 Inquiry
concerned merely side roads and compulsory purchase orders. In the hands of
Tyme, however, it was transformed into something of a test case for the
Government's trunk roads policy itself. By this time, Tyme had discovered that
there were no statutory rules attached to Inquiries, and that the proceedings
were largely left to the discretion of the Inspector. He had found an `arena
without rules' and was quick to see its potential in terms of issue expansion. His
tactics at the Aire Valley Inquiry, and the associated media coverage, had
attracted the attention of groups opposed to the Winchester bypass, and in the
classic policy entrepreneur fashion, he was recruited to represent them at the
Inquiry. Within Winchester itself, the campaign against the road had attracted
widespread support. In addition, there was no doubt that media interest was
heightened by the image of Winchester as a citadel of the establishment, with its
34 M. Mintrom and S. Vergari, `Advocacy coalitions, policy entrepreneurs, and policy change',
Policy Studies Journal (1997) (forthcoming).
35 J. Tyme, Motorways Versus Democracy (London, Macmillan, 1978), p. 1.
36
Mintrom and Vergari, `Advocacy coalitions, policy entrepreneurs, and policy change'.
37
See Tyme, Motorways, Versus Democracy, pp. 1430 and Levin, `Highway inquiries: a study in
governmental responsiveness', p. 21.
38 Kingdon, Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Politics, p. 167.

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ancient cathedral and famous public school. Thus it was generally considered
that mass protest here would indeed indicate that the Government's roads
policy was in severe trouble.
In the event, all of Tyme's objectives were fullled. Signicantly, on the
second day of the Inquiry, he fought a successful battle to keep the television
cameras in the hall, so ensuring that events would achieve maximum public
exposure and the image could be projected of an existing policy in disarray.
Tyme's strategy was to switch the attention of the Inquiry to the actual need for
the road, and so to undermine the Government's whole trunk roads policy.
Thus, he was attempting to transform Highway Inquiries from an institutional
site designed to facilitate and support the main thrust of policy at that time
building more trunk roads and motorways (albeit via a veneer of consultation) into an institutional site where new interests could question the fundamentals of existing policy and introduce new knowledge and ideas which could
facilitate a re-framing of the policy problem. Clearly, the Government did not
intend `consultation' to mean that! After apparently showing initial sympathy
for Tyme's arguments, however, the Inquiry Inspector backtracked. Since the
rst day of the Inquiry, proceedings had been interrupted and vociferous
objectors led from the hall. Now, after a further altercation with the Inspector, it
was Tyme himself who was escorted out by the police. Tyme himself takes up
the story:
As I waited outside the vestibule under the watchful eyes of the police I
received messages to the eect that the inspector was obdurate; momentum
was being lost. It seemed clear that a reassertion of `popular power' was
required. So seizing a suitable moment when police attention wandered, I
re-entered the theatre, raced down the aisle and faced the General (the
Inspector) eyeball to eyeball. The eect was dramatic. Two masses of people
moved towards me at once: the men of Winchester and the police. The
resulting melee, with scores of people, including the headmaster of
Winchester College, escorted out, fully restored the collapsing situation.
It was a reminder to the General of the power of the forces ranged against
him.39

As we suggested earlier, Highway Inquiries could `work' only when the


participants adhered to certain behavioural norms both in terms of accepting
the thrust of policy as sensible and by not exploiting the rather lax and exible
`rules' instituted when, no doubt, gentlemen were gentlemen. The new activists
demonstrated that lax institutional rules and the opportunity for issue expansion are closely related. The real signicance of disruption of the hitherto
smooth-working institutional modality for `consultation' was, therefore, not the
disruption itself, but the fact that the objectors had begun to shift the perception
of roads policy from being a key element in the modernization of Britain, to one
which could promote the bitter opposition of even the most respected and
conservative members of English society.
Tyme understood instinctively that the Highway Inquiry was his arena, and
that he would be weakened if he left it. Consequently, he displayed no interest in
conventional direct lobbying of national government. Moreover, the exploitation of the arena without rules via the mass media conveyed a clear message to
39

Tyme, Motorways Versus Democracy, p. 40.

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policy makers. The then Transport Secretary (197679), William Rodgers,


acknowledges that the disruptions of Inquiries were politically eective as an
indication of growing public disquiet with trunk roads policy. Rodgers was
personally sympathetic to many of the objectives of the environmental lobby,40
but his own strategy was to separate those with legitimate grievances from
activists such as Tyme.41 In other words, Rodgers was seeking a `peace treaty'
between the road and environmental lobbies, and wanted to bring the issue back
into the traditional decision-making procedures, where bargaining and consensus are the norm and the traditional institutional modalities of consultation
could again be made to work.
Policy change and the emergence of a temporary peace treaty
In January 1976, the Minister for Planning and Local Government had
announced that the Council on Tribunals would re-examine the adequacy of
Highway Inquiry procedure.42 Rodgers ensured that this review was given
priority and that the conclusions would be published as a White Paper. The
White Paper,43 however, rejected one of the key arguments of the environmentalists that they should have the right at Inquiries to challenge government
roads policy. On the other hand, several important concessions were made.
These included the appointment of Inspectors by the Lord Chancellor instead
of the Department of Transport (DoT); the publication of a greater range of
information prior to the opening of an Inquiry; permission for television
cameras to record events at Inquiries provided they did not inuence the
proceedings (in the light of Tyme's strategy this was probably a vain hope); and
setting up pre-Inquiry procedural meetings. This last provision was of particular
signicance, for it indicated an ocial desire to undermine Tyme's strategy of
exploiting an arena without rules by trying to create an environment at Inquiries
where all those involved would accept at least an implicit system of rules. In
other words, an attempt was being made to shift Inquiries back into the
traditional modality where rules could constrain issues and a challenge to the
policy core could be avoided.
In the event, this proved to be a forlorn hope. Once an issue has escaped the
connes of traditional policy making procedures (such as tightly drawn policy
communities or, in this case, Public Inquiries), it is dicult to claw it back. A
senior ocial within the DTP at that time considers that the disruptions of
Inquiries were a major factor in the minds of Ministers when `framing' transport
policy, particularly in the mind of the then Transport Secretary.44 During 1976
77, the Labour Government conducted a review of transport policy and the
resultant White Paper45 produced a major policy shift. Within the prevailing
expenditure constraints, the strategic plan for trunk roads was to be abandoned
in favour of a more exible and piecemeal approach, and the available resources
switched to subsidizing public transport, particularly buses. The reasons given
40 See G. F. Dudley and J. J. Richardson, `Promiscuous and celibate ministerial styles: policy
change, policy networks and British roads policy', Parliamentary Aairs, 49 (1996), 56683.
41 Interview 10 May 1995.
42
H. C. Deb., written answers C 3848.
43
Cmnd. 7133, Report on the Review of Highway Inquiry Procedures, (London, HMSO, 1978).
44
Interview 25 July 1995.
45 Cmnd. 6836, Transport Policy (London, HMSO, 1977).

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Outsider Groups and British Roads Policy

for abandoning the trunk roads strategic plan included greater caution on the
need for roads capacity in view of the oil crisis, and the requirement to control
public expenditure. In addition, however, it was stressed that there was now a
much greater concern about the impact of large-scale engineering on towns and
the countryside, and more concern for the environment.46 This latter comment
could be seen as a direct response to events in places such as Winchester, and
suggests that the Government was indeed concerned to draw up a `peace treaty'.
With hindsight, however, it is possible to see that the `peace treaty' signed in the
late 1970s did not represent permanent third order change.47 Although the
potential for a paradigmatic shift from the hegemonic values of the road lobby
apparently existed, the new ideas had only partially permeated the policy
process. As Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith have suggested in their reformulation of
their advocacy coalition framework, signicant perturbations external to the
subsystem (such as changes in public opinion) are a necessary but not sucient
cause of change in the policy core attributes of a governmental programme.48 In
fact, by the late 1980s, the conditions of the `peace treaty' had begun to disappear. Ironically, part of the peace treaty breakdown could be attributed to the
failure of the Inquiry process in its new guise.
The 1980s: Traditional Consultation Modalities Fail Again
In the early to mid 1980s, the new policy settlement of the 1970s held rm. Thus
expenditure on trunk roads was held down (between 1975 and 1985 roads
expenditure as a percentage of total public expenditure declined from 2.8% to
1.8%)49 while the environmentalists were subdued. John Tyme had retired from
the fray in the late 1970s, and the Government's concessions on Inquiry rules
appeared to have secured a return to `normality'. In the late 1980s, however,
exogenous and endogenous developments were taking place which were to blow
this `peace treaty' apart in the 1990s.
In the 1980s, the road lobby had a key political ally in the Prime Minister,
Margaret Thatcher, who even refused to travel by rail and spoke enthusiastically
of `the great car economy'. More tangibly in policy terms, there was increasing
alarm in both ministerial and ocial circles about the continued growth in
trac and the eects on road congestion. This led to the setting up of a Joint
Trunk Roads Policy Review between the Treasury and the Department of
Transport. The outcome of this review was the 1989 White Paper Roads for
Prosperity50 which announced a doubling of the trunk roads programme. In the
light of a National Road Trac Forecast that trac demand could increase by
between 83% and 142% by the year 2025, compared with 1988, the new programme was aimed primarily at providing extra capacity on the motorways and
other strategic inter-urban routes. Treasury backing for this programme
ensured that it was given priority, and a 1990 Report stated that a substantial
46

Cmnd. 6836, Transport Policy, para. 246.


Hall, `Policy paradigms, social learning and the state', p. 279.
48 P. A. Sabatier and H. C. Jenkins-Smith, `The Advocacy Coalition Framework: an Assessment'
in P. A. Sabatier (ed.), Theories of the Policy Process (Boulder CO, Westview, 1998, forthcoming).
See also P. A. Sabatier, `The advocacy framework: revisions and the relevance for Europe', Journal
of European Public Policy, 5, 1 (1998), 98130.
49
Basic Road Statistics, 1995.
50 Cmnd. 693, Roads for Prosperity (London, HMSO, 1989).
47

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number of the new schemes would be completed by the year 2000.51 Consequently, total trunk roads expenditure increased again from 1.64 billion in
198990 to 2.48 billion in 199394, and roads expenditure as a percentage of
total public expenditure rose from 1.8% in 1985 to 2.5% in 1993.52 Thus, the old
hegemony seemed to have been restored, despite the hiatus of the 1970s. In
a sense, policy makers were able to concentrate on their traditional `problem
stream'53 namely the need to somehow accommodate the ever increasing
number of cars coming onto Britain's roads. The new problem streams with
which we are now very familiar, such as global warming and the adverse health
eects of exhaust pollution were not yet challenging the policy core beliefs of the
existing policy community.
Moreover, the road lobby had only grudgingly accepted the 1970s `peace
treaty', and in the late 1980s it managed to exploit the new political climate, with
the backing of the Prime Minister, to re-assert its strong position within the old
policy community. In that arena, at least, `normality' had returned. However,
conning key policy decisions to this very restricted institutional site ran the risk
that those not `incorporated' would again seek other institutional sites where
they could raise broader issues. The old consultative modalities could neither
constrain the new interests nor the new issues.
Thus, the Highway Inquiry was again to have an important eect on policy
change. The location was once more the M3 extension around Winchester, but
this time the impact of the Inquiry was to be much more convoluted than in the
1970s. After the uproar at the 1970s Inquiry, the Inspector had recommended
that the Government should reconsider the proposed line of the M3 to the East
of Winchester. ln 1980 the Conservative Government had accepted this recommendation, and appointed consultants to look again at the problem. In 1983 the
consultants recommended a new route, further still to the East of the city,
through Twyford Down. Initially, it appeared that the new line for the road
would be acceptable to the `aected' interests, as identied by the Ministry of
Transport. Gradually, however, there was a realization locally that the new road
would gouge a huge cutting through an area of great scenic beauty and of
national archaeological importance. From small beginnings, the campaign to
save Twyford Down gathered support from interests initially reluctant to
disturb the existing `peace treaty'. For example, one of the opponents emphasizes that she and other key objectors deliberately conducted a rational and
measured campaign in order to avoid a repetition of the highly emotional scenes
of the 1970s, and also because they were determined not to discredit a sound
cause with inaccuracies.54 At the two Highway Inquiries in 1985 and 1987, therefore, opponents of the scheme adhered strictly to the `rules'. For example, unlike
Tyme, they acknowledged the need for the road, and made no attempt to
disrupt proceedings. In this respect, events had much more in common with the
1960s M4 case study described by Gregory, than with Tyme's eorts to create
his own distinctive `rules'.
51

23.

Department of Transport, Trunk Roads, England into the 1990s (London, HMSO, 1990), paras

52

Basic Road Statistics, 1995.


Kingdon, Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies, pp. 90115.
54
B. Bryant, Twyford Down, Roads Campaigning and Environmental Law (London, Spon, 1996),
p. 26.
53

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Unfortunately for the Twyford Down campaigners, their `model behaviour'


did not bring the desired results. They had played by the old fashioned rules
reecting the institutional modalities of consultation and, predictably perhaps,
had got an old fashioned result. They had argued that the road should be put
through a tunnel, and so avoid the damage and visual intrusion to the Down
itself. Apparently, this plan did win favour with some key ocials within the
DoT but was eventually vetoed by the Treasury on the grounds of cost. The
Inspectors themselves, after each Inquiry, had recommended a cutting route
rather than a tunnel. The Inquiry had been oered the chance to create a new,
and nal, `peace treaty' for the M3 but Ministers and ocials failed to grasp the
opportunity. The scene was now set for the environmentalists' 1990s counterrevolution against the power of the road lobby. This time, there was increasing
determination to bring about enduring third order change and not to settle for
the second order change achieved in the 1970s.
How can this change in attitude be explained? After all, in the 1950s,
for example, traditional processes of consultation had worked perfectly well.
Environmental interests had either not used the Inquiry system or had actually
helped it to work by accepting the procedural rules of the game and the broad
policy objectives. Yet by the 1990s the system was failing to accommodate the
range of aected interests. The explanation for the change in approach by the
environmentalists is partly that a new breed of environmental organization had
emerged. Quite simply, by then, direct action in `arenas without rules' (such as
the Greenpeace campaigns on the open seas) had been shown to work in many
western democracies. More importantly, by the 1990s the issue area was already
characterized by a much broader knowledge and ideas base. What Weiss terms
`the enlightenment function' of research (in this case in policy sectors other than
the roads sector) had begun to impinge on policy actors.55 Thus, the global
warming problem, which had not even been discovered in the 1950s and 1960s,
was by then conventional wisdom, as were the adverse health eects caused by
motor vehicle emissions. Road building was no longer simply a question of loss
of amenity in the traditional sense, but raised major questions of health and
even climate a classic example of issue expansion.
The 1990s: The Emergence of a New `Arena without Rules'
After their defeat in the Inquiry arena, the Twyford Down road objectors
sought new arenas in which to conduct their campaign, reecting both the
multi-issue and multi-arena politics which now characterizes politics in Western
Europe. For example, an attempt to challenge the legality of the scheme in the
Courts (a tactic somewhat more common in Britain in the 1990s) proved fruitless, and an inconclusive attempt was made to shift the issue to the EC arena
(now extremely common in Britain) on the grounds that the Government had
failed to conduct a proper Environmental Impact Assessment as required by EC
law.56 By the end of 1992, however, construction of the road had begun, and the
national environmental groups who had backed the campaign had withdrawn
`defeated'. In 1993, however, the construction site was occupied by a rainbow
coalition of radical green activists and largely middle class local residents. On
55
56

C. Weiss, Using Social Research in Public Policy Making (Lexington, Heath, 1977).
Bryant, Twyford Down Roads Campaigning and Environmental Law, pp. 22593.

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several occasions during the year, this direct action was transformed into a series
of large scale demonstrations, all attracting national mass media attention
comparable to that secured by Tyme in the 1970s. The campaign culminated in
July 1993 when seven protesters were jailed for defying a High Court injunction
not to occupy the site.
The Twyford Down protesters had exploited the lack of `rules' governing
construction sites (indeed, two of them subsequently received substantial compensation for wrongful arrest) and, although they could not prevent construction of the road, had achieved some success on several levels. First, security
costs now had to be built into controversial road schemes (in 1995 the National
Audit Oce estimated that the security costs of ve sites totalled 18 million).
Secondly, the publicity given to the direct action had once again begun to transform the image of road building towards the values held by the environmentalists. Thirdly, photographs of the major damage done to Twyford Down by the
new road became important symbols in the general campaign against road
building.
In the 1990s, however, Highway Inquiries had little part to play as an institutional site for `consultation'. The intensity of the battle between rival interests
was greater than in the 1970s, reecting the issue expansion suggested above,
and also that new arenas had come to the fore. Now, a number of the Twyford
Down protesters were instrumental in founding `Road Alert!' a group
designed to promote and co-ordinate the direct action movement. Thus, just
as Tyme had done in the 1970s, these new policy or movement entrepreneurs
exploited what they saw as a new market opportunity57 on the many road
construction sites available to them. Specic issues, such as this or that piece of
amenity, were bundled into a broader issue framework, drawing upon, by then,
respectable scientic research about the disbenets of building yet more roads.
Over the next few years, large scale occupation of road construction sites, all
attracting considerable national media attention, took place on regular
occasions. None of these occupations could prevent a road being built, but
there was evidence that the threat of occupation was causing the DTp to have
second thoughts about future schemes. For example, the long standing
campaign to prevent the East London River Crossing running through the
ancient Oxleas Wood achieved its aims shortly after 3000 people signed a
petition vowing to lie down in front of the bulldozers if construction went
ahead.
Eventually, the Government recognized the threat posed by direct action,
and, as in the case of Inquiries, attempted to impose its own `rules' in order to
conne participation to recognized channels. Consequently, the 1994 Criminal
Justice and Public Order Act introduced the new oence of aggravated trespass.
Current evidence suggests, however, that this new legislation, far from constraining the issue, has simply facilitated its further expansion by adding a new
dimension to the protesters' portfolio of arguments. Thus, in garbage can
fashion58 the issue of civil liberties and the rights of the `unorganized' to

57
J. J. Richardson, `The market for political activism: interest groups as a challenge to political
parties', West European Politics, 18, (1995), 11639.
58
M. D. Cohen, J. G. March and J. P. Olsen, `A garbage can model of organisational choice',
Administrative Science Quarterly, 17 (1972), 125.

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Outsider Groups and British Roads Policy

participate in the formulation of public policy have now been drawn into the
once simple, `roads issue'.
By the mid-1990s, the sustained multi-arena, issue expansion approach was
helping to produce major changes in public policy. In 1995, the British Road
Federation estimated that a series of cuts had shrunk trunk roads expenditure
from a 20 billion 500-scheme programme in 1993 to a 6 billion programme of
150 schemes in 1996. In fact only nine publicly funded trunk roads improvement
schemes were expected to start in 1996.59 It is, of course, possible to suggest that
this was all simply an artefact of exogenous change namely the Government's
rm commitment to reduce public expenditure in order to fund tax cuts
as a General Election approached. No doubt the Treasury was, as usual, being
opportunistic in forcing cuts on one of the spending departments. As The
Economist noted in mid 1996, `pressed by a fearsome alliance of the Treasury
and environmentalists, the government has ditched most new road construction'.60 Thus, one might argue that a disconnected but expedient alliance had
emerged from a combination of expenditure squeeze and successful issue
expansion.
These changes might be seen as a possibly temporary outcome of the normal
swings and roundabouts of traditional pressure group politics, just as in 1989.
However, there is some evidence of a paradigm shift in the political discourse, as
a precursor of third order change. For example, in 1994, Transport Secretary,
Brian Mawhinney, had declared that the `Great Car Economy' was not a phrase
he would be using in future. Instead, he considered that managing trac rather
than building roads oered the best way forward.61 He followed this up by
making an impassioned plea for a national transport debate and a cease-re in
the feuding over transport issues.62 As in the 1970s, the Government was
desperately seeking both a new `peace treaty' and an institutional modality for
bringing together these very diverse and conicting interests who had by now
claimed stakeholder status in this policy area. On the one hand, the Government
sought to tighten up on Inquiry procedures by empowering Inspectors to refuse
to hear what they considered to be irrelevant or repetitious evidence. On the
other, it also experimented with a number of round table pre-inquiry conferences in an attempt to secure more local `peace treaties'. This had all the
appearance of locking the stable door after the horse had bolted, for by now the
Inquiry process had been largely discredited in the eyes of the environmentalists,
while its own heyday as an instrument of policy change in the Tyme era had
passed into history.
Participation, Policy Discourse and Policy Change
Although policy sectors in a state of war may be highly inconvenient for
Governments, they do suggest conditions under which policy change can take
place. In the case of trunk roads, there were important links between institutional dynamics and policy change. As Marr observes, the trunk roads story is

59
60
61
62

Contact Journal, 07 December 1995.


The Economist, 10 July 1996.
Observer, 16 October 1994.
Financial Times, 08 December 1994.

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instructive for anyone looking at how British politics really works, because it
brings together so many relevant new themes:
The green organizations involved in the anti-roads campaign muster far
more active members than all the political parties sitting in the House of
Commons, and the disproportion is particularly large among younger
voters. The main parties were all split on the roads question and rarely led
the argument. The anti-roads movement used a wider variety of political
protest, ranging from sabotage and mass civil disobedience on the one
hand, to a subtle understanding of the Whitehall power-play and the use of
research to sway opinion, which left most opposition politicians wallowing
far behind . . . Ministers rarely spoke publicly about the issues involved, and
political leaders found themselves unable to make capital from them . . .
Here is a new politics confronting an Old Constitution.63

Our own characterization of the roads policy process, similar to Marr's, is


quite dierent from earlier models, which saw the policy processes as well
ordered and managed, predictable, essentially private, and reecting a stable
and well mannered relationship between government and outside interests. The
political skill of the newer breed of environmentalist was in linking what
Baumgartner and Jones term `image' and `venue'. There was an important link
between shifting the trunk roads debate to a dierent venue, and the attempt to
change the nature of the political discourse in order to bring about a re-framing
of the problem. As we have seen `participation' can take dierent forms. This
possibly suggests a reappraisal of the importance of policy `insiders' and
`outsiders'.64 We noted that John Tyme understood instinctively the correct
arena for his activity, and made no attempt to lobby central government
directly. In the 1990s, the environmentalists have adopted similar tactics on the
construction sites and in the public arena generally. As one leading environmental campaigner puts it: `If people at the Department of Transport want to
know what I'm doing, let them read about it in the papers!`65 Nevertheless,
evidence from our interviews with ministers and senior ocials suggests that
Tyme had a signicant eect within Whitehall.
As we suggested earlier, Ministers took note of the impact of these outsiders.
But there is some evidence to suggest that the outsiders had insider allies. As one
senior ocial put it to us, in the case of trunk roads, he believed that if those
within Whitehall seeking third order change openly attacked DoT policy, then
they would quickly lose credibility within the conventional policy network.
Instead, he considered that a more eective technique was to resist policy initiatives from the DoT, while seeking to undermine and change the values of the
roads advocates with relentless pressure from a wide range of alternative arenas.
Thus, he believed that civil servants were adept at spotting `trends', and that the
Whitehall network would operate to bring about a change in the natural `ow'
of policy over time.66
63 A. Marr, Ruling Britannia. The Failure and Future of British Democracy (London, Michael
Joseph, 1995), pp. 3145.
64 E.g. see Grant, Pressure Groups, Politics and Democracy in Britain, pp. 1421 and W. A.
Maloney, A. G. Jordan and A. M. McLaughlin, `Interest groups and public policy. The insider/
outsider model revisited', Journal of Public Policy, 14 (1994), 1738.
65
Interview, 24 October 1995.
66 Interview, 12 October 1995.

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Outsider Groups and British Roads Policy

Measuring these changes is, of course, dicult, especially as existing policies,


like large oil tankers, may change direction imperceptibly at rst. Moreover,
there is always the possibility that a change in the discourse is simply `cheap
talk'.67 However, apart from the rapidly declining level of public expenditure on
trunk road building indicated earlier, there are other important indicators
of change. For example, in 1996 the Government published its Green Paper,
Transport, The Way Forward setting out its views on policy development.68 The
Green Paper conceded that the debate showed a strong preference for improved
public transport over expanded roads capacity and stated that `the Government
believes there needs to be a shift in priorities to reect this'.69 An important
theme related directly to one of the main concerns of our study namely, the
attempts by anti-roads groups to change the way policy makers `frame' transport
problems. The whole tenor of the Paper was that transport problems had to be
viewed in a new light. No better indicator of this changing discourse was the
statement that `future spending will focus, increasingly, on maintaining and
managing the capacity of existing roads, and selective improvements through new
construction, such as providing much needed bypasses and removing bottlenecks'.70
As if to underscore the fact that this was not simply rhetorical discourse
designed to disguise `business as usual,' it reminded readers that the Government's review of the Trunk Roads Programme, published in November 1995,
had withdrawn some 77 road schemes from the programme `. . . either because
they were no longer considered to be environmentally acceptable or because
they were unlikely to be taken forward in the foreseeable future'.71 By 1996, in
its autumn Budget, the Government was announcing the fourth year of cuts in
roads expenditure, this time by another 6 billion. The problems of increasing
trac congestion remained much as they had done in the late 1980s, but now
roads were no longer seen as the policy `solution'.
In 1997, the new Labour Government quickly indicated that it wished to
develop this policy by announcing a review of the whole trunk roads programme
which would question the actual basis of road building decisions. This review
would run alongside preparations for a 1998 White Paper covering all modes of
transport, with ministers claiming there was now a consensus that the car should
be used less, and instead that an integrated public transport system should be
developed. As part of the White Paper, the Government was to look at the
possibility of creating a dedicated income stream for public transport from
sources such as motorway tolls, congestion charges in cities or a business levy.
The debate was moving on, therefore, from dening roads as a policy `problem',
to the even more politically sensitive topic of imposing tolls.
To demonstrate its intent, the Government subjected twelve particularly
controversial trunk road schemes to an accelerated review. This plan backred
on the government somewhat, however, through internal disagreements between
ministers. In the event, two schemes were abandoned (including the controversial Salisbury bypass), four approved and the decisions on the other ve
deferred. The Transport Department had apparently wished to approve nearly
67 W. H. Riker, Liberalism against Populism: a Confrontation between the Theory of Democracy
and the Theory of Social Choice (San Francisco, Freeman, 1982).
68
Cmnd. 3234, Transport. The Way Forward (London, HMSO, 1996).
69
Cmnd. 3234, Transport. The Way Forward, p. 8.
70
Cmnd. 3234, Transport. The Way Forward, p. 65.
71 Cmnd. 3234, Transport. The Way Forward, p. 65.

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745

all of the schemes, but the Labour Government had merged the Transport and
Environment Departments under a Secretary of State, and the latter placed a
veto on these plans. The traditionally roads biased Transport Department was,
therefore, no longer in full control of its own destiny, which further weakened
the advocacy coalition for road building.
Hence, there is some indication that the policy core beliefs are beginning to
change in that environmental factors are being given much greater weight, albeit
that this is happily (for the Government) coincident with its desire to reduce
public expenditure. In addition to the specic policy entrepreneurship of the
anti-roads protesters, the main focus of this study, it is evident that many other
actors have been drawn into the roads policy process, and that they too are
important. Some of these actors are eminently `respectable' and of insider
status. The most obvious example of these is, of course, The Royal Commission
on Environmental Pollution. Its Report, Transport and the Environment, published in October 1994,72 stated that it did not regard `. . . this cycle of continued
road building facilitating continual growth of trac as environmentally sustainable'.73 Other new actors recognized as stakeholders include doctors on questions of the health risks of pollution, and the scientic community on questions
of global warming. Even the more general issue of sustainability has begun to
enter the transport debate.74 This suggests that although, as Sabatier and
Jenkins-Smith argue, existing (advocacy) coalition members resist information
suggesting that their policy core beliefs may be involved and/or unattainable,75
this resistance had been overcome by the combination of forces discussed above.
Behind these important shifts lay, of course, both the perception and reality of
public opinion. Here we see what Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith describe as a
`signicant perturbation'.76 Growing evidence suggests that both public opinion
itself and Government's perception of it is an important disturbance or perturbation for the sub-system of trunk roads policy. Thus, the Green Paper reported
that surveys had revealed that:
There appears to have been a shift over the last ve years or so away from
support for road building and towards measures to restrain car travel or
increase its costs. The reasons for the shift are not entirely clear: it may
reect greater publicity given to environmental issues, especially to air pollution and asthma, and a growing belief that building and widening roads in
response to growing demand does not oer a long-term solution to the
problems caused by trac growth.77

Conclusion: Managing Consultation in the Absence of Core Policy Consensus


We began by suggesting that one of the central tasks of modern government is
the management of consultation with the wide range and large numbers of
interest groups seeking to inuence public policy. Disruption and exploitation
72
Cmnd. 2674, Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, Eighteenth Report, Transport
and the Environment (London, HMSO, 1994).
73 Cmnd. 2674, Transport and the Environment, p. xiii.
74 E.g. UK Round Table on Sustainable Development, Dening a Sustainable Transport Sector
(London, Department of the Environment, 1996), paras 305.
75
Sabatier, `Policy Change Over a Decade or More', p. 35.
76
Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, `The Advocacy Coalition Framework: an Assessment', p. 27.
77 Cmnd. 3234, Transport. The Way Forward, p. 18.

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Outsider Groups and British Roads Policy

of Highway Inquiries began a very long process of change in policy discourse


and policy itself, during which the traditional stakeholders fought back to
restore their hegemony over the policy area. In time, however, the new interests
were able to nd more `arenas without rules', by which time other, more
`respectable,' interests had also demanded and gained stakeholder status. Also,
new knowledge and ideas had permeated both public and elite opinions. The
end result is that the policy discourse has changed fundamentally and policy
itself is exhibiting some of the characteristics of third order change as dened by
Hall.78 Yet one of the central problems of governance remains namely, how
can government nd eective institutional modalities through which to consult
and involve the wide range of interests now admitted to the policy area and to
secure a consensus when mutually exclusive `frames' are being advocated?
Government has adopted three basic strategies. First, it has itself upheld much
of the discourse and `framing' of the anti-roads coalition. Roads are denitely the
problem not the solution nowadays. Secondly, policy has changed signicantly.
Thus, major reductions in real resources have been made possible in this policy
area. This is in contrast to health, for example, where policy change has had to
be conned to attempts to secure eciency gains via such measures as the
internal market in the national health service. The post-war programmes for
trunk road building now seem like a geological layer from the past, as the policy
ow has changed in response to new problems, new ideas and new interests.
Like the tower blocks which are the monuments of the post-war fashion in
housing policy, so the motorways and trunk roads once trumpeted as the way to
modernization are instead acquiring the popular image of the road to hell!
Thirdly, attempts are being made to incorporate some of the new interests in the
classic fashion of governments faced with new groups and movements. Not only
are doctors and scientists routinely admitted to policy deliberations, via the
traditional advisory committee structures still surrounding British government,
but also people like Stephen Joseph, Director of Transport 2000 (a group long
opposed to more trunk roads and strongly biased towards the development of
public transport) are now members of the Standing Advisory Committee on
Trunk Road Assessment and the UK Round Table on Sustainable Development.
The risk for the anti-roads interests is, of course, that as they get absorbed
into a core policy community their impact might be greatly reduced. There is a
continuing, if low key, debate amongst the anti-roads groups about the possible
limitations of direct action, and the potential advantages in seeking to become
`insiders'. The central issue for them is to decide whether an `outsider' strategy
is eective only in altering the policy image and starting the process of third
order change, and an `insider' strategy is required in order to consolidate these
gains. This was where the environmental lobby failed in the 1980s when the
roads lobby exploited its insider status to regain its hegemony. The 1990s,
however, look rather dierent for a number of reasons, not least of which is the
continuing ability of anti-roads groups to exploit the multi-arena politics of the
period. They know that skilful exploitation of alternative venues or institutional
sites does work, and that this strategy may not be inconsistent with the actions
of others, as insiders, to consolidate the considerable gains already made. We
may predict, therefore, that governments will continue to nd diculty in
78

Hall, `Policy paradigms, social learning and the state', p. 279.

# Political Studies Association, 1998

GEOFFREY DUDLEY AND JEREMY RICHARDSON

747

constraining debate and participation via the usual procedures of incorporation. In so far as new and stable policy communities can be reconstructed on
the old model, they may nd themselves reacting, again, to agendas set
elsewhere and by others. Seemingly, the new politics is here to stay and
governments risk being bounced along by action which they cannot structure
and constrain.
(Accepted: 6 January 1997)

# Political Studies Association, 1998