Select Committee on European Union Twenty-Third Report

CHAPTER 5: Delivery on promises: Better Regulation

44.  The Minister highlighted better regulation as one of the Government's top priorities out of those listed by the Commission (Q 3). The better regulation agenda at the EU level seeks to ensure that legislation is cost-effective and that it meets its stated objectives without imposing disproportionate burdens on public authorities and/or private operators. The fact that "Better Regulation—Delivery on Promises and Change of Regulatory Culture" is one of the Commission's priorities for 2009, and features prominently in the APS, is welcome.[46]

45.  The Annual Policy Strategy states that "Better regulation is … a key component of the EU's response to globalisation". The Commission says that it will take the lead in its efforts to improve the regulatory environment, and in developing high standards in areas such as health, safety and protection of the environment, to help shape global regulation.[47] The Commissioner told us that the Commission has "already integrated better regulation into our daily work in the [Directorates General] as part of our political priorities" (Q 44). In 2009 the Commission will continue to look for new simplification potential through the screening of the existing body of legislation, implementation of the Action Programme to reduce Administrative Burdens will be reviewed and progress in meeting the 25% reduction target for 2012 will be assessed (p 14). While the Annual Policy Strategy states that the Commission "intends to present a substantial number of proposals in 2009 designed to reduce administrative burdens", no detail about these proposals is provided in the Annex.[48] It is encouraging that the Commission seems to be integrating better regulation more thoroughly into its work, and we look forward to seeing the detail of the Commission's proposals for reducing administrative burdens in the Annual Legislative and Work Programme.

46.  The Minister for Europe told us that in his opinion "the European Commission is making progress on better regulation" (Q 21), which we find encouraging. He added: "They have made, from a very low base … progress, but not enough yet. With this Commission, from the President downwards, there is a determination to make progress but … the Commission is a reflection on occasion of the demands of Member States and the 'something must be done' tendency … Now on occasion nothing should be done" (Q 24). We urge the new Commission which will begin its term in 2009 to build on the work of the Barroso Commission by mainstreaming better regulation principles in all its work and by resisting the "something must be done" tendency. The Commission intends to propose that its successor undertakes the exercise of testing proposals for legislation against better regulation principles and withdrawing many of them (p 14): this would be welcome, and we consider that all of the European institutions have a role to play in ensuring that the EU improves its regulatory performance consistently.

47.  We welcome the Minister's statement that "the United Kingdom government, along with a number of other Member States, is genuinely passionate about this … a better regulation agenda helps United Kingdom plc achieve so much else and can help Europe as well achieve so much more" (Q 22).

48.  The Minister told us that the Commission's "consultation has to be wider: it has to consult small businesses much more effectively" (Q 21); we agree. We urge the Commission to work towards drafting better EU legislation in its priority areas through improving its consultation of citizens and small businesses. This should also contribute to the Commission's objective of "Communicating Europe".

49.  The Commissioner told us that the Commission will continue to strengthen its impact assessment system in 2009 (p 14). We congratulate the Commission on the increasing level of impact assessment of proposed legislation. However, the Minister commented that the Commission "has to ensure that impact assessments are the norm" (Q 21). Impact assessment should become standard practice for all proposals. In particular, the level of impact assessment of European Parliament and Council amendments should be increased.[49]

50.  The Minister told us that the Commission has to "have post-implementation assessments of the accuracy of the impact assessments because … these things gain by being revisited after three or five years to see whether they were accurate predictions, because one can never make a judgment as to whether these predictions are worth investing political capital in and whether they are accurate" (Q 21). We agree: an evaluation of the accuracy of the impact assessment should be undertaken two to five years after each piece of legislation is adopted.

51.  We also agree with the Minister's suggestion of including financial implications in the Commission's impact assessments (Q 21), and we urge the Commission to work on this suggestion.

46   Annual Policy Strategy pp 7-8 Back

47   Annual Policy Strategy pp 7-8 Back

48   Annual Policy Strategy p 7 Back

49   See European Union Committee, 22nd Report (2007-08): Initiation of EU Legislation (HL 15), paras 62-63, 156. Back

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