UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 474-iv

House of COMMONS

MINUTES OF EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE

REGULATORY REFORM COMMITTEE

 

 

GETTING RESULTS: THE BETTER REGULATION EXECUTIVE AND
THE IMPACT OF THE REGULATORY REFORM AGENDA

 

 

Tuesday 20 May 2008

COUNCILLOR KEITH EVANS, MS WENDY MARTIN and
COUNCILLOR ANDY SUTTON

MS BARBARA YOUNG and MR ED MITCHELL

Evidence heard in Public Questions 181 - 254

 

 

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Regulatory Reform Committee

on Tuesday 20 May 2008

Members present

Andrew Miller, in the Chair

Gordon Banks

John Hemming

Mr Stewart Jackson

Judy Mallaber

Dr Doug Naysmith

Phil Wilson

________________

Memorandum submitted by Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS)

Examination of Witnesses

 

Witnesses: Councillor Keith Evans, Local Government Association (Independent), Ms Wendy Martin, Senior Public Affairs Officer, LACORS, and Councillor Andy Sutton, Local Government Association (Conservative), gave evidence.

Q181 Chairman: Could I welcome the Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services to this session and ask you what feedback you have had from councils on what it is like to work with the BRE? Does the BRE talk to and consult with local government sufficiently? Is it organised in a way that is helpful to your members? Does it have the right people for that?

Councillor Sutton: Perhaps I could deal with my experience as a local authority leader with the BRE, and where they are on the radar with my colleagues around the country. It is my experience that they are not high profile at that level. There is a difference with the relationship, with the central body of LACORS and the Local Government Association very much at the technical level, but at the political leadership level they do not seem to be of a high profile. One of the issues, we feel, is that they are quite a process-oriented organisation. There may well be some language differences, with the new way that we are moving forward with local government, when we are moving from the CPA system to comprehensive area assessments and going away from this process of performance indicators to measuring real outcomes for the communities that we are elected to serve. As you will be aware, we are moving from 1200 performance indicators to 198 community outcomes. I do not think the language is there from the organisation, the BRE, that is reflecting the way that CLG are moving, and the central local partnership at the LGA is talking with ministers to take the agenda forward. It may well be it is a language thing. It may well be that the BRE would need to look at what the 198 indicator sets are, although they have five proposed in the 198. But of course the way that the relationship with central government is going with local authorities, it will be down to those local authorities to pick out 35 from those 198 indicator sets, agree them with government, and take that forward. Whether the five from the BRE get into those 35 would be down to the way they are communicated. There is a very, very healthy relationship at the technical level with our senior directors within the LGA and LACORS, and they do consult, but it is a constant battle with the language.

Q182 Chairman: Coming back to my third question, does it have the right people for that, is the language difficulty perhaps related to the absence of the right people?

Ms Martin: It is quite difficult to judge around people. I think there is a lack of understanding around how local authorities work at the ground level and what they need to do for their communities, and particularly the regulatory agenda: how one needs to deal with issues that happen in the locality. But reinforcing Councillor Sutton's point, at the engagement level it is very, very good. The BRE are almost in daily contact with LACORS and the Local Government Associations about what they are doing and wanting to talk to us and wanting to consult with us, so at that level the relationship goes very well.

Councillor Evans: I think, in fact, that is key to the relationship: the good working existence that there is between us as deliverers, if you like, on the one hand, and themselves in taking that forward. We need a bit of pragmatism. We need to be delivering at the end. They seem to be acting more like a think tank, if you like, in terms of taking things through, whereas we, as local authorities, are wanting to be there to be able to enforce and to have the grounding in terms of the deliverables of such actions. We deal with things at the coal face. Whether it is animal health or death or injury at work, et cetera, we need to be involved more so in those kinds of issues.

Q183 Chairman: Let us follow up on that last comment. Have you been involved in the review of health and safety burdens specifically for SMEs? Have you been involved in that? If so, perhaps you could tell us a bit more about it.

Ms Martin: LACORS has been. The Executive Director of LACORS has been on the steering group. It is not personally within my remit but colleagues that work on health and safety have been very actively involved with the BRE projecting that throughout. Again, the engagement has worked very, very well throughout the project. I think there have been some concerns that occurred in the last couple of days. In the draft report, which I have not seen but my colleagues have seen, some of the recommendations appear not to have been discussed by the steering group. I know that has caused some concerns with both the Health and Safety Executive and LACORS but is being followed up with the BRE. But on the process itself, again very active engagement from the inception of the work, and it just seems to be that at this very last point there have been some sticking points about drafting and certain recommendations. Other than that, it has worked very well.

Q184 Dr Naysmith: Do you think the BRE has a coherent strategy and a firm grip on its own objectives? The reason I ask that question is that in the LACORS' memorandum there was a suggestion that there is some overlap between BRE's overarching strategy to deliver better regulation and the number of individual regulatory reviews that are going on at the same time. Does it have a clear grip on its own strategy to deliver the best possible regulation?

Councillor Evans: The objective of reducing the administrative burden is well understood by all concerned and we certainly are well aware, going forward, of the simplification plans in terms of reducing those burdens. The issue for us really at this stage is that what is being delivered in terms of outcomes. At the moment we get limited outcomes from those simplifications. It seems to be that it is not getting through the cut and thrust of what needs to be done in terms of seeing the outcome at the end of it. Perhaps we do not fully understand yet how long it will take for these issues to come to the simplification. Currently, it does not seem to me that we are getting to them.

Q185 Dr Naysmith: What do you think it could do better that it is not doing at the moment?

Councillor Evans: It depends how much time it will take to go through the processes to make matters more simplified. That seems to be a very long journey at the delivery end at this time. Certainly the activities do seem a bit incoherent in terms of the overall strategy. For example, last week, part of BERR issued a consumer law review. That in itself was quite confusing: part of it was focusing on simplification of legislation, which is in line, of course, with what was being instigated officially, but at the end of the day it is part of the reviewing of that enforcement regime. This runs against what the LBRO is assumed to be doing. There seems to us to be confusion around that one. I do not know if colleagues would like to add to that.

Q186 Dr Naysmith: It is not necessary for everybody to speak on every topic, but if you have something to add that would be great.

Councillor Sutton: I think that is fine.

Q187 Dr Naysmith: I will switch to my next question. You know that the BRE has moved from the Cabinet Office to BERR. Do you think that is the right place for it? Is the move a good one? If not, where do you think the BRE should be located?

Councillor Sutton: For me, the important factor is the outcome. I think there is a sense of feeling that as it has moved form the Cabinet Office it may have lost some of its perceived influence across all the government spending departments and the issue is are they being effective as legislation is being developed, are they being put in at the right level. There are anecdotal issues, if we are talking about CLG, where the BRE have done some development work which has been completely opposed to some of the outcome that CLG want. If this is having an effect in other government spending departments, are they best suited where they are? That is probably an internal question for you. I think there is a perception issue, how important are they for local authorities looking in to central government. Why have they moved? Is it the perception that sat in the Cabinet Office they were much more influential?

Q188 Dr Naysmith: Do you think that perception is shared widely, that being in the Cabinet Office was more influential than in BERR?

Councillor Sutton: Amongst local authority leaders that would have a resonance, yes.

Q189 Dr Naysmith: But no real evidence that there is a difference.

Councillor Sutton: Speaking to senior directors in the LGA and at LACORS, there are tranches of work that do go on, and they go to some of the government spending departments which just send them back and say, "This is not the direction we want to be going." If we go back to the move from performance indicators to outcomes, I think there is some confusion there with the role of the BRE with LBRO as well, but I would imagine you are going to ask about that later on. It is a matter for you, I would say.

Q190 Dr Naysmith: You have thrown it back in our court.

Councillor Sutton: Yes, but from outside looking in there is the perception that if something is sat at the corporate centre it is perhaps listened to a lot more. Is that having a real effect on other government spending departments in the way they want to change regulation?

Q191 Judy Mallaber: We have been receiving evidence that the BRE puts too much emphasis on deregulation and satisfying the business sector, and not enough on consumers and users, for example. Your submission talks about the balance between the two and others have been saying that the balance has gone too far in one direction. Could you give us your various perspectives on that issue.

Councillor Sutton: We feel generally that there is an assumption, when it comes to regulation, that SMEs need more hand-holding and more legislation than some of the very large multinational companies. The realities are that even the big multinationals in local authority areas do make some big mistakes around consumer protection and health and safety, and perhaps that is where the focus should be. Some of the big multinationals of course have made successful lobbying through the Lords as some of this legislation went through. Perhaps some of the focus has shifted to SMEs but then there are instances we can give outside of the Committee, to Committee members, of some big multinationals making some big health and safety mistakes and some big consumer mistakes within local authority areas. The focus needs to be against the big multinationals and SMEs as well. There is also this thing about regulators, "them and us" in local authorities, being seen as inspectors, whereas our role is probably more on the advice side at a very local level to fledgling companies, to even multinationals operating in our areas, a supporting role and an advice role.

Councillor Evans: We cannot really overemphasise that point, that we are there to help the small businesses as well in our communities to understand legislation and understand what they need to be looking at.

Q192 Judy Mallaber: Local authorities still have regulatory and inspection functions and trading standards are very important. There have been areas in my neck of the woods where I have felt that sometimes there has not been enough regulation, particularly around meat hygiene. There was a national scandal that we had which caused huge costs for the authority. Where do you feel pressure from the BRE is coming on that side of the equation? While you have said there are mistakes of companies, I am not clear whether you feel they are getting the right balance in terms of the emphasis on helping businesses or whether they have the balance right between that and the needs of, say, consumers, the environment, et cetera. Is there a LACORS view on where we are at the moment?

Ms Martin: The worry is that there seems to be quite a simplistic view in some of the discussions, so that you have big business in one area, where all is fine and everything is wonderful, and you have rogue traders somewhere else, the classics being people who sell counterfeit goods, doorstep traders or things like that. In fact there is quite a lot of grey area in the middle, not just around individual businesses but certain very reputable businesses who make active choices to do certain things. Recently we have had a couple of examples that are not local authority enforced but relate to consumer legislation, if we look at what the OFT has done with high street banks, where they have not really been putting the interests of consumers at the top of the agenda over things like charging and that is going the way through the courts, and the recent findings on big construction companies that have colluded to break the law in and around price fixing and tendering for local authority contracts. It is just a slight worry for us that it is seen as very, very black and white: you have good traders and you have rogue traders and all the activity should be on those identifiable rogue traders. Our view is that local authorities do apply risk and they do use intelligence around where the failings are, whether that is in health and hygiene or in consumer issues. There is a worry that the balance tips too far in assuming that you do not need any focus on those which are generally seen as good big business because they will just look after themselves and do everything right, whereas there does need to be that safety net public enforcement role to help if they need it but, also, so that if things do go wrong they are appropriately dealt with.

Councillor Evans: Risk management is key these days to local authority works. We have to assess the situation at the local level, though we are well aware of what is happening at the national level as well through bodies like LACORS.

Q193 Gordon Banks: I am interested in the idea of enforcing and also trying to work with small businesses. I run a small business. I started before I came into Parliament. Do you think the BRE make it easier or harder for you to do that?

Councillor Evans: I think it is early days yet to identify the outcome of that. It is meant to be simplifying things. Time will tell whether that is the case or whether it is going to frustrate even more small businesses. I also run a small business and the bureaucracy involved in all that, the red tape, is something that gets small businesses down.

Q194 Gordon Banks: If you find that you have a barrier because of something to do with the BRE, do you think that erodes that business's confidence in you as a potential partner to work with in a whole lot of other issues as well, so that it has a knock-on effect other than just in the area that may be involved in the BRE?

Councillor Evans: No, I do not think so. Local authorities at the local level have expertise in dealing with small embryonic companies and they are able to play the two roles simultaneously, if you like: they can be the heavy hand or they can be the holding hand. I think it is very important for small businesses that that role continues.

Q195 John Hemming: Obviously the retail enforcement pilot is very much a local government thing. You have said it is too prescriptive. What do you mean by too prescriptive?

Ms Martin: We always felt the principles behind the retail enforcement pilot were very good. But from the outset - and this was before the time it was a BRE-sponsored project, in effect, because retail enforcement pilot moved homes and on a number of occasions ---

Q196 John Hemming: Where did it leave homes from and to?

Ms Martin: It started at the DTI, then, when the BRE became part of BERR, the BRE took responsibility, and I understand it may then be moving to the LBRO from September time. I do not think that is completely agreed yet.

Q197 John Hemming: So it was not with the BRE before they were BERR.

Ms Martin: No. It was started by the DTI and a lot of work was done there. The fear we always had was that it was focused completely on dealing with routine planned inspections at a time when they were reducing anyway. An awful lot of routine planned inspections that were done, particularly in relation to trading standards and food, were done to meet the previous performance indicator regime, where actually the DTI had indicators that measured how good a trading standards authority was by the number of inspections it did. The Food Standards Agency did the same - in fact, it still does, but to a lesser degree. It was very difficult, therefore, for the pilot to measure outcomes because it was on shifting sands, in effect. It was a pilot about reducing inspections at the time inspections were reducing anyway. It has worked very well in some areas. We have had very good feedback in some of the pilot areas, but we also know some other areas were unable to participate because they wanted to do something slightly different. In one area in Wales there was a desire to run the pilot but without the fire authorities, because the fire authorities could not commit resource to it. Because it did not fit into the framework of retail enforcement pilot they were not allowed to try it out. We felt that would have been a valuable trial area. There have been some other places in the East Anglia area where they have wanted to do it, based more on data exchange rather than a focus on planned inspections, and, again, it did not fit the quite strict frameworks.

Q198 John Hemming: You are saying they over-regulated the deregulation.

Ms Martin: Yes. It is too early. Phase 2 has always been the phase where one needed to measure properly the cost-benefits, not only to business but, from our perspective, to local authorities. If it were to cost local government far more to manage the process than it was getting out of the savings at the other end, there would be question marks about how it could be rolled out. We are looking forward to that evaluation, which will be at the end of this calendar year.

Q199 John Hemming: At the moment you are not sure as to what the cost benefit is for local government. One of the estimates is about 10 million saved for business. Is that fair, indifferent, high, low?

Ms Martin: To be honest, I would probably have to follow that up with some written answers. I could not comment on the details of how those figures have been arrived at.

Q200 John Hemming: Your interest, as LACORS, is more concerned with the impact on local government.

Ms Martin: Local government.

Q201 John Hemming: Although you are not unconcerned about other things.

Ms Martin: No.

Councillor Sutton: There is definitely a timing issue here. We are in a very swift moving picture with a move from CPA to CAA, different indicator sets, driving away a plethora of over 1200 performance indicators, which we slavishly do return on, based on 35 outcomes, for which local authorities will negotiate with government departments on why, and proving what those priorities are for local communities.

Q202 John Hemming: Going back to the question of over-regulating the deregulation, was that something from the start, when it was in DTI, or did it come in at a later stage?

Councillor Sutton: Formerly I was Chairman of the Trading Standards Qualification Council and four years ago we were having talks with DTI officials about having one set of indicator returns, the same set, for all government departments. Sadly that seems to have moved away. With this structure that you are looking at now, I hope that does not fall away to the wayside as well. I do not think you can underestimate the amount of local authority time costed. Sometimes we wonder why some of those returns are required, where we could shift those resources to delivering outcomes.

Ms Martin: To follow up on the management of the REP, the prescription emanated really from day one. That was not something that the BRE imposed.

Q203 John Hemming: The DTI brought it in but the BRE kept it.

Ms Martin: Yes.

Q204 Phil Wilson: The Department for Work and Pensions has claimed that it is already delivering reductions in data requests from local authorities. The target by 2010 is 30 per cent and they think they are going to go beyond 30 per cent. On the ground, what is happening in reality?

Councillor Evans: In reality, no. I do not think it is being manifested at the moment. We have undertaken a survey of local authorities only last year. About 90 per cent of them feel that there has not been any reduction in the information being requested by the departments. It is working well, I think, from the perspective of the local authorities in England in terms of the performance indicators, et cetera. We have seen that reduce from about 1200 PSIs to 198 community outcomes. That is a step in the right direction. However, we do get asked still for a lot of ad hoc information from different government departments, et cetera, which is taking up a great deal of time and which has manifested itself in local authorities saying, "No, we haven't seen a reduction in the request for more information."

Q205 Phil Wilson: You question that claim basically.

Councillor Evans: Yes.

Councillor Sutton: From my perspective, I definitely see a move towards that. Let us remember that CAA does not come in until 2010, so we are still in the throes of the old CPA inspection regime. We are only just starting to pilot through all the different agencies, the Audit Commission, HMIC, HMI, this new sort of single regulatory body which is going to oversee things but it has not yet transpired. We can see the process is being put in place. We can recognise those at a professional level. But, going back to the original question, how does it feel politically at the local level for local authorities, it is too early to say. It is something that I think needs constant watch.

Q206 Phil Wilson: Do you think the better regulation agenda is starting to deliver a lighter regulatory burden on data requirements?

Councillor Sutton: As far as the members are concerned, we have already alluded to the fact that 90 per cent of member authorities do not think they see any reduction. Sometimes we question some of the returns that are required. Very often we are told that the detail and nature of the return required is driven by the EU. We do not know whether that is the case. Are you look for a gold standard? Is it a statutory requirement to have that gold-plating return or can there be some reduction in the detail of those returns? Will the 198 local outcomes drive that process or not? A question for you: Do some of the departments need to have the gold standard EU return, which they purport to want, or is it necessary? That may well have quite an impact on addressing the regulatory burden.

Q207 Dr Naysmith: All of you have said there are things that the department requires you to provide in the way of data and various other things but you are not sure of the relevance of it and you are not sure why it is required. Have you ever drawn up a list of these things on which you have questions and submitted it to the department? Or could you do that for us?

Councillor Sutton: Yes. A lot of that has been ----

Q208 Dr Naysmith: I mean formally, demanding a response.

Councillor Sutton: Yes. I am Vice-Chairman of the Safer Communities Board. We have central local partnership meetings quite often. Part of the outcomes of those was to drive down the number. It started with a number of performance indicators, convincing ministers that that these were resources that we were questioning. Why do you not trust locally elected politicians to deliver what local communities need? Then we got to the 198 indicators - which are not performance indicators, they are real measurable outcomes of how our communities feel about the way they are being governed, protected through consumer protection, through health and safety law, all those issues. Again, we are in this process. We perhaps need to have this discussion in 12 months time.

Q209 Dr Naysmith: You know what you think is unnecessary. Do you get a reasonable response and a discussion about why government thinks they are necessary? Or do you get change without really knowing why it is happening?

Councillor Sutton: I think we are very happy that we have gone from 1200 performance indicators to various government departments, to 198 community outcomes.

Q210 Dr Naysmith: You are saying that you have submitted these things, you have had a response, and you are happy with it, and there are still some outstanding areas.

Councillor Sutton: We are in transition. We are probably going for the next 12 to 18 months, as we take this transition period from CPA to CAA, of perhaps feeding two different systems as they morph into the new system. That is a matter of concern for us.

Q211 Dr Naysmith: But you are hoping that at the end of the process there will be a lighter burden.

Councillor Sutton: Absolutely. We can see that. It is something that through the LGA we have lobbied for and we are quite pleased that we have had those changes, but they have yet to manifest themselves.

Q212 Dr Naysmith: But you have had them, so they must be manifest.

Councillor Sutton: No, we know what they are. The process is changing.

Q213 Dr Naysmith: You are not there yet.

Councillor Sutton: Keith was saying that 90 per cent of local authorities feel that the demand is still the same. We need to have this conversation perhaps in 12 months, when we have done the transfer. We hope - we hope - that the answer will be positive: "Yes, there is a reduction."

Q214 Judy Mallaber: You have another chance now because the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Bill is up in the Commons tomorrow, so this is rather on time. Can you tell us what your views are on the current format of the bill?

Ms Martin: We have had a fairly standard position on the bill all the way through the Lords and things. There are a number of things that concern us in relation to the bill as a whole. They are, I guess, focused around two issues really. The key strategic one is the additional control mechanisms being put on local environmental health and trading standards authorities. The Government decided to set up the Local Better Regulation Office with a focus on improving controlling local environmental health and trading standards services. As an outcome of the Hampton Review, which was about helping businesses, we had always had the question about why all the focus on environmental health and trading standards. Whilst accepting improvements can always be made and burdens can always be reduced, there did not seem to be the same focus around that which research would suggest small businesses find more problematic, like VAT, tax, and employment law, so there was a concern about the need for this new body, with its budget of over 4 million a year, to do that specific thing. We have been successfully in discussions with the BRE, and this was part of the negotiating process, the fact that the engagement does work well around there was some discussion and move around the original proposals about the LBRO having much more directive powers over local government to say, "You must do this and you must do that." That has been negotiated to a much more reasonable position in our view. We still have concerns about new statutory processes being put in place, new arbitration mechanisms that we are not sure are necessary. One of the concerns, to which Andy alluded earlier, is that we are starting in a sanctioning regime of almost an agreed position. The BRE's position, government's position, was that they wanted local authorities to have a broader range of sanctions to be able to deal with regulatory breaches so it did not automatically mean having to take somebody to court. The local government perspective wanted those broader sanctions, but a range of amendments have now in our view meant that those sanctions are very difficult to use. The likelihood is, if the bill goes through as it is currently drafted, that local authorities may not use those sanctions now and will revert to the original position of their pre-existing powers. That is one of those difficulties that can occur, because there are different interests, different amendments put forward and debated, which is absolutely right, but the outcome sometimes means that the strategy we started off with clearly is not where we have ended up. That may change again as the bill progresses through the Commons. We have a whole range of debates happening now.

Q215 Judy Mallaber: On the question of the powers, this is presumably what you put in your evidence about needing rights of audience for local authorities in the civil courts.

Ms Martin: Yes.

Q216 Judy Mallaber: You have said that through discussions there has been a change in what was being said about the relationship between the LBRO and local authorities and it was going to be less directive. Out of those discussions in the bill as it currently is, how would you see yourself working with the LBRO? Indeed, how should the BRE interact with LBRO? Can you give us a picture of how you see that working in the future?

Councillor Sutton: We obviously come from the starting point of the Hampton Review. There were two, quite rightly, fairly high profile cases. We think there is the genesis for the LBRO to be put in place. For us, 4.5 million for this body, which has been eight months in existence, which has no statutory powers yet - from a local area agreement point of view has had no input, and has missed the deadline for local area agreements for local authority leaders to sign off with ministers - has missed the boat to some degree. We are not sure what the statutory powers will be, but they have yet to be decided. The LGA would take the view that this is a local issue. From two high profile cases nationally with the Hampton Review, was the LBRO the correct response, that 4.5 million, or would that be better invested into the local authorities to improve regulation. Those are the big issues.

Q217 Judy Mallaber: You do not approve of the Hampton Review.

Councillor Sutton: Yes, we do.

Q218 Judy Mallaber: Or you do not think the LBRO should exist.

Councillor Sutton: I think that those resources would have been better placed down to local authorities to make sure that those mistakes never happened again. But there were 400 and odd authorities. Two examples, although we recognise they were mistakes, perhaps we think the LBRO was an overreaction to some degree.

Q219 Judy Mallaber: What do you think should be the level of involvement of the BRE or the BRE through agencies with local government on regulation? Or do you think local government should be allowed to get on with it? What do you think is the correct relationship between the BRE and local authorities?

Councillor Sutton: I think local government should get on with it. I think the BRE have those excellent relationships with LACORS that we have described. LACORS is seen by local authorities across the UK as the place to go for information and advice. We see them as not only that but our improvement side for regulatory services through that advice. At the early stages of the LBRO, the LBRO positioned themselves as another improvement agency. We do not need that.

Councillor Evans: It is another tier of bureaucracy where we could have used the mechanism in place to better effect.

Q220 Judy Mallaber: Are you saying that it should not exist, that you are opposed to it? The things we have been sent as lobby material by LGA and yourselves is slightly more nuanced than that. They do not say, "We think this is a bad idea and we should not do it." Is that your official position?

Councillor Sutton: That is the official position, yes.

Q221 Judy Mallaber: That the LBRO should not exist.

Councillor Sutton: As somebody who has tackled local authority budgets and had to deliver budgets within low council tax increases, I think the 4.5 million would perhaps have been better placed at the coal face rather than on another tier of bureaucracy, when we have something like the LGA and LACORS which do that function to some degree.

Q222 Judy Mallaber: To go back to my question on what would be the relationship between local authorities and the LBRO, it sounds as though you are saying there will not really be one because it is not relevant.

Councillor Sutton: No, there is a relationship now. I think the question is: What is the relationship between the LBRO, the LGA, LACORS and other government spending departments? There is anecdotal evidence of government spending departments holding their hands up when certain things are coming out of this and this is absolutely not the way we want to move forward. That goes back to the question: Where are the BRE and the LBRO best placed to have those influences?

Q223 Dr Naysmith: Can you give an example of where that is happening, where spending departments are holding their hands up and saying, "This is not the way we want to go"?

Ms Young: Yes, I could follow those up in writing. It tends to happen around negotiation. Given that the LBRO exists now, one of the roles we have always felt it could be very important in doing is being the government's advisers on regulatory issues, yet we have had issues with new legislation still coming through or being discussed or debated where we have real concerns about the need for that legislation. Certainly local councils do not necessarily want to be enforcing it. We would really like the LBRO to be able to have a role in influencing the ministerial departments about whether that is an appropriate process or not. It may well simply be a feature that until they have their statutory powers it is difficult for them to do that, so, again, we are in a state of flux at the moment, but we would really like to see the LBRO exert influence. The political realities are the question of how much they will if you have a department secretary of state and the LBRO is a very separate organisation. We have tried to use those routes before when we have had concerns about legislation. We have really not been able to get very far in getting changes. I can give specific examples as supplementary evidence if that would help the Committee. I will do that. Thank you.

Chairman: Thank you very much. That was an enlightening session. We look forward to your additional evidence. Thank you.


Memorandum submitted by Environment Agency

Examination of Witnesses

 

Witnesses: Ms Barbara Young, Chief Executive, and Mr Ed Mitchell, Head of Regulatory Development, Environment Agency, gave evidence.

Q224 Chairman: Could I first of all welcome you both. You have been sitting there listening to our earlier exchange and we are going to follow some similar threads. Perhaps I could like to start off by asking you what your experience is of working with the BRE. What value does it add that would not be there under the general better regulation agenda? Does it talk and consult with regulators sufficiently? Is it organised in a way that is helpful to regulators? Does it have the right people?

Ms Young: We have a robust relationship with the BRE. We quite enjoy working with them, though we think one of the main things that needs to happen is perhaps a period now of bedding down, because we have had quite a lot of activity and initiatives and the important thing now is to get those to happen practically out on the ground in the regulated community. We really need the BRE to help unlock some of the processes that we cannot unlock as individual regulators or, indeed, as groups of regulators working together; for example, getting better European legislation. We do work across the Environment Protection Agencies in Europe to try to influence European legislation, but we do need the BRE to be more active in Europe to try to get some of the very good philosophies of modern regulation that have been developed over time. The Environment Agency, for example, has been working for about ten years on better regulation, to try to get some of those philosophies that I think are probably well developed in some of the Northern European countries and in the UK into Europe as a whole at legislative level. Our experience certainly is that you cannot make silk purses out of sows' ears, and if what comes from Europe is a sow's ear, we can embroider it but it will still be an embroidered sow's ear when we come to implement it. We need the good raw material. The other thing we need from the Better Regulation Executive is a bit more co‑ordination on data sharing. Individual regulators can get together with data sharing but I think there are some data sharing issues on a national scale that the BRE needs to harness the whole of the regulatory community around. That would be another area we would want them to focus on for the future. A third one relates to the value of regulation. Our concern - and it was voiced in the earlier session - is that there has been too much emphasis on deregulation rather than on better regulation, and on reducing administrative costs and the burdens on industry rather than getting the right balance between the hugely voluble social outcomes and public outcomes that regulation is there to deliver, in environment, health and safety or whatever. Now we need a joined-up communications process between the regulators and the BRE to get over the message that there has been major progress in improving regulation and making it more streamlined and risk-based, though there is more to do, but, also, that regulation is good for business. It reduces costs, it reduces risks, it opens up new markets, it creates a level playing field, and, therefore, the sense of disappointment that the business community has in the better regulation process so far is not borne out by the facts. We get good feedback from the people we regulate on how they value the regulatory processes that we are developing. We need to get a communications process jointly between the regulators and the BRE that sells the benefits of regulation and sells the real progress that has been made.

Q225 Chairman: You mention the technical issues about dealing with EU regulation. In your particular field does the BRE have the right people to assist in that?

Ms Young: I think they probably do need a few folk who are more adept at understanding the big picture of European regulation and wandering around the corridors of power in the Commission, and, also, harnessing the regulatory partnerships that already exist across Europe amongst individual regulatory functions. We have very strong links in the environment field and I know that the health and safety folk and some of the consumer interest folk as well have strong links. Getting these partnerships going to make sure, when there is a twinkle in a Eurocrat's eye, that it is captured very quickly in a modern regulation flavour and inserted very quickly right at the very start of the process of developing European legislation.

Q226 Dr Naysmith: Good morning. We met at the Health Select Committee a couple of weeks ago. I hope you were satisfied with the outcome of that meeting.

Ms Young: Thank you very much for your recommendation. We are very pleased about it.

Judy Mallaber: Is this a love-in?

Q227 Dr Naysmith: We exercised a new function: scrutinising an appointment. Anyway, to today's business: Do you think the BRE has a coherent strategy? Does it properly think through the consequences of what it does and does it have a proper plan for that?

Ms Young: I think it has been very heavily driven by a need for business to be confident that there is real action and outcome happening from the better regulation process, that burdens are being reduced, that regulation is becoming more risk based and streamlined. In a way, that has perhaps had too much focus, to the detriment of also stating a clear case for the right balance between deregulatory approaches and delivering the goods from regulation. If you look at environmental improvement over the last 15 years, it has been almost entirely driven by regulatory processes and it has been hugely successful. What we need to do and what the BRE strategy needs to do is to get these public good outcomes and a better regulation process running alongside each other, so that there is a clear value for both.

Q228 Dr Naysmith: Could you give us an example from your area of work where maybe you have the balance a little bit wrong?

Ms Young: I think a symptom of it was the communication that went out around the Regulators' Compliance Code. We had hoped we were going to have a joint communication process on that which would stress the benefits of regulation as well as the fact that the Compliance Code was going to keep its heel on the throat of these damned out-of-control regulators. I think the flavour that went out in the communication was: "Hero business is a mechanism for you to get your heel on the throat of these damned out-of-control regulators" without stressing the benefits that had already been delivered. The Compliance Code, to some extent, was simply a codification of the work that was already happening and things that regulators were already delivering. We were a bit disappointed in that but there may well be other mechanisms, regulatory mechanisms, but I am sure we could ponder on those and put in additional evidence.

Q229 Dr Naysmith: If you have any, that would be helpful. It is clearly very important to the environment that regulation is good and that it is enforced.

Mr Mitchell: Perhaps I could add that I think the BRE have not recognised that many businesses welcome inspection. There is some research done by the National Audit Office amongst the community that we regulate that says that they welcome us inspecting them because it gives them the reassurance that they are heading the right way if they do not have necessarily the resources themselves and all the rest of it. That did not come across at all in BRE's communications or evidence.

Q230 Dr Naysmith: That is interesting because it leads on to my next question, which is what the role of the BRE should be. We have had various suggestions from customers and stakeholders. Should it be a policeman, a think tank, a deliverer, a teacher or a co‑ordinator? What do you think?

Ms Young: We certainly do not think it should be a policeman. I think there is a role for gathering together ideas in a sort of think-tank way. There is also a role in facilitation across government and regulators of thinking about regulatory approaches and helping us share good practice. There is a strong role in selling the benefits of both better regulation and regulation per se and, also, as we said, in influencing what comes from Europe. All of those things are very valuable roles that the BRE could carry out, but they need to carry them out jointly with business and with the regulators.

Mr Mitchell: I would say their key role is to be a champion for better regulation not less regulation, and getting that balance right between better and more effective delivery of outcomes versus just cutting the burden would be key for them, I think.

Q231 Dr Naysmith: Surely that is the role of being a policeman. We are building up quite a body now of regulators. Should the BRE scrutinise regulators?

Ms Young: We have always had this big hang-up about who regulates the regulators because if you are not careful you end up asking who regulates the regulator of regulators. It seems to me that if governments have the confidence to set up properly constituted, well staffed, well governed regulatory bodies, they ought to be fairly confident that that is the control factor, that that is the reassurance that the regulatory process will begin. Our board, for example, is very clear that it is not prepared to have the BRE seen as an alternative accountability mechanism. The accountability to Parliament and to ministers has to be through the board that has been set up by a statutory mechanism to take that responsibility, to reflect the public interest, to reflect the interests of business, and to drive the regulator in the right direction. We think there is a role for the BRE in much more of a facilitation and championing role rather than that of a policeman or regulator of regulators. In fact we will resist the regulator of regulators role.

Q232 Dr Naysmith: We are very clear now of what your views are on that. You heard a little of the discussion we had with the previous people giving evidence about the move from the Cabinet Office to BERR and whether it was a good one or not. Do you have a view on that? They were tending to say that it had lost a bit of status, I think, more than anything else. What is your view?

Ms Young: We felt it was a bit like giving childcare into the charge of Herod. There were two very unfortunate signals given at the time of the transfer. One was that the department responsible for business and enterprise was in charge of a better regulation process aimed not just at reducing the burden on business but on delivering proper outcomes. The other was that for about three days at the beginning of all that one of the ministers was called the minister for "deregulation" until we kicked up a fuss and it was corrected to "better regulation" - which doesn't half give a bit of a clue. I think that signal was unfortunate. Whether they have lost power, I am not sure. While they were in the Cabinet Office, they could be marginalised. I do not think being in the Cabinet Office necessarily gave them additional leverage. BERR ministers are quite tough and powerful. They have good ministers who have a voice, providing they recognise that it has to deliver outcomes for the public as well as reductions in burden for business. That is always going to be a bit of an issue for a BERR minister because they have very clear objectives in terms of business.

Q233 Judy Mallaber: Getting back to the Herod question, whether the BRE puts too much emphasis on deregulation and satisfying the business sector, do you have anything to add on the specific ways in which you think the BRE could move to redress the balance in ways that you have been describing could be better.

Ms Young: There are a couple of things. We get a very strong message from business that they want streamlined and simplified regulation; not just a reduction in administrative burdens but much more consolidation of a variety of regulations on to a single model. That is part of the work we have been doing with Defra and there is more to do on that, getting a bit of support from the BRE to look at what common regulatory models might be also influencing Europe's approach to that. We have additional evidence we could provide for the Committee on work we have been doing with the European Environment Protection Agencies on the barriers to good regulation in Europe and in the UK and on a vision for modern regulation for the future, as to what the prime objective ought to be that we are all approaching in terms of our model for good regulation for the future across the piece. It would be extremely useful for the BRE to help and support that work. Also, this common communications process would be extremely useful and would to some extent counteract the location issue in BERR because it would mean that the BRE and, indeed, BERR ministers would have to think a bit about what are the public benefits that modern regulation is promoting. I think that would be useful.

Q234 Judy Mallaber: Are there any other ways they could move towards making it look like it was not just about business but about all the other areas you have talked about: the environment, the public, consumer protection, et cetera. Are there any other ways they could promote that? How far should that balance go? You say they are not in contradiction with each other.

Ms Young: No. Not playing to the gallery would help. There is a bit of a feel that the messages are all about business appeasement. Having messages that are also about the benefits of regulation to business and the benefits of business to the public. We have done a lot of work, again with our environment protection groups across Europe, on the benefits of regulation to business. Again, we can provide additional evidence of that. I think getting those sorts of messages out, so that everybody is clear that we are involved in a twin-track approach of getting the outcomes and making that the most streamlined and joined-up and risk-based regulatory approach we can possibly deliver.

Q235 Judy Mallaber: How far do you feel constrained? Do you always have to say how it is good for business, rather than being able to go full hell for leather and say that they are about everyone else and not just business? Do you always feel constrained to put that caveat on at the end?

Ms Young: I think it helps sell the message but it is also true. That is the work we did with the EU Environment Protection Agencies, to get the evidence globally for good environmental regulation being good for business. I think business is going to listen better if you have a good evidence-based approach rather than just saying to them, "Stuff it, boys. This is good for the public." There will be occasions when, quite frankly, there is such a major public issue that we really have to take quite a tough approach and business may not like it. Then again, that is where the BRE needs to understand what the outcome requirements are, because, otherwise, we get loose talk about gold-plating but when you pick under the surface of the gold-plating claim it is not always the case. Most of the work that has been done so far in trying to find examples of gold-plating have come up with remarkably little.

Mr Mitchell: I get the sense that the BRE accepts the word of the business community without much analysis; whereas if we say something about the balance between outcomes and burden then a huge pile of analysis is thrown at us and we have to defend our position very hard. I think they could rebalance simply by being seen to critically evaluate the evidence they get from both sides of the debate rather than predominantly one side.

Q236 John Hemming: There seem to be different views on whether regulators each have their own unique client problems to deal with or whether there is a large degree of generic overlap between these problems. Do you think the major regulators already share best practice effectively? What improvements could be made? Should the BRE have a role in disseminating best practice or should that be left to the regulators to organise?

Ms Young: We have got much better at sharing best practice, but we are a long way from being good at it - so I think that is a fair cop, quite frankly. It is something that the BRE has helped with. To some extent, the regulators now talk to each other more than they ever did, if only to gang up against the BRE. Certainly there is a strong role for the BRE in sharing good practice that needs to be developed. We all have distinctive flavours but there are a lot of common regulatory processes out there, and it is not just UK good practice it is international good practice. The BRE did some really good work on the administrative burden stuff, bringing together the folks from Holland, Denmark, and other parts of Europe to just tell us how they had done it. The scales fell from my eyes at that point on some of the things that were clearly of benefit to business that we had not quite clocked how important they were. I think there is a real role for the BRE in helping us all get together more and bringing in examples of good practice.

Q237 John Hemming: That sort of teacher role, in other words.

Ms Young: A sharer and a facilitator. We like to think we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them rather than teaching them.

Q238 John Hemming: You do not have any meetings at which regulators talk.

Ms Young: There is a whole range of meetings. At Ed's level there is a thing called RING - and I have never understood what RING stands for. The heads of regulators get together. There is also a meeting that the BRE sponsors with the board level champions of regulators. Our organisations, particularly those where we have common clients, get together to talk about how we would regulate better together. For example, we have very close relationships with the Health and Safety Executive on a number of regulatory regimes. In the future we will have some relationships with the LBRO. We currently have some relationships with local authorities and other regulatory bodies but it is very particular to particular regulatory regimes.

Mr Mitchell: We have made suggestions where we specifically think the BRE could help us work closer together. On occasion they have stepped back from that, so I think there is more we ought to be doing between the regulators but there is definitely more the BRE could be helping us to do as well.

Q239 Phil Wilson: Do you think the BRE has the resources to engage in influencing EU legislation? Do you think it is up to the job? Does it have the resources to do it?

Ms Young: I think they need to be pretty selective about what they do. Clearly there is a huge amount of legislation coming out of Europe and most of it is very particular to individual regulators. Where they can really play a role is in influencing the better regulation initiative across Europe. There is a clear programme. We think DG Enterprise has got the message better than some of the other Commission directorates. We have been doing some work with DG Enterprise to help sell this vision of better modern regulation that we are pedalling around Europe at the moment. It is about getting some of the generic principles of regulation in Europe sorted. The big problem in getting better regulation in Europe is not just selling the principles and the model at a Commission-wide basis but how the parliament operates. The parliament comes in at a late stage and inserts quite a lot of checks and balances in the regulation and that often is the complicating factor. We just have to recognise that that is the political process. It is a difficult one to overcome, quite frankly, but certainly I find it difficult to judge whether the BRE has the right people there at the moment or not, to be honest. I do not think we could judge that.

Q240 Phil Wilson: The Hampton Implementation Review of the Environment Agency said you have a good reputation as far as influencing issues and initiatives in Europe. How will you continue to achieve more commonality in the European arena on environmental regulation?

Ms Young: We set up a modern regulation interest group across the European Environment Protection Agencies about four years ago now. We have been working on a series of ways of influencing the debate. We have produced a number of reports which we will leave with you. One is on the contribution of good regulation to competitiveness and another is on the barriers to good regulation at the European level, Member State level, and then implementation. A third, which we have just reached agreement on and which we are now pedalling around Europe, is called A Vision for Good Regulation for the Future to try to get some principles and models accepted. We think that needs to be linked with a UK Government approach on a wider basis, adopting the same sorts of principles of recognising where the problems are in terms of getting good regulation from Europe and trying to sell a common regulatory model. Business tells us that one of the most difficult things for them is successive regulatory regimes coming out of Europe in a completely different fashion. They have different definitions, different time periods, different data requirements, different inspection regimes, and they have to invent a new process, a new language, a new system for each of those. We are trying to bring all the environmental regulation under a common regulatory model, so that when something new comes out of Europe we just bolt another bit on the end and it looks remarkably as though it is just another requirement and so it is easier for business and easier for the regulators. That sort of approach is the one we would like the BRE to pedal in Europe - and, indeed, UK ministers.

Mr Mitchell: Of course we support Defra and other government departments when they are negotiating over individual instruments and stuff because we are the ones who have the evidence about what it will be like in practice for the regulated community.

Q241 Phil Wilson: Is it an ongoing scenario really or is there light at the end of the tunnel or will you always be having to go at it?

Ms Young: We hoped that the European better regulation initiative, which got a head of steam a couple of years ago, would deliver more than it has. It is a bit flabby, to be honest. That is why we are trying to invigorate it with this vision of modern regulation. If you go and talk to Directors General and Commissioners about this, it is interesting that you get different reactions from different bits of the system. There is a lot of selling of the idea still to happen.

Q242 Dr Naysmith: Why did the initiative become flabby?

Ms Young: I think DG Enterprise saw the vision but hardly anybody else did. I think what happened is what happens in Europe a lot: DG Enterprise tries to put in place something that crosses the Commission and individual bits of it go at it in a slightly half-hearted way and it just diminishes and dribbles out the bottom of the door really. It is a very good way of dealing with government initiatives you do not like the look of!

Q243 Chairman: The Hampton Implementation Review did make a few criticisms of the Agency or identified areas for improvement. What steps have you taken to address those?

Ms Young: The first thing we did when we got the Hampton Implementation Review was to reach a view with our board as to which of the propositions in it for further work we accepted we would implement and go through, and which we did not. There were some issues in the report that we felt, in spite of quite a lot of debate with the team, they had not quite got their head around and were facing in the wrong direction. We have been very clear in terms of what it is we are now going to implement. We have a programme underway to implement the changes and there are others where we will continue to debate with them because we do not really think what they were proposing was necessarily the right way to go.

Q244 Chairman: What are the areas of debate?

Ms Young: One was the whole issue of inspection. The report was rather unclear about that. It made a bald statement that we inspect comparatively more than other regulators, but there is to be a further report shortly, a kind of overarching compendium report which the National Audit Office is going to do drawing on the Hampton Implementation Review reports on the five separate regulators and drawing common messages out. We were interested to see in that that we inspect comparatively little compared with some other regulators. It is the whole principle of what inspection is about: when is it valuable, what is the basis for it, how do you get a risk-based approach to inspection, and whether the folk you are regulating like inspection or not. Quite often our regulated customers do not see inspection as us coming along wagging the finger, saying, "Don't do this" and "Don't do that." They welcome it as an opportunity to talk about some of the issues they have and get our advice on how they can move forward. That was just one example where we do not think they bottomed out the issue well enough. Ed will no doubt remember other things.

Mr Mitchell: The one that particularly strikes me is the balance between consistency across all our regulators and local discretion. We have been on a journey of several years really to improve the consistency of decision making between individual frontline staff in response to business saying that is what they want. The audit team, which was not just the BRE, recognised that that was an issue, without really giving us much to go on as to whether they thought we had the balance right or not, but just leaving a sense that we had not quite. It is an area where, as I say, we have been working very hard to move towards more consistency and will continue to do so.

Q245 Judy Mallaber: In your very first answer in relation to relations with the BRE you talked about data sharing and wanting to work with them on it. The Hampton Review itself highlighted that as an area for improvement by the Environment Agency itself, and not just your original point about working with the BRE on it. What are you doing about that and about improving data sharing? Are there any pitfalls? What is the positive side? What is the progress like?

Ms Young: Ed will probably want to talk about the exact work we have in the working group on data sharing between a number of regulators at the moment. We also need to look at it in the context of the processes of collaborative work in general on the regulation. For example, there are a number of industries that we regulate in parallel with other regulators, particularly the HSE, where we have described quite clear regulatory models of how we will work together and how that will look a seamless whole to the folk we are regulating, from which data requirements flow that are consistent with that model, so they have a logic to them and we reduce the amount of both organisations looking for data. It is a single parallel regulatory process. We do quite a lot of that with HSE. We have done quite a lot of that, particularly with farmers as customers, through our integrated regulation process and also in the work that we do with Natural England as the overseer of agri-environment schemes and in their role as the regulator for biodiversity and natural resources. There again we try to have joint regulatory processes which are not just about data sharing but also about providing joined-up regulation that suits the customer. Some farmers want everybody who is regulating them around a particular issue to arrive on one day and get it over with; others, particularly small-scale operators, would be overwhelmed by that and want you to turn up in different years in different months. It has to be based on the right regulatory process for that client group and then the data issue flows from that. But we do have a working group on data sharing.

Mr Mitchell: We were also picked up slightly on making it clear to business that it was not just about sharing but about the collection of data in the first place. We have put a lot of effort into making sure that not only do we ask for the information we need but we also use that information to produce environmental outcomes: it does not just sit in a database somewhere. But we are going to go back through all of our data request requirements and make sure we are not asking for anything we do not use. The difficulty there is that there are some specific regimes in the way they have come through, particularly from Europe, that specify exactly what data you have to collect, which in a better regulatory world you perhaps would not do but they are there within the regime. On the data sharing side, we felt we could have benefited from input from the BRE in our working with other regulators to look at some of the legal constraints around data sharing and data protection type stuff. We felt they could have added value to that process. At the moment they are preferring us to deal with that as a group of regulators rather than them being involved in it.

Q246 Chairman: I asked Defra about a specific local example that affects my own area. We are shortly, I understand from the minister, going to get a Dee Estuary Regulating Order, at last governing cockle fishing in the area. I have been working on this for years. At one stage I had a huge obstacle coming from Environment Agency Wales. I said, "All you have to do to help, in the absence of an order, is put on the form which licenses someone to collect cockles: 'The information on this form may be shared with other government departments'." This was intended to frighten off some of the people in that economy, with millions of pounds dodging HMRC's interests. But your officers did not think they could do it. They said it would be in breach of the Act. Is there a gap there in your own field staff's training in the way they manage data and the way they relate to other government departments?

Ms Young: I do not know enough about the particular circumstances but certainly there are some real constraints in data protection. Also, with some other regulated groups there are real anxieties about competition issues and confidentiality of data that would be business sensitive. What you are suggesting is an entirely sensible approach but I suspect the reason they were saying that was that they were aware of the legal constraints.

Q247 Chairman: They were wrong on the legal constraints, as it happens. I corrected them and the following year they amended the form precisely as I suggested.

Ms Young: We thank you for that. This may be a best practice sharing issue that we can take away with us.

Q248 Chairman: I am just trying to probe as to whether your own colleagues have the right level of understanding.

Ms Young: We do have some really good examples of data sharing between ourselves and other agencies, particularly local government, in the whole business of illegal waste dumping and fly-tipping. We have developed a joint database which allows us to share information with the police, the local authorities, ourselves. Being able to share intelligence has resulted in us being able to catch people we would not otherwise have caught. That is an approach we would like to do more of.

Q249 Judy Mallaber: The week after next we are making a brief visit to several European countries, Sweden, Holland and Denmark. We were talking earlier about some of your experience in dealing with European agencies and I wondered if you had any thoughts on whether any of those countries have particularly good models that you think we should be asking about.

Ms Young: I do not know about models, but they are certainly the three that have thought about it more than the others. There is the usual north/south gradient. Italy has thought a bit, but, unfortunately, even though the model is probably interesting in Italy, it is undermined by the fact that the Mafia run the waste industry, so that what you see on the surface is not what happens in practice as far as I can understand.

Q250 Dr Naysmith: Which are the best ones for collaborating with you when you talk about doing your initiatives?

Ms Young: Certainly the Danes and the Dutch have collaborated well with the BRE on the administrative burdens reduction issue. To be honest, we have driven the pan-European process. We have had some willing supporters in the Dutch and the Danes and the Norwegians and the Swedish but I am not sure that the better regulation initiatives are as live in some of the other countries to be honest.

Q251 Judy Mallaber: That is interesting.

Mr Mitchell: It depends slightly which issue it is. For instance, if you are interested in the regulatory budget debate that is in the Enterprise White Paper, the Dutch have some interesting experience there. It slightly depends which issue it is that you are interested in. We could provide further advice on that.

Q252 Chairman: That would be interesting if you were able to do that in the next few days.

Ms Young: The other area where there has been very good pan-European collaboration is in some of our regulatory regimes on things like integrated pollution control. It is a European regime. There has been a lot of collaboration by experts across Europe and there is now quite a lot of collaborative work on streamlining and harmonising.

Q253 Chairman: Thank you very much. That was an extremely interesting session. I hope the Mafia were not listening in!

Ms Young: Before we break, could we say on the regulatory Enforcement Sanctions Bill that we endorse entirely what the previous witnesses said. To be frank, a very promising bill with some very promising flexible sanctions is being so hedged around with checks and balances that, quite frankly, we are also thinking it is not perhaps going to be worth much to get hold of them - which is a real shame because the Macrory proposals were excellent.

Q254 Dr Naysmith: Perhaps the Lords will amend it and add something in.

Ms Young: We had a good go at that. I think we need to rely on you now really.

Chairman: Thank you very much.