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August 5, 2010

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New rules for old is the key to cutting red tape

The Government is forging ahead in its war on red tape with the announcement that all new proposed regulation will be independently scrutinised to determine whether or not it will be taken forward.

The so-called ‘one in, one out’ system will come into force on 1 September, after which ministers who wish to introduce new legislation that imposes costs on business will have to identify current regulations with an equivalent value that can be removed to ‘make way’ for the new rules.

Initially, the system will apply to domestic legislation but proposals for the implementation of EU rules – from which much health and safety regulation is derived – will also be scrutinised. Business Secretary Vince Cable, who unveiled the plans yesterday (5 August), promised a “rigorous approach” would be taken to tackling EU regulations with a view to avoiding “gold-plating”.

To ensure that the costs of red tape are being properly addressed a set of ‘principles of regulation’ has been agreed, which government departments must apply when considering the impact of new regulations on business, social enterprises, individuals and community groups.

Said Mr Cable: “We have to move quickly delivering credible and meaningful reductions in the burdens that hinder hard-pressed businesses and charities. We have to create a common-sense approach in the way we think about new laws. By ensuring regulation becomes a last resort, we will create an environment that frees business from the burden of red tape, helping to create the right conditions for recovery and growth in the UK economy.”

The role of external scrutineer is fulfilled by the Independent Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC), which published its first report today (6 August) on its real-time scrutiny of 107 new regulatory proposals issued for consultation between December 2009 and May 2010. It found that a “good proportion” of the proposals were well-supported by detailed analysis but found “major issues” in 22 cases, where it identified a lack of analytical rigour and found that the regulations had been produced “as a result of being required to do so, rather than as a means of open and thorough investigation and enquiry”.

The report makes six recommendations to contribute to improving the decision-making process with respect to regulation in the UK, including: don’t presume that regulation is the answer; consider and provide robust analysis of all options, including ‘doing nothing’; and produce reliable estimates of costs and benefits.

The chair of the RPC, Michael Gibbons, commented: “The damage and associated costs of badly thought-through regulation are enormous. Poor understanding and assessment of the impact of a proposed regulation can result in unintended consequences, costs that out-weigh the benefits, and a failure to deliver the proposed policy objective. Our work has already had an impact but I am delighted we will now be able to add real teeth to this important scrutiny function.”

As part of the drive to reduce unnecessary government interference and red tape, the public is being encouraged to nominate laws or regulations they would like to see scrapped via the Your Freedom website, which was launched last month by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg. Already, the site has received hundreds of suggestions relating to health and safety legislation, all of which have attracted a high average number of votes, compared with other suggestions.

This comes as no surprise to the Forum of Private Business, which has long argued that implementing health and safety legislation is one of the biggest drains on the time of its members. Responding to the announcement of the ‘one in, one out’ system, the Forum’s head of campaigns, Jane Bennett, said: “It is good to see the Government pushing ahead with its commitment to improving the regulatory landscape. . .but it will require a change in behaviour for many government departments.

“The RPC must be a real watchdog influencing departmental practice if it is to bridge the gap between over-regulation, which is what we have now, and lighter-touch intervention. As with many of the coalition’s new policies the follow-through is what will be important.”

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13 years ago

If one quango doesn’t work …. create another one! So what ‘s the Better Regulation Executive supposed to have been up to for the past five years? I seem to recall this already had a “new for old” regulatory control on all new regulations, in fact everything Vince Cable mentions is already covered by them supposedly. Why will the RPC be any better than the BRE? Its first report seems to be a glimpse of the blindingly obvious, and what should already be in place. Not impressed.

13 years ago

Every Practitioner should make contributions. With 37000 members and most postings under 500 we have opportunity to show our root and branch opinion. I’ve commented on around 20 ..its a Saturday but I feel worth protecting and defending what I do…. Do You???