At the start of the current mandate, the UK Government set a target of being the first government in modern history to end a parliamentary term with the burden of regulation being lower than at the start. According to the last report of the Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC), published on early March 2015, the Government has fulfilled its promise. The burden of regulation on business and civil society organisations has been reduced by an equivalent of £ 2,2 billion yearly.
To validate the Government’s commitment on reducing the regulatory burden, the RPC has operated along two lines of action: first, it has scrutinised the evidence supporting all government proposals that regulate businesses and civil society organisations; second, it has provided opinions on the quality of evidence supporting proposals before ministers take proposals forward. According to the RPC’s report: over 1200 distinct proposals have been considered (of which 951 become law), 2000 opinions issued, and an estimated £585 million per year improvement in the accuracy of government’s estimates of the impact of regulation.
Among the main findings of the RPC’s reports, the following four are worth a brief overview. (1) To begin with, the RPC recognizes that the independent scrutiny on Government’s proposals has improved the quality of impact assessment and encouraged cultural change in Government’s departments. However, admits the RPC, lack of due process by Government’s departments following the independent scrutiny may hamper the described benefits. (2) A second finding from the report is the effort towards increased transparency. All opinions from RPC are published. In many cases, however, the Government’s departments do not inform the RPC of the publication of documents supporting regulatory proposals. (3) The RPC’s report stresses the importance of the transformation occurred in the Government following its independent scrutiny. These include, for instance, increased transparency of “out of scope” measures, including significant EU regulatory measures. (4) Finally, the report contains a number of recommendations for implementing further the benefits from independent scrutiny in the next UK Parliament. Five recommendations are reported, including the continuous effort towards transparency, the attempt not to transform better regulation framework into an overly complex and bureaucratic scheme, and the necessity to back up all transformations requested to Government’s departments with adequate incentives (e.g. greater flexibility criteria).
A few concluding remarks on better regulation in the European framework. On the one hand, the report stresses out how EU member states are increasingly adopting better regulation agenda similar in approach to UK (Germany and Sweden being among those). On the other hand, the RPC notes that the European legislation may add regulatory burden on UK businesses and civil society organisations. For instance, the combination of the remits of three EU measures (EU regulation on explosive precursors, the Consumers Rights Directive and Seveso III) equalled £ 1,4 million per year in costs to UK business.