Select Committee on Regulatory Reform Fifth Report

Conclusions and recommendations

BRE strategy, role and location

1.  The pressure for regulatory reform should continue, but we recommend that the BRE should set clear priorities, together with timetables for delivery. We recommend that the BRE consider how better to co-ordinate communication of its initiatives to stakeholders. (Paragraph 16)

2.  We urge the BRE to apply good regulatory practice and target initiatives where they will be most productive. Better regulation principles including consultation and impact assessment should be applied to regulatory reform initiatives themselves. (Paragraph 17)

3.  The Panel for Regulatory Accountability should continue to provide real-time scrutiny of impact assessments. We recommend that amendments made during the passage of legislation be referred to the PRA for post hoc analysis. (Paragraph 20)

4.  We recommend that experience in the promotion of better regulation be taken into account as soon as possible in determining structures for Civil Service career development. (Paragraph 22)

5.  We believe that, for the time being at least, the BRE should remain at BERR. However, we recommend that the Government take positive steps to ensure that the BRE retains freedom to pursue a balanced regulatory reform agenda that serves the interests of all sectors, and that it is seen to do so. (Paragraph 34)

6.  Although we recognise the steps that the BRE has already taken to engage a cross-section of stakeholders, we recommend that the BRE review its resource allocations, programmes and communications and continue to take steps toward achieving greater recognition of consumers, employees, local government, the public sector and the third sector, alongside business interests, in determining the priorities for regulatory reform. (Paragraph 35)

BRE Operational approach and relations with other bodies

7.  We recommend that the BRE consider whether its procedures and practices for retaining and sharing institutional knowledge are adequate in light of the policy of relatively high staff turnover. (Paragraph 38)

8.  We recommend that the BRE strengthen its channels for obtaining grass roots information from the level of individual businesses and individual local authorities, as well as individual organisations in the third sector. The BRE should use its contact with the new Local Better Regulation Office as one means of achieving that objective. The BRE should take steps to advertise its existence at all levels, including trade associations. (Paragraph 41)

9.  We recommend that the BRE become more actively involved in facilitating greater sharing of best practice among regulators and Government Departments. The new Local Better Regulation Office should be involved in articulating the local authority perspective in that exchange. (Paragraph 43)

10.  We recommend that the BRE play an active role in holding Government Departments to account for their performance in the area of regulatory reform and that the BRE develop a system for monitoring and evaluating Departmental performance and reporting the results publicly. It should work with Government Departments to develop suitable evaluation criteria with appropriate weighting of those criteria and agreed evidential sources for assessing performance. Agencies should be included in such evaluation when relevant. (Paragraph 46)

11.  We recommend continued strong interaction between HMRC and the BRE on the implementation of regulatory reform, reinforced by an established pattern of regular meetings, and that HMRC should operate under the same initiatives and principles as all Government Departments with respect to the regulatory reform agenda. (Paragraph 51)

12.  We recommend that the Risk and Regulation Advisory Council should be given a clear role in providing independent challenge in the regulatory reform area. (Paragraph 53)

13.  We recommend that, in order to provide greater accountability and a measure of independent review, the BRE submit an annual report to Parliament, addressing performance against its clearly defined objectives. The report should distinguish between the work of Government Departments and the work of the BRE itself. (Paragraph 55)

14.  We recommend that given the high importance attached to the regulatory reform agenda the Government give serious consideration to including the position of Executive Chair of the BRE on the list of senior posts which should be subject to future pre-appointment hearing. (Paragraph 56)

Current Regulatory Reform Policy

15.  We believe that the credibility of the Administrative Burdens Reduction Programme savings figures and the achievement of meaningful results are more important than preoccupation with avoiding, say, a 2% or 3% shortfall on the 25% target. We therefore recommend careful scrutiny of all savings figures, but at the same time call for recognition that the shortcomings of the standard cost model require acceptance of flexibility around targets. The ABRP should not be considered to have failed if, for instance, 22% of real burdens reduction has a discernible impact. (Paragraph 66)

16.  We recommend that there be constant scrutiny both of ongoing progress on the ABRP and of the robustness of claimed Departmental savings. The BRE should play a continuous role in such monitoring, which should cover burdens reduction indicators beyond that of the 25% target, such as irritation factors to businesses and others. (Paragraph 67)

17.  We recommend that Government Departments and Executive Agencies include in their Annual Reports their progress against simplification plans, and that there be greater measurement of actual take-up of savings proposals. We recommend that the BRE to continue to look for ways to make greater impacts on burdens reduction. (Paragraphs 68, 69 and 71)

18.  We recommend that the BRE consider setting up a body in this country analogous to the Stevens and Wientjes Committees in the Netherlands. (Paragraph 73)

19.  We recommend that the BRE focus on the issue of customising communications to individual business sectors. (Paragraph 74)

20.  We recommend renewed focus on the target of reducing public sector data requests by 30%. We recommend that progress in reducing public sector and third sector burdens—and their measurement—be given equal emphasis to that of the business sector programme. (Paragraph 75)

21.  We recommend that the BRE should have a role in scrutiny of impact assessments, selected on the basis of financial thresholds, including in support of any introduction of regulatory budgets. (Paragraph 81)

22.  Any proposed system for setting and publicising regulatory budgets should take into account the fact that desirable regulation, not least in the environmental and health and safety areas, carries with it certain inevitable costs. Similarly, there should be safeguards against undue pressure to remove necessary regulation merely as a means of meeting budgetary targets. (Paragraph 85)

23.  We recommend that, if regulatory budgets are adopted, and subject to the outcome of any review on independent scrutiny, Government Departments provide relevant data in their Annual Reports as a means of providing proper scrutiny. We recommend that Departments begin already to focus on their plans for post-2010. Whatever the nature of the then Government, there will be a need for further progress in regulatory reform. (Paragraph 86)

24.  In November 2006, the Davidson review reported on the issue of gold-plating and other over-implementation of EU legislation, and concluded that although instances of gold-plating could be identified, its overall incidence was not substantial. We welcome the fact that it is now a requirement of impact assessments that they contain an indication of whether gold-plating is occurring, and require it to be fully justified. We welcome the Minister's confirmation that, if regulatory budgets are adopted, they will include EU legislation. (Paragraphs 87 and 88)

25.  We recommend that the BRE prioritise how to increase its influence in achieving regulatory reform at the EU level. We recommend that the BRE undertake a feasibility study of where it would like EU regulatory reform to be from the UK perspective, where the resource gaps are in getting there, and how to remedy them. Subject to the outcome of any such study, it might wish to consider having permanent independent representation in Brussels. (Paragraph 91)

26.  We recommend that Better Regulation Ministers within Government Departments keep the flow of legislative reform orders under review and take every opportunity to use them to their fullest extent. We recommend that legislative reform orders be used primarily for their intended purpose of reducing burdens and improving regulation, and that steps be taken to improve the preparation of primary and secondary legislation to avoid the need for corrective legislation shortly after the passage of an originating measure. We further recommend that the Government establish proper mechanisms for prioritising and managing the flow of legislative reform orders. In addition, we recommend that we receive periodic updates of the measures that are intended to be reviewed via primary legislation, by way of a copy of the BRE's schedule of such information. (Paragraphs 93 and 94)

27.  We recommend that a cost/benefit analysis of the retail enforcement pilot be undertaken. We further recommend that the BRE and the Department of Work and Pensions consider conducting a pilot study on simplification of processes to consider where and how decisions on benefit awards might be capable of delegation to local offices without the need for data collection, and that the results of that study be shared with other Departments as a potential model for rationalising data collection. (Paragraph 98)


28.  We agree that the challenge for the BRE is in better measurement of progress and accountability and in showing how activities are contributing to major desirable changes. We recommend that the BRE focus its attention on delivery of current objectives and on setting clear future objectives and measuring against them. (Paragraph 100)

29.  We believe that, in its short lifetime, the BRE has made a significant contribution to improving the UK's regulatory environment on the basis of a demanding agenda. Its major challenges are to maintain strategic focus-particularly if the new programme of regulatory budgets is adopted-and to ensure that there is proper quality control and measurement of deliverables against clear targets, including in relation to burdens reduction figures. It needs, too, to be rigorous in assessing its own performance, to focus on improving perceptions, and to look at improving some of its internal operating procedures as we have suggested. (Paragraph 101)

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Prepared 17 July 2008