Select Committee on Regulatory Reform Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by Defra

  At the Inquiry's Oral Evidence session on 13 May 2008, I undertook to write to the Committee on Defra's approach to implementing the Hampton Report`s recommendation on reducing form filling burdens on business.

  The reduction of the administrative burden imposed on business, of which form-filling is a part, is a core component of Defra's drive on better regulation. We are conscious that, in practice, businesses' most frequent and direct experience of regulatory enforcement is form filling, and it is seen by them as a real irritant.

  Some significant reductions in the form-filling burden have been made since Hampton reported and has been identified in Defra's successive Simplification Plans.

  The Single Payment Scheme, which accounts for 21% of Defra's administrative burden on business, has undergone several changes to simplify the process. Pre-populated forms were introduced in 2006 and data quality and accuracy of data captures are improving each year. A Defra customer survey, for example, suggested that RPA is reducing the amount of time that customers spend completing the SPS claim process. RPA is moving toward a modular claim form which means business will need only to complete relevant parts. RPA will also start to provide business with an alternative channel for data submission from 2008.

  The Environmental Permitting Programme is also delivering significant outcomes by streamlining and simplifying the operation of environmental permitting and compliance systems, and the processes of obtaining, varying and transferring permits. It is estimated that the EPP will produce administrative savings to business over the next three years of: 2008-09 £1.6 million saving; 2009-10 £8.9 million saving; and 2010-11 £8.9 million.

  We are building on the work already carried out in a strategic review of Forms. In 2007 an initial scoping exercise analysed the number, type and broad requirements of forms in place across the Defra network. Further scoping in early 2008 has looked in more detail at issues like data protection statements, guidance for forms completion and contracting out of a gatekeeper role for better regulation proofing of new forms.

  This work has been taken forward in tandem with Defra's root and branch "Renew" review which is introducing a sea change in working practices, including a new approach to the policy-cycle. We are looking to see how the two initiatives inter-relate.

  The overall aim of the Forms review is to repeal or modernise outdated forms and limit data collection to essential information. We expect to initiate a formal overhaul of the stock of existing forms in the next few months and to complete that work by early-mid 2009. Once it has been taken through, we are confident it will contribute to reducing the overall administrative burden that is placed on businesses as a result of Defra regulation and processes. Quality assurance and challenge mechanisms, such as a forms gatekeeper, will ensure that new forms are assessed against better regulation criteria. We will provide updates on progress in future Simplification Plans.

  I am copying this letter to the other witnesses for information.

May 2008

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2008
Prepared 21 July 2008