In March 2013, the Government Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), commenced two consultations designed to address the issue of the regulatory burden placed on organisations acting as a barrier to growth and competitiveness. The consultations concern more than 50 non-economic regulators, which include the Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency, the Claims Management Regulation Unit of the Ministry of Justice, the Groceries Code Adjudicator and the Highways Agency. Financial regulators such as the Financial Services Authority and the Office of Fair Trading are not covered by the consultation.

One of the consultations concerns a proposed new Regulators’ Code, which sets out what businesses should expect from their regulators. The new Code will be “shorter, simpler and clearer” than the Regulators’ Compliance Code (RCC) which operates at present, and will set new standards in areas such as:

  • Levels of compliance support
  • Response times to stakeholder concerns
  • Fees and charges
  • Professional competence

The key aims of the proposals are to:

  • Simplify the content of the Code
  • Make the Code more accessible
  • Require regulators to publish clear service standards with relation to compliance, enforcement and other areas
  • Enable businesses, other regulated bodies and the general public to hold regulators to account

Research has found evidence that many businesses and regulatory staff alike have little or no knowledge of the RCC, and it is hoped to improve this situation.

BIS invites responses to 11 specific questions, which are listed in the document, all aimed at achieving one or more of the above aims.

Under the proposed new Code, the obligations of regulators are summarised under five main headings:

  • Regulators should carry out their activities in a way that helps businesses and regulated bodies to comply and grow
  • Regulators should provide simple and straightforward ways to communicate with those they regulate, and resolve disputes
  • Regulators should base their regulatory activities on risk, including the use of alternatives to enforcement
  • Regulators should share information about compliance and risk
  • Regulators should provide advice and guidance to help businesses and other regulated bodies meet their responsibilities to comply with the law

The proposals are part of the Government’s drive to make cost savings by cutting red tape. Through initiatives such as the Red Tape Challenge and the One-In, Two-Out rule – which requires government departments to make cost savings of double the cost of additional regulation imposed on business – the Government aims to make £1 billion of savings by June 2013.

Business Minister Michael Fallon MP said of the proposals: “Regulators have a vital role in protecting the public and creating a level playing field for competition, but red tape should never restrain hard-pressed businesses that play by the rules from growing and creating jobs. The quality of information, guidance and enforcement delivered by regulators directly affects the ability of a business to grow and succeed. So I’m inviting firms to help us craft a new settlement that supports enterprise without compromising standards.”

BIS invites comments from businesses and regulators before May 3 2013. The consultation paper can be viewed at http://www.bis.gov.uk/brdo/publications/

At the same time, BIS launched a related consultation regarding a proposed ‘growth duty’for regulators, under which regulatory bodies must consider how their regulatory activities could affect an organisation’s economic prospects. This can also be viewed at http://www.bis.gov.uk/brdo/publications/