A recently released report by Tim Ambler of the London Business School and Francis Chittenden of the Manchester Business School for the British Chambers of Commerce shows how the UK experience of regulation review is pretty much as Australia’s has been – farcical. It is a little unfair about existing efforts which – though they remind me of Woody Allen’s comment that listening to Wagner made him want to invade Poland – look like they may bear somewhat more fruit. Even so, it’s nice that the life in the farce lane view of regulation review as currently practiced is starting to make it’s way unapologetically into the mainstream.
The BCC press release reads thus.
The key findings in this expos© of inaction are:
- Both Conservative and Labour administrations approach deregulation with apparent enthusiasm, learn little or nothing from previous efforts and have little if anything to show from each initiative.
- There have been 15 deregulation initiatives since 1985: the 1995, 2001 & 2006 Acts are the major ones.
- 1994 Act identified 605 âproposals for reformâ yet produced only 26 deregulations over the next four years. On closer study, the authors explain the real number may actually be less than 10.
- 2001 Act produced 63 deregulatory opportunities yet only 27 deregulations were introduced over the next four years. At the same time business was hit by over 600 new regulations.
- After reviewing the history, the authors conclude that the Regulatory Reform Act 2006 is likely to produce the same results as Whitehall has already started to undermine the initiative by manipulating targets and double-counting.
A little more detail is over the fold, but you can also download the report if you wish here (pdf).
The report outlines the cycle of regulation busting I tried to outline in an op ed late last year reproduced here.
1. Government agrees that there is excessive regulation and requests examples of regulations that can go.
2 .Industry finds it hard to substantiate examples because they are inured to the regulations,it is time consuming, they doubt anything will change,it is not a single regulation that is causing difficulty but the cumulative total and many are interconnected.
3. Eventually a list is compiled.
4. The civil service welcomes the list and expresses enthusiasm.It then takes many months,behind closed doors, to consider each item. They reject those they can and express good intent and more study for most of the others. A very few regulations are promised to be axed so that the Minister in charge can claim it was all a great
5.Announcements are made or responses provided in answer to parliamentary questions about the number of
proposals implemented or rejected.However,it should be noted that the civil service regards as âimplementedâ
anything where the policy has changed,i.e. they have agreed it can be implemented. That does not mean it is
implemented, i.e.axed, in practice. Deregulation had been a policy objective of the Government since 1979,and it took on a new urgency in 1983 with renewed scrutiny of the regulatory activities of central and local government.Table 2 shows the major initiatives since 1985.
The table on pages 12-14 is particularly damning documentation of serial announcements following this pattern.