Re-Engineering Regulation

An A-Z of Reform

April 23, 2023

Regulations are an indispensable part of social and economic life. They constitute the “rules of the game” by which companies, public bodies and consumers interact with one another. When working well, they institute important protections for individuals, ensure a level playing field within markets, and incentivise activity and innovation that will benefit society as a whole.

Yet in numerous sectors, the existing regulatory framework is blighting the lives of practitioners, passing on significant costs to end-users and customers, and setting limits on the potential of the UK economy.

Last year, Policy Exchange launched the Re-Engineering Regulation project with former Cabinet Secretary Lord Sedwill. Its objective is to promote a fundamental change in the culture of British regulators – towards a mindset that recognises the indispensability of rules and laws that mitigate risk and negative externalities, but that is just as conscious of the costs of regulations too. It does not advocate doctrinaire deregulation, but better, smarter regulation that is driven by outcomes.

Policy Exchange’s Blueprint for Reform set out the strategic vision for regulatory reform, based on greater parliamentary scrutiny, a rebalancing of competing regulatory objectives, improved direction from government and continuous improvement and feedback. This paper draws attention to how urgently these reforms are needed. In it, twenty-six regulation case studies with perverse unintended consequences are considered – one for each letter of the alphabet. They range from stifling childminder regulations that have contributed to an almost 50% reduction in practitioners over the last decade and hospital paperwork requirements requiring some 50 individual steps for staff to discharge patients, to regulations that add three to five years onto the length of time it takes to install an onshore wind facility and planning guidance that is holding up the development of 100,000 new homes. There are just over two dozen examples included here, and they all need to be addressed. But they constitute just a tiny fraction of the thousands of regulations that could be improved.

Regulatory reform often constitutes the “slow boring of hard boards”. But it is work that we can no longer afford to put off as a country. As this report makes abundantly clear, the time for concerted action is now.

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James Vitali

Head of Political Economy

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