Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Annex A

Response to points raised in the letter submitted to the Committee by Charles Miller of the European Policy Forum (EPF)

  1.  RIA rules are used to justify policy decision already taken, rather than to inform them.

  There is no evidence that this is the case. This was not a finding in the NAO report. The August 2000 RIA guidance advises policy makers to start an RIA as soon as possible for any proposal likely to have a direct or indirect impact on business, charities or the voluntary sector. The RIA process requires policy makers to consider a wide range of options, including non-regulatory options.

  2.  The European Policy Forum negotiated a change to RIA guidelines to advise departments to consult at the outset on the most appropriate data collection and impact assessment methodology.

  Not aware of any such agreement. But RIU does encourage departments to consult early on proposals.

  3.  The European Policy Forum negotiated a change to RIA process under which RIAs should be based on full commercial impacts, including employment and consumer prices, rather than just compliance costs.

  The RIA guidance encourages best practice in costing options, broken down into policy and implementation costs. We are not aware that EPF had specifically negotiated any changes, although RIU did consult a wide range of stakeholders about the guidance and took comments on board from many of them.

  4.  Departments have used RIU guidance that RIAs should be brief to avoid setting out evidence they have relied upon in contentious cases.

  The RIU advises that RIAs should be fit for purpose—no standard length, brief or otherwise, is recommended.

  5.  The RIU has been reluctant to intervene to secure compliance with the RIA rules.

  This is not the case. A member of the RIU scrutiny team actually met Charles Miller and the DoH DRIU on 3 October this year to discuss an RIA which Charles Miller was concerned about (Ban on Tobacco Advertising).

  Generally, there are a number of stages at which the RIU may see RIAs. This provides RIU with an opportunity to ensure that policy makers are complying with the RIA rules. In the first instance policy makers and DRIUs will often ask the RIU for advice in specific cases.

  And where a proposal is "significant", a Regulatory Impact Statement has to be prepared and agreed with the RIU to include in the ministerial letter seeking policy clearance. The four key criteria are:

    —  Costs in excess of £20 million.

    —  Better Regulation Task Force interest.

    —  Proposal has a disproportionate impact on a particular group eg small businesses.

    —  High degree of topicality or sensitivity.

  Finally, a partial RIA should be published alongside consultation documents, and a full RIA must be published alongside all regulatory proposals laid in Parliament. Again this gives RIU a chance to see and comment on departments' RIAs.

  6.  There is a need for a strong enforcement body, for example the NAO, to monitor compliance with RIA process and act as an appeal body.

  There is a public government commitment to the RIA process, and a published guide to the process. This fits with the general government approach of encouraging "best practice" in policy making without introducing a heavy bureaucratic structure to enforce it.

  7.  The RIU should, along with industry representative, draft a new implementation checklist for all policy makers, endorsed by Accounting Officers and Secretaries of State.

  RIU are revising the RIA guidance as part of the regular update, and will be producing a new checklist to go alongside this. This process will involve consultation with external groups.

  8.  The Economic Regulators are not required to produce impact assessments.

  This issue is mentioned in the Better Regulation Task Force report on Economic Regulators. The Government response to the Better Regulation Task Force report is imminent and will include their views on this.

Office of Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet Office

January 2002

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