Examination of Witnesses (Questions 280-299)|
24 JUNE 2008
Q280 Judy Mallaber: When you look
at the other sectors, the burden on the third sector and also
bureaucracy in public services, do you take the same approach
in terms of how to identify which sorts of factors to look at?
Baroness Vadera: A lot of the
regulations that we look at obviously apply to all sectors; there
are employers in all of the sectors, there are health and safety
issues in all of the sectors, so they do apply across the piece.
Q281 Judy Mallaber: For example,
in the public services there are big issues that come up if you
are talking about both irritation and time in terms of public
service workers filling in forms in various areaseducation,
police and so on.
Baroness Vadera: As part of this
30% exercise that we discussed earlier, there is both a 30% exercise
in terms of the number of times we ask for data from the public
service as well as an exercise on irritants.
Mr Kohli: To give you a specific
example, the Department of Health identified 30 key irritants
which health providers are concerns about. The top few of those
are about different bits of the health service asking frontline
health providers for similar pieces of information, and they are
committing themselves to addressing those issues. That leads to
the publication of the Department of Health's simplification plan
in the autumn.
Q282 Mr Prisk: Can I ask both the
Minister and Sir William, in terms of how this programme in terms
of administrative burdens progresses, what role do you see in
how business organisations can play a part in communicating progress
or lack of progress? In other words, where do you see them sitting
Baroness Vadera: If we do deliver
on a particular area but somehow it is not being felt by businesses
then obviously that would defeat the purpose at the end of it.
We can find the methodology that gives you a number and a process
that gets you to that number, but if the actual result is not
being felt on the ground we would still consider ourselves not
to have done the job effectively. So we absolutely have to be
sure that we are checking that what we are doing is having an
impact on business. So we research it, we follow what people are
doing, we do samples and surveys and we have discussions with
businesses and with business associations very regularly, because
if we did not do that we would not be doing our job properly.
Sir William Sargent: To give you
some more detail, myself and the Minister meet pretty regularly
with the five main business groups in addition to trade associations
that are sector specific so we have quite a range of conversations.
If we take Common Commencement Dates, which is something I feel
is a very positive way of communicating because what you are identifying
is how we get the communication in both directions: one, to get
ideas from the business community; and, two, for departments to
give feedback to the business community
Baroness Vadera: Can I just interrupt
to say that Common Commencement Dates are William's idea and that
was before he joined the BRE and that was us listening to business.
Sir William Sargent: Yes, running
a small business, how did I know what was happening and when it
was going to happen on certain dates and so forth? So the two
dates, 6 April and 1 October, we are a few years into that now.
To give you an example, here is what used to be published from
the business point of view if you went on to the website for and
the Common Commencement Date that just happened we have it down
to something like this for the business community. We then had
the issue of how do we get that through to the businesses? For
example, the five main business groups and the main trade associations
can get it electronically to about a million businesses, so we
use them as a channel to deliver, to say, "Here is the information,
what is new, what is happening, and could you deliver this to
Q283 Chairman: Just to aid our record
of this because Gurneys cannot record the scale ...
Sir William Sargent: Taking an
example of a document which was on a Department's website, which
was 80 pages of guidanceand that might have been so years
ago, even when it was done electronicallyand something
that has been brought in with new regulations on the April 6 Common
Commencement Date is a three and a half page, very simple and
easy to digest document.
Q284 Mr Prisk: Which department is
Mr Kohli: The situation is that
departments individually publish their own guides on what modifications
are coming in and if you add it all up it is 80 pages. So Communities
and Local Government is at the front of that, but that whole pack
is 80 pages for all government departments. But actually it is
not just that; if you look at it, if you read it and you try and
make some sense of it you somewhat struggle because it is written
in very legalistic speak.
Q285 Mr Davies: Can you pass those
documents round so that we can look at them?
Mr Kohli: Of course.
Q286 Mr Prisk: I strongly commend
the Common Commencement Dates, but just following on, Chairman,
on the business communication role, my understanding is that last
April there were 81 orders on that particular date but this year
it has risen, I understand, in April to 128. I think there were
82 on the day, but around that period 128. Was business disappointed
Sir William Sargent: The feedback
I have had from the journalists who talk to businesses is quite
pleased about the manner in which they got the information because
in the end to find something that relates to you specificallybecause,
do not forget, quite a lot of things are quire narrow within departmentsthe
fact that you could now get information that you can absorb very
easily, I think people are very pleased with that.
Q287 Mr Prisk: Even though the level
Sir William Sargent: I have not
had any feedback from the fact that they felt that they could
absorb anything more strenuous, because do not forget quite a
lot of things would not apply to every single business in the
Q288 Dr Naysmith: In oral evidence
to us both the CBI and the BCC said that they wanted more focus
on the flow of new legislation, and that was to include statutory
instruments as well. Beyond regulatory budgets, which we have
talked about already, and which are still being consulted on,
what plans are there to tackle this legislative flow at government
Baroness Vadera: I think it is
fair to say that we have always had measures in place to look
at the flow, including the impact assessments, the fact that we
make collective decisions so that we are looking at the collective
burden on businesses as well as on the other sectors, and the
impact assessments have to show that there is a benefit that is
significant. I would say that regulatory budgets are crucial and
are central to this because it is actually the one thing that
is not just about different bits of a process in the way we make
decisions, but an overall cap that actually self-regulates. So
I would say that it is the first time that any government has
considered a cap, a limit on the flow of regulation and I think
that is quite radical. If you have that in one sense within that
piece of course we will still continue to need to have impact
assessments because we need to ensure that even if it is within
the cap it is proportionate and it is the right thing to do, but
it does really overarch everything.
Q289 Dr Naysmith: One of the things
that the Chamber of Commerce suggested was dividing statutory
instruments into the substantive legislation change and those
that are just administrative, such as road-closing orders and
updating measures, and that sort of thing. What do you think of
that idea? It would help the assimilation of what is important
and what we are talking about a minute ago.
Baroness Vadera: I think the process
of how we communicate that change, which is something that William
referred to in terms of the Common Commencement Date, as well
as how we communicate actually is important, whether it is through
guidance or whether it is through the Common Commencement Datesthe
information that William referred to. I think that is the place
to actually divide them. Statutory instruments are legislative
tools so we cannot start to divide statutory instruments into
two different types; we actually have to look at it in terms of
a burden on business. It is also true to say that in some sectors
the burden will be different from within others.
Q290 Dr Naysmith: Road-closing orders
are quite different from introducing some sort of legislation
that will go on and on and on for a long time.
Baroness Vadera: It might be,
but road closures might be very important to certain types of
utilities, so it depends on the sectorsome things might
still have an impact on certain types of companies.
Q291 Dr Naysmith: Also I cannot resist
the opportunity at the moment to raise the role of this Committee
in all of this. Over the years this Committee has had the power
to get rid of regulatory burdens and to get rid of outdated regulations
and things that business finds irritating and annoying, and the
government has never put enough work through this Committee, and
I just wonder (a) do you know why this is; and (b) what we can
do about it to make sure that this Committee is used to its full?
The government blames this Committee when it is drawn to its attention
that they are not using the Committee and says it is because we
are too slowbut we have never been too slow.
Baroness Vadera: I can apologise
for that. I do not know why and I do not know the history of it.
Q292 Dr Naysmith: It is probably
not directly your responsibility, but you can draw people's attention
Baroness Vadera: What I can say
is that I am always, always in the market for ideas of how to
do things better as well as what particular burdens to look at;
whether we can do something with it; and actually if it came from
this Committee it would be incredibly welcome because in one sense
it comes then from Parliament and has some buy-in and it would
make life a lot easier for us. So actually now that you mention
it you might regret itI might be on your case a lot more!
Q293 Dr Naysmith: There is reported
to be a good flow of LROs coming our way but sometimes in the
past these have disappeared at the last hurdle, so if you can
make sure that they come through.
Baroness Vadera: Absolutely, although
LROs are not the only instrument by which we undertake better
regulationthey are just ones that apply to a specific type
of better regulation outcome. So I think it would be very good
if we were able to look at the whole range of the LROs.
Q294 Chairman: The Financial Times
quoted a MinisterI think it was John Huttonas saying
that there were 40 or 45 in the pipeline.
Baroness Vadera: It is 38.
Q295 Chairman: I exaggerate slightly.
But thus far we have physically only seen one and we have knowledge
of another five or so. That is not all that many.
Baroness Vadera: I know that you
discussed this previously and we have the list here.
Mr Kohli: We can pass that over
Sir William Sargent: The process
is something that is quite recent and at present one to be made,
two are before Parliament; six, the consultation process has finished,
etcetera. So the pipeline is pretty accurate.
Q296 John Hemming: Perhaps related
to this, I was having a problem in my constituency with the police
and trying to get them to arrest people for minor crimes and they
said, "It takes too long to process the arrest," which
is obviously a regulatory burden. I wrote to the Minister and
said, "How long does it take to arrest somebody?" and
they said "We do not know", which I did not think was
a very good answer, to be honest. If you look at these aspects
of what are effectively regulatory burdens, even if they are implied
by the judicial processes rather than the executive or legislative
process, I wonder whether you look at that and try to manage that
within regulatory budgets or anything else because obviously it
has a massive impact because the people do not arrest people because
it takes too long, and that is just not acceptable. So do you
look at that in this process at all?
Baroness Vadera: I do not know
whether you have managed to prompt Jitinder about this beforehand
because he appears to have stop and search documents!
Mr Kohli: I am pleased you have
asked that question because, as you will know, Sir Ronnie Flanagan
did a review of policing recently and it gives me an opportunity
to give you an example of how the BRE works in practice. We became
aware that Sir Ronnie Flanagan was going to do this review because
the Home Office spoke to us about it, and we sent a member of
staff to go and work on this review and work on the regulatory
aspects of this piece of work, and you will know that one of the
key recommendations that Sir Ronnie makes is around the process
around stop and search. A key irritant for police officers on
the ground is that they have to fill in this formor one, similar
in length not only when they ask individuals for stop and search
information but also when they do a stop and account procedure,
which is much less invasive and the form is long. It is for good
reasons, but actually Sir Ronnie finds that he does not think
it is necessary to do it in the stop and account instances. And
that, Sir Ronnie thinks, will save significant amounts of police
officer time. I am pleased that that recommendation was written
by a member of BRE staff working very closely with Sir Ronnie,
and it was a very good instance of how we get into things which
are irritating, which affect the public sector and have real time
savings for people on the ground. Actually it is about detail;
that is one of the things that is great and frustrating about
regulatory reform, you have to get into the detail and the admin
burden exercise sets up frameworks but actually it is the detail
that makes the difference on the ground for real businesses, real
public sector workers and real people in the third sector.
Q297 John Hemming: It is a similar
problem with nurses having to fill in 37 pages for each patient
and it stops them from feeding the patients.
Mr Kohli: Absolutely.
Baroness Vadera: That is exactly
Q298 John Hemming: So you are doing
that on a responsive basis rather than initiating it?
Mr Kohli: We are doing both. We
are initiating it by saying to departments that they need to find
the key irritant and they need to find what they are going to
do about it; but equally when an opportunity comes along, as Sir
Ronnie Flanagan did on a review of policing, we are quite happy
to jump on that bandwagon and push it in the right direction.
I can pass that round, if that would be helpful.
Q299 Mr Davies: Let us move on, if
we may, to the role of the BRE and the structure of government.
The decision to remove BRE from the Cabinet Office, to the Department
for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, is a controversial
one. Before I say anything further about it can you just set out
in your own words what you believe the rationale of that decision
Baroness Vadera: I am surprised
you think it is controversial.