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Smarter Regulation Programme

Volume 738: debated on Tuesday 17 October 2023

My noble Friend the Minister of State for the Department for Business and Trade (Earl of Minto) has today made the following statement.

Today the Department for Business and Trade has launched a Call for Evidence into the regulatory landscape. The Call for Evidence can be accessed via the following link:

The Government are driving regulatory reform across Whitehall via the Smarter Regulation Programme, which launched on 10 May with the publication Smarter Regulation to Grow the Economy. Smarter regulation means only using regulation where necessary, and ensuring its design and use is both proportionate and future-proof.

Since then, we have announced numerous reforms across these areas. For example, on the stock of existing regulation, we have launched consultations on reforming employment law; wine sector reforms; and the product safety and furniture fire consultations. The latter will future proof our approach to product regulation, alongside indefinitely extending CE recognition. Additionally, we launched a series of consultations aimed at improving the outcomes that independent regulation delivers—this includes Strategic Steers for the Competition and Markets Authority; the Strategy and Policy Statement for Energy regulation; and most recently we consulted on extending the existing growth duty to Ofgem, Ofcom and Ofwat.

We know there is concern around the complexity of the regulatory landscape; the agility and proportionality with which regulators make decisions; and governance and accountability. This Call for Evidence is an opportunity to further understand the detail of these issues and test how widespread they may be, providing an evidence base from which to identify improvements that can be made over the short and longer term.

The first step in addressing such concerns will be to collate evidence on precisely how the regulatory landscape is impacting businesses, consumers, and regulators. Our first and principal focus is to understand what works well and what could be improved in how regulators operate to deliver for the sectors they serve. It seeks views on regulatory agility; proportionality; predictability and consistency of approach. Secondly, it asks whether there are any further steps we can take to reform the existing stock of regulation on the UK statute book—both retained EU law and wider regulations.

This will be accompanied by an ambitious programme of workshops with consumers, consumer groups, businesses, regulators and think tanks.

The Smarter Regulation programme covers three pillars:

Reforming the existing stock of regulation—both retained EU law and wider domestic regulation—to cut business burdens and future proof our regulatory frameworks;

Ensuring regulation is a last resort and not a first choice, by putting downward pressure on the flow of new regulation and deploying alternatives wherever possible; and

Ensuring that independent regulators perform as well as they can and deliver the right outcomes for consumers. This includes supporting the drive for innovation and economic growth.

The Call for Evidence forms part of the third of these pillars.

The Call for Evidence will run for 12 weeks and invite businesses, public sector bodies, individuals, and other interested stakeholders to set out their priorities for an improved regulatory landscape.

The information that the Government receive through this exercise will be beneficial in shaping our approach to regulations and our priorities and objectives, ensuring that our final approach is informed by stakeholder needs.

We welcome responses from all stakeholders across all sectors in the economy but note that we are not seeking views on financial services regulators and regulations. These are handled by HM Treasury, where there have been positive and industry-welcomed reforms in this space in recent years.

Statutory Instrument Programme

In parallel to today’s Call for Evidence the Government are continuing their programme of Statutory Instruments under the Retained EU Law Act, which seek to optimise retained EU law for the UK and ensure the law is clear and accessible. Yesterday we laid Statutory Instruments (SIs) that will ensure we can continue the effective operation of rail passenger services and ensure our intellectual property framework continues to function. We will keep pursuing our drive to reform retained EU law by bringing further regulations for Parliament to consider.

Next Steps

The Government are committed to lightening the regulatory burden on businesses to help spur economic growth. We will publish a summary of responses and will continue to keep Parliament, the devolved Administrations, UK citizens and businesses updated, as we make progress.