Memorandum submitted by the Chartered
Institute of Environmental Health
As a professional body, we set standards
and accredit courses and qualifications for the education of our
professional members and other environmental health practitioners.
As a knowledge centre, we provide information,
evidence and policy advice to local and national government, environmental
and public health practitioners, industry and other stakeholders.
We publish books and magazines; run educational events and commission
As an awarding body, we provide qualifications,
events, and trainer and candidate support materials on topics
relevant to health, wellbeing and safety to develop workplace
skills and best practice in volunteers, employees, business managers
and business owners.
As a campaigning organisation, we work
to push environmental health further up the public agenda and
to promote improvements in environmental and public health policy.
We are a registered charity with over
10,500 members across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
1. Regulatory Reform Committee InquiryThemes
and Trends in Regulatory Reform
1.1 The CIEH offers the following submission
in accordance with our mission to maintain, enhance and promote
improvements in environmental and public health through knowledge,
understanding and campaigning. Our concern is therefore only in
the context of regulation intended to protect or promote public
1.2 The prevailing Government approach on
regulatory reform usually starts from the premise that
regulation is a burden on business that must be reduced. While
we agree that regulation should not be overburdening on business,
we also consider that sound regulation, sensibly drafted and implemented,
can be a spur to innovation and can encourage the development
of new technologies. For example, had there been stronger regulation
in the past the UK might have been better placed in the development
of "green" technologywith a stronger developed
domestic industry and less reliance on imported technologies,
such as wind turbines.
1.3 In the current recessionary economic
conditions there is a temptation to soft-pedal on the regulation
of business, but we do not feel this would be the best way forward;
it can be argued for instance that the light-touch regulatory
approach (or inadequate regulation) of the banking and securities
sector has contributed greatly to the economic downturn. What
UK plc continues to require is appropriate and effective regulation.
1.4 The general public expect regulations
to safeguard them from unacceptable business practices, "rip-offs"
and "rogue traders", but the regulations in themselves
do not achieve that. We rely upon those charged with enforcing
the legislation to do that and too often they are pulled in different
1.5 There needs to be less emphasis on the
provision of advice and guidance from the centre, a trend that
is set to continue in terms of local authority regulation with
the establishment of the LBRO for example, while there should
be greater allowance for local accountability and expertise, allowing
local government to truly fulfil its ability to reflect local
needs. Local authorities constitutionally at least, are not local
agents of government.
1.6 The Chartered Institute of course supports
risk-based regulation, which has been at the foundation
of the work of environmental health practitioners for some time,
but a greater understanding of risk and who is at risk should
be more explicit.
1.7 We perceive that there is a clear gap
between the expectations of regulation and their implementation
or enforcement. There needs to be more thought given in Government
when framing regulations on how they will be implemented in practice.
Government could improve its ability to regulate proportionately
firstly by better working between departments so that regulations
that affect a business are consistent and non-contradictory. To
that end we support the efforts that have been made towards the
simplification of regulation.
1.8 We believe that that there is an inconsistency
of approach to regulation and enforcement across (and even
within) central government departments and agencies. It needs
to be remembered that local authorities are sovereign bodies and
as such it will be difficult to achieve (or impose) consistency
across them all, nor is it desirable; but is uniformity necessary,
so long as the public have confidence in regulatory services and
those on the receiving end of regulation know how they will be
1.9 The Committee's interest in the conditions
for business growth is welcome. We would also welcome consideration
of how business success might be definedwhat might constitute
"success" from the perspective of the owner might not
necessarily be the same from the consumer's point of view. Perhaps
the contribution of a business to sustainable development may
be a better approach.
1.10 The Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions
Act 2008 introduces the primary authority scheme and
allows local authorities to charge a fee on a business with which
they enter a primary authority partnership for that service. The
issue of charging for Primary Authorities must consider the impact
on other regulatory activities. We know from our members' experience
that SMEs and micro business benefit most from the advice and
guidance on compliance issues that environmental health practitioners
can offer them. What will happen to those businesses that need
support yet do not qualify, or cannot afford, a primary authority
relationship at a time when we know that local authority budgets
are extremely stretched?
1.11 It is our view that Regulations are
now more likely to be drafted with the needs business paramountwhereas
a better balance must be struck, with the needs of those required
to interpret and implement regulation given due prominence. At
present, we feel there is an inadequate focus on compliance and
1.12 Effective regulation can be
achieved as much by ensuring the competency of inspectors as by
any central guidance. The CIEH as the professional body of EHPs
is taking steps to ensure that the routes to professional practice
are robust and up to date and that its members are competent.
But we are only part of the picture: the effectiveness of this
approach depends much upon local authorities as employers, and
environmental health is often under-resourced. Like all functions
of local government, environmental health is coping with the impact
of cut backs but there needs to be a good understanding of the
impacts of cuts on consumer protectionand this in turn
impacts upon the understanding of risk and the assessment of "what
1.13 We are concerned that local authorities
will cease to invest in the professional competence and development
of EHPs but, encouraged by central direction and the drive to
find savings, will seek to employ officers able only to take a
"tick box" and rigid approach to regulation who may
be less able to utilise professional judgment and take a proportionate
approach, or even provide the sort of advice and support that
many businesses and managers appreciate.
1.14 In their efforts to design better
regulations and more effective enforcement, we believe that
Government could make better use of the professional institutions.
The regulations are drafted by Government departments not the
regulators and it might be that there would be no need for the
"regulatory reform" business if there was better drafting
and more effective Parliamentary scrutiny. This would also imply
fewer new regulations. There ought also to be a more coherent
process for assessing how new regulations work in practice.