Reforming the Better Regulation Framework is an opportunity to work more closely with Parliament
The Regulatory Policy Committee's objective is to improve the evidence and analysis prepared by departments in impact assessments over time; one of the ways that this can happen is for Parliament to make more use of our opinions.
The government has launched a consultation on reforming the Better Regulation Framework. The Framework is the statutory system within which government departments and regulators have to operate when ministers propose new regulations or changes to existing regulations. It aims to ensure that both regulatory and deregulatory proposals are based on robust evidence and analysis and that they do not impose an unnecessary burden on business.
The Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) plays a key role in the framework. We are the body responsible for independent scrutiny of the evidence and analysis underpinning regulatory proposals and for assessing whether impact assessments (IAs) and post-implementation reviews (PIRs) are fit for purpose.
Our opinions are publicly available on our website alongside guidance documents and other useful information for stakeholders. In this way we help to ensure that the evidence and analysis is appropriate, regardless of the policy area under consideration. We are politically neutral and have a strong reputation with business groups because of our independent approach.
The current consultation has given us an opportunity to consider how we could work better with both Houses of Parliament, and especially with Select Committees. Our objective is to improve the evidence and analysis prepared by departments in IAs over time; one of the ways that this can happen is for Parliament to make more use of our opinions. Indeed, it should be a primary “customer” of them, making use of our analysis in debating policy and designing legislation.
Ideally our opinions would be invoked as a default part of Bill scrutiny
Currently, relatively few MPs and Peers know that we exist, and fewer still make regular use of our work. Since becoming chair of the RPC earlier this year, I and other Committee members have reached out to, and met, various MPs and Peers. We hope to build on these initial meetings to ensure that as many political stakeholders as possible are both aware of the work of the RPC and understand how they might use our opinions. This could be in debates on the floor of the House of Commons or Lords, in the preparation of Parliamentary Questions, or simply to improve an MP’s understanding of what the evidence says about the basis for, and likely consequences of, a proposed regulation.
Many stakeholders, including prominent think tanks, have suggested that increasing the use by Parliament of independent expert scrutiny is crucial to delivering proper consideration of new regulation.
We do not comment on policy per se; we look at the quality of the evidence and analysis underpinning the policy and the choice of policy option. However it is clear that in a parliamentary democracy our opinions could be fruitfully used by MPs and Peers on all sides of Parliament to help scrutinise legislative proposals. We hope that increasing this focus will motivate departments to ensure that their analysis is as good as it can be.
One way forward might be that, on the rare occasions when the RPC judges an IA ‘not fit for purpose’ and so gives it a ‘red’ rating, the department should be called before the relevant Select Committee to explain its reasoning (if it still proposes to continue with the regulation). More generally, it would be encouraging to see more use of our analyses and opinions in the day-to-day workings of the Committees – they can form an important aspect of the evidence base. Ideally our opinions would be invoked as a default part of Bill scrutiny.
We will continue to meet with MPs and Peers in the coming months and are keen to find ways to make our opinions more useful for Parliament. Parliamentarians are welcome to get in touch with me to arrange a meeting via [email protected]
We have published a series of Blogs about different aspects of the better regulation framework at https://rpc.blog.gov.uk/
Stephen Gibson is the chair of the Regulatory Policy Committee.
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