Select Committee on Regulatory Reform Fifth Report


Improving the approach to regulation is a priority in many developed economies. Since 2005, the Better Regulation Executive has had the job of co-ordinating the UK Government's approach to regulatory reform. Three years in to the BRE's existence, we wanted to review its performance. We looked at how the BRE pulls together the different strands of the regulatory reform agenda, whether it has sufficient support in its role, how it interacts with its customers and how it works as an organisation. We considered the major themes of the current regulatory reform agenda and how to improve scrutiny.

We have recommended regular parliamentary scrutiny of the BRE through annual reporting to Parliament. We believe that the BRE should tighten certain internal procedures and focus more on setting clearly defined and prioritised targets and then measuring against them - both for itself and for Departments and (where relevant) Agencies. The BRE should itself scrutinise the robustness of reporting in programmes such as the Administrative Burdens Reduction Programme. We have also suggested that Government Departments provide information on progress in burdens reduction in their Annual Reports. That information would then be available for scrutiny by the relevant Departmental Select Committee. The Government should keep up the pressure to achieve the targets of the administrative burdens programme, but preoccupation with those targets should not detract from robust measuring and from a shift toward changing burdens that are real "irritation factors".

We believe that there is a role for the BRE in continuing some selective monitoring of impact assessments, although not in all cases. The Government should consider ways to control the flow of regulation, as is occurring through the consultation on regulatory budgets. We would welcome a greater flow of legislative reform orders through the Regulatory Reform Committee, subject to proper management and prioritisation, although we acknowledge that, depending on circumstances, other routes for amending legislation might be more appropriate.

We conclude that the BRE has made a significant contribution to improving regulation in a relatively short period and will have a crucial role to play in co-ordinating further reform. It is seen as a positive force in changing regulatory culture, although it could perhaps do more to publicise its role and achievements, which we believe should be more widely recognised.

The BRE now needs to focus on change that builds on reform to make greater impacts on perceptions of regulation. That will need creative and persistent work to fit regulation better to the way in which businesses, consumers and all members of society behave.

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Prepared 17 July 2008