IMPACT ASSESSMENTS IN THE EU: ROOM FOR
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
1. The European Union's Better Regulation
agenda, running since 2005, is intended to simplify legislation
which is already in existence, to cut red tape and to reduce administrative
burdens for businesses. In 2005 this Committee published a report
on the agenda and since
then the initiative has developed. The time is right to reassess
the agenda. This report focuses in particular on the production
and use of EU impact assessments as the majority of the evidence
we received highlighted their importance. This was an exploratory
inquiry, intended to discover the views of key stakeholders on
the current functioning of the impact assessment regime and to
identify areas where further, more detailed, examination, either
by this Committee or others, would be valuable.
2. This report was prepared by Sub-Committee
B, whose members are listed in Appendix 1, with their declared
interests. They received evidence from the witnesses listed in
Appendix 2, to whom we are grateful.
3. We make this report to the House for
The Better Regulation agenda
4. The Better Regulation agenda comprises
a number of measures to simplify existing EU law and to ensure
that new law is introduced only where necessary and proportionate.
These measures have included a codification of the EU law, a focus
on reducing administrative burdens for businesses, greater emphasis
on consultation and the use of impact assessments as a fundamental
part of the lawmaking process. In January 2009 the Commission
issued its Third Strategic Review of Better Regulation in the
European Union. It reported
that between 2005 and early 2009 the Commission's codification
programme had resulted in the simplification of 142 acts, reducing
the acquis by about 10%.
Open Europe warned us that "this does not tell us anything
about the content of the removed pages, nor if the content had
an actual impact on businesses in the first place" (Open
Europe, p 63).
5. With regard to reducing administrative
burdens (the costs to businesses of collecting and transmitting
information purely as a result of legislation), the Commission
introduced a target, endorsed by the European Council in 2007,
of reducing burdens to businesses by 25% by 2012. To this end,
they have recently issued a Communication on the Action Programme
for Reducing Administrative Burdens
studying the impact of 72 acts. The Communication states that,
since 2005, 33 proposals have been adopted with a potential saving
to businesses of 5.7bn. The Commission estimates that a
further 18 measures awaiting adoption could save a further 30bn.
Part of the attempt to reduce burdens is the principle of "Think
Small First", enshrined in the Small Business Act
of 2008, that is, in framing legislation, to take particular account
of the position of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The Third Strategic Review highlights mechanisms for achieving
this, including the exclusion of micro-enterprises from the scope
of EU accounting directives and a revision of the VAT Directive
to allow electronic invoicing.
1 European Union Committee, 9th Report (2005-06): Ensuring
Effective Regulation in the EU (HL Paper 33). See also European
Union Committee, 22nd Report (2007-08): Initiation of EU Legislation
(HL Paper 150), which also discusses the use of impact assessments.
5791/09, COM (09) 15. There appear to be no immediate plans for
a fourth review. Back
Ibid. p 3 Back
15019/09, COM (09) 544 Back
11262/08, COM (08) 394 Back
Op. Cit. p 4. A "micro-enterprise" is an enterprise
employing fewer than 10 people and with an annual turnover or
balance sheet of less than 2 million. Back