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Heavy-handed government inspectors to be kept on tighter leash

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Plans to change the way that businesses experience ‘frontline enforcement’, such as business inspections, were set out today by Business Secretary Vince Cable, including a full scale review of UK regulatory bodies and moves to cut the number of inspections for ‘compliant’ firms.

Details were published as part of the Government’s response to the Transforming Regulatory Enforcement consultation setting out how the Government will have a more mature and open relationship with businesses when it comes to regulatory enforcement, along with plans for a more transparent and light-touch system and the creation of a Better Regulation Delivery Office.

Dr Cable said “Business has said clearly that regulatory enforcement is too often heavy-handed, inefficient and risk-averse – all of which drains productive businesses of time and resources. They also cited examples of good practice that we need to capture and build on. That’s why we’re introducing a review of all regulators.

“We will also move to a transparent and light-touch system based on real risks, including extending the successful Primary Authority scheme and bringing the Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO) into government as a new Better Regulation Delivery Office.

“We will end the tick-box approach to inspection, including establishing sunset review clauses on most new statutory regulators created in the future.”

Minister of State for Business and Enterprise Mark Prisk said "We have made good progress against excessive regulation already by reducing the impact of red tape on businesses through the radical system of One-in, One-out, the three-year micro-business moratorium and the Red Tape Challenge.

"Now is the time to broaden the scope of the deregulatory campaign by putting in place a comprehensive review of UK regulatory bodies. Our aim is ambitious - to fundamentally change not just regulations, but also how they're enforced."

During the summer the Government consulted with businesses to gather their views on where reform of enforcement was needed and where current approaches to enforcing regulation could be lightened or made to work in more constructive ways. 

The response sets out the Government’s plans to transform business’ experience of regulation at the front line, including:

  • A review of all regulators, not just to examine the case for continued existence, but to make sure each one is making the fullest possible use of alternatives to conventional enforcement methods, working with business and others and reducing state activity wherever possible.
  • Making greater use of ‘earned recognition’, so that compliant businesses are subject to fewer inspections and unnecessary regulatory action.
  • Doing away with the assumption that compliance is something for the State to enforce alone, moving to a presumption that regulators should work with business through ‘co-regulation’ wherever possible.
  • Working with businesses, through local enterprise partnerships and local authorities, to promote better local regulation.
  • A presumption that regulators should help businesses comply with the law.
  • Establishing the principle that no business should face a sanction for simply having asked a regulatory authority for advice.
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