Better Regulation in the UK: plus ça change

Here are the first three dot points in the UK Coalition’s new agreed policy document (pdf) on “Business”.

  • We will cut red tape by introducing a ‘one-in, one-out’ rule whereby no new regulation is brought in without other regulation being cut by a greater amount.
  • We will end the culture of ‘tick-box’ regulation, and instead target inspections on high-risk organisations through co-regulation and improving professional standards.
  • We will impose ‘sunset clauses’ on regulations and regulators to ensure that the need for each regulation is regularly reviewed.

The first was promised by Tony Blair over a decade ago and ran into the sand. What does it mean? Nobody knows.

The second was a major policy of the Labor Party which was implemented with some vigour – I guess the Coalition reckon that they can do more – or that they can say they can do more.  Perhaps as a new government they can.

The third promise has been rattling around for decades. Think about sunsetting.  Most regulation is introduced to deal with some ongoing problem. Speed limits on roads for instance. Think about sunsetting them and you can understand why talk of sunsetting is cheap, but mostly hot air.

As Amble and Chittenden put it in a report (pdf) commissioned by the British Chambers of Manufacturers in 2007:

Both [sides of politics when in power] approach deregulation (removing existing laws) with enthusiasm, learn little or nothing from previous efforts, and have little if anything to show from each initiative.

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conrad
conrad
11 years ago

Is there any government which doesn’t promise to cut red tape and simplify bureaucracy?
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As for the second comment, I don’t see what’s wrong with tick-box legislation a lot of the time — it can be transparent, and people know what they should and shouldn’t do — especially compared to: “and instead target inspections on high-risk organisations through co-regulation and improving professional standards”, which seems like something that could go in a Yes Minister episode.

Tim Quilty
Tim Quilty
11 years ago

The only problem with sunsetting something like speed limits that I can see is that more likely then not they would seize on the opportunity to keep screwing them lower. But the theory of being forced to review the regulation and the costs and benefits every so often can’t be a bad thing. There are plenty of speed limits around the place that could be revised upward or removed…

observa
observa
11 years ago

It needn’t be all double Dutch chaps.

observa
observa
11 years ago

Although nowadays the likelihood that regulation and red tape simply expand to fit the public sector inexorably allotted to us, might all be Greek to them.