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Volume 476: debated on Monday 2 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent assessment his Department has made of the (a) accountability and (b) effectiveness of regulators of utilities. (205215)

The Government recently responded to the report on UK economic regulators by the House of Lords Committee on Regulators (November 2007, HL 189-II) which among other issues covered the accountability of regulators to Parliament as well as their accountability through the Competition Commission, impact assessments and consumer representation. In its response (February 2008, URN 08/648), the Government stated that:

Regulators should be encouraged to think about whether they can be more proactive in using competition law, including market investigation references to the Competition Commission;

Impact assessments provide transparency and as such should be an integral part of the policy-making process;

The new National Consumer Council, to be established from 1 October 2008, will enhance consumer representation by being a more powerful consumer advocate.

With regard to effectiveness, Government maintains an active interest in looking at the regulatory regime as a whole, and has tasked the Better Regulation Executive with this role. However, as bodies independent from government, regulators assess their effectiveness through their own corporate governance structures. Further assessment beyond this is primarily a matter for Parliament.