Memorandum by the Department for Business,
Innovation and Skills
1. There has been significant progress made
on the EU's better regulation agenda over the past ten years and
we would commend, in particular, the critical role played by the
Commission in driving the agenda forward.
2. The commitment of President Barroso,
Commissioner Verheugen and Commission staff to better regulation
has been central to the on-going effectiveness of the agenda.
The Commission has lead many of the key developments in better
regulation and with the cooperation of the European Parliament
and the Council, has been able to establish a stronger framework
of better regulation.
3. However, there remains much that needs
to be done to ensure the effective delivery of the agenda. All
three institutions must reaffirm their commitment to better regulation,
set ambitious objectives for the future and place better regulation
at the heart of our response to the economic crisis and other
pressing challenges faced by the EU.
4. The EU's better regulation agenda has
undergone a number of significant developments during the past
ten years, with programmes covering administrative burden reduction,
impact assessment and simplification of Community legislation.
5. Guidelines on consultation were introduced
in 2002 and require all Directorates General to carry out
inclusive, transparent, coherent and timely consultations.
6. In 2003 the Inter-Institutional
Agreement was agreed by the Commission, Council and the European
Parliament with the aim of establishing a shared strategy for
better law-making throughout the legislative process.
7. The Commission also established a comprehensive
Impact Assessment system in 2003, intended to assess the economic,
social and environmental impacts of legislative and non-legislative
8. In 2005 the Commission began its
simplification programme designed to update, modernise and simplify
the body of Community legislation (the "acquis").
9. The Impact Assessment Board was established
in 2006 with responsibility for improving the quality of
Commission Impact Assessments.
10. In 2007 the Commission began its
programme to reduce administrative burdens by 25 per cent by 2012.
President Barroso set up the High Level Group of Independent Stakeholders
on Administrative Burdensknown as the Stoiber Groupto
support this process.
11. By adopting the Small Business Act for
Europe in 2008 the EU committed the Commission to implement
the "think small first" principle as part of its wider
policy development that seeks to ensure that unnecessary burdens
are not imposed on small and medium sized enterprises.
12. Finally, new impact assessment guidelines
were introduced in 2009, which made more stringent the requirements
relating to impact assessments.
13. These developments have established
a framework for better regulation in the EU, but more needs to
be done to ensure the effective delivery of the agenda.
14. The UK was at the forefront of efforts
to extend the scope of the Commission's impact assessment procedures
and ensure that the right proposals are chosen to be subject to
an impact assessment.
15. The new Commission guidelines extended
the scope of the impact assessment procedures to all legislative
proposals included in the Commission's Legislative Work Programme
(CLWP), non-CLWP proposals that have clear economic, social or
environmental impacts, non-legislative initiatives (such as white
papers) that define future policy and comitology measures that
are likely to have significant impacts.
16. The Government welcomes the Commission's
decision to extend the scope of its impact assessments procedures
and believes that this allows for a better selection of proposals
to be subject to an impact assessment.
17. However, the Government would like the
Commission to ensure that all Directorates-General comply with
the provisions in the impact assessment guidelines and note that
there have been occasional examples where an impact assessment
has not accompanied a significant proposal.
18. The Government also believes that the
Council and the European Parliament should play a greater role
in holding the Commission to account when it fails to comply with
its guidelines and produce an impact assessment of sufficient
19. The Government believes that the development
of impact assessments should be a continuous process designed
to help policy-makers fully think through the consequences of
regulatory interventions. As such, we believe that impact assessments
should be produced as early as possible and updated throughout
the policy development and legislative processes.
20. We believe that all Directorates-General
should begin developing impact assessments as soon as a policy
is being considered and that over time indicative monetised assessments
of social, environmental and economic impacts should be included
alongside policy commitments made in the Commission's Annual Work
Programme to give decision-makers an overview of the impact of
legislation being proposed for an entire year.
21. More must also be done to ensure that
substantial amendments introduced in the Council and the European
Parliament are accompanied by an impact assessment.
22. Both institutions have committed to
assessing the impact of their substantial amendments,
however this is not happening consistently in the Parliament,
and not at all in the Council. We believe that, in the event of
the Inter-Institutional Agreement on Better Law Making being renegotiated
in 2010, this matter should receive urgent attention.
23. In the Common Approach to Impact Assessment
(2005) both the Council and the European Parliament committed
to examine the Commission's impact assessment alongside policy
proposals. However, there is limited evidence of this commitment
being applied in practice.
24. In Council working groups and committees
of the European Parliament, debates regarding impact assessments
remain the exception rather than the rule. The Government is working
closely with other member states, including the Presidencies,
and MEPs to address this.
25. We have provided training to working
group chairs under both the Czech and Swedish presidencies, so
as to bring about full awareness and understanding of the importance
of impact assessments and the need for these to be discussed during
26. We welcome the approach taken by some
committee chairs in the European Parliament, who have insisted
that all debates include a discussion of the Commission impact
assessment. We would strongly encourage all committee chairs to
follow this example.
27. We also believe that the introduction
of a 1-page summary sheet would make impact assessments more accessible
and encourage a focused debate on the key aspects of the Commission's
analysis, whilst also providing greater clarity for national parliaments
if these were to be attached to Explanatory Memoranda. The Government
continues to press for the introduction of summary sheets.
28. The extent to which Commission impact
assessments influence policy development is unclear. However,
some stakeholders have expressed concern that impact assessments
do not adequately influence the thinking of policy makers, but
are used to justify policy decisions that have already been made.
29. The Commission's use of consultants
to carry out impact assessment studies brings risks, as it separates
the development of an impact assessment from the development of
the associated policy proposal. The Government believes that more
should be done to ensure that the two processes (IA and policy
development) are brought closer together so that all Commission
impact assessments influence policy development.
30. With regards to the inclusions of the
"do-nothing" option in impact assessments, this is now
required by the impact assessment guidelines and as of 2007 only
16 per cent
of impact assessments did not include the do-nothing option in
their analyses. However, there is little evidence that inclusion
of the do-nothing option leads to its selection as the preferred
31. While the Impact Assessment Guidelines
advise that Directorates-General reserve time for public consultation
and the collection of expert information, it is rare that stakeholders
are offered the opportunity to comment on a draft impact assessment.
We believe that there is scope for greater stakeholder engagement
with the development of impact assessments, particularly by allowing
the opportunity to comment upon draft versions.
32. This could also assist the Commission
in gathering the data required to effectively assess the impact
of proposals on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
33. The UK welcomed the introduction of the
Small Business Act for Europe and the EU's commitment to "think
small first". It is now essential that the Commission implements
and embeds an effective test for the impact of proposals on SMEs
so as to demonstrate it's commitment to the "think small
34. The Government welcomes the role of
the Impact Assessment Board (IAB) in scrutinising Commission impact
assessments and while there are calls for it to become fully independent,
we do believe that it works in its current position.
35. However, there is much that can still
be done to increase the influence of the IAB and its ability to
raise the quality of impact assessments, particularly in the area
of quantifying costs and benefits across all three pillars.
36. We believe that the IAB should comment
on impact assessments earlier in their development so as to maximise
their ability to influence the quality of an impact assessment.
37. We also believe that more should be
done to maintain the prominent position currently enjoyed by the
IAB. The success of the IAB has, to a large extent, been the result
of the quality of its board members. The Commission should ensure
that the IAB is always populated by officials with sufficient
seniority and influence to ensure that it is not sidelined or
its independence undermined.
38. The IAB's influence could be strengthened
with two measures. First, a couple of non-executives could be
added to its members, to reinforce its independence. Second, when
it is unhappy with the quality of an impact assessment, even after
revision, this should trigger an oral procedure with the College
39. The Commission does provide support
for Member States during implementation. For example, the Commission
has provided ongoing support to Member States during the implementation
of the Services Directive.
40. In particular, the Commission has facilitated
a series of meetings between Member States which have been valuable
in ensuring a shared understanding of the Services Directive.
41. The Commission has also been quick to
respond to any questions regarding interpretation or implementation
of the directive.
42. We believe that the Commission should,
as far as is possible, support Member States so as to ensure timely
and effective implementation.
43. The development of the better regulation
agenda at the EU level has been impressive. However, there remains
much that needs to be done to ensure the agenda's on going success.
44. All three institutions must re-emphasis
their commitment to better regulation and in particular, prioritise
the effective use of impact assessments during policy making and
45. The Council and the European Parliament
must meet their commitment to produce impact assessments on substantial
amendments and more should be done to ensure that committees in
the European Parliament and Council working groups discuss Commission
46. Finally, the Commission must ensure
that the quality of its impact assessments continues to improve,
particularly in the area of quantifying costs and benefits across
all three pillars, and using impact assessments to shape proposals.
23 September 2009
1 Inter-Institutional Common Approach to Impact Assessment
(2005), http://ec.europa.eu/governance/better_regulation/documents/ii_common_approach_to_ia_en.pdf Back