Select Committee on Regulatory Reform Fifth Report

1  Introduction

Scope of the inquiry

1.  "Regulation is about a million small details", the Executive Chair of the Better Regulation Executive (BRE) told us when we visited the BRE offices on 10 June. Even a cursory review of recent regulatory reform initiatives, however, demonstrates that the devil can be in those details-particularly when it comes to changing perceptions of regulation. We have therefore taken the opportunity afforded by the expansion of the Committee's remit to inquire into the BRE's work on the current regulatory reform agenda and to ask whether the strategy adopted is getting results.

2.  Neither the BRE nor its predecessor the Regulatory Impact Unit have been the subject of a previous parliamentary inquiry. It seemed to us timely, therefore, to consider the BRE's activities and to examine the Government's progress on regulatory reform.

3.  The inquiry's terms of reference were to assess:

4.  For the most part, we have not attempted to consider individual policies and regulations. Rather, we have focused on strategic direction and on the specific subject matter of the inquiry's title: whether the BRE and regulatory reform are getting results. Similarly, we have not considered every current initiative—particularly those that appear to be working well, such as improvements in the quality of regulatory guidance—although we take their success into account in assessing the overall achievements of the agenda.


5.  We received written evidence from 24 organisations and individuals. We also held five oral evidence sessions. We are grateful to all those who produced oral and written evidence to the Committee. A list of witnesses is provided in Annex 1[1] and a list of those who submitted written evidence is contained in Annex 2.[2] The oral and written evidence is published in a separate volume of the Report. During the course of our inquiry we had the assistance of the National Audit Office, to whom we express particular thanks. We also thank the NAO for making additions to its 2007 survey examining business perceptions of regulation in order to assist our understanding.

6.  In June 2008, we visited Copenhagen, Stockholm and The Hague accompanied by our NAO adviser. The purpose of the visit was to compare good practice in each of those countries, and we gained many valuable insights. We are grateful to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office posts for their help and hospitality, and to each of the bodies and individuals visited for their openness and willingness to share information and views. A list of the organisations and individuals we met on our visit is contained in Annex 3.[3]

1   See page 42 Back

2   See page 43 Back

3   See page 44 Back

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Prepared 17 July 2008