Regulation is essential to a well-functioning society and economy. From safeguarding employee rights and protecting the environment to ensuring that markets work fairly for all involved, it can deliver major benefits.
Unfortunately, there can also be a downside to regulation. Excessive, ill-conceived or poorly implemented regulations can impose significant costs for little or no benefit. Under successive governments, the burden of regulation has continued to rise, despite initiatives to halt the trend. Between 2002 (shortly after the cost of regulation started being systematically assessed) and 2010, the cost to UK business of the annual flow of new regulation more than doubled, from £5bn in 2002 to in £11.5bn in 2010.
In early 2010, we formed a task group of senior representatives from EEF member companies to examine the regulatory environment and make recommendations for improvement. The work of the group culminated in a report, Reforming Regulation - improving competitiveness, creating jobs, published in September 2010.
On coming to power, the government made a bold commitment to reduce the burden of regulation on business. The May 2010 coalition agreement set out a number of ambitious and far-reaching commitments to cut red tape.
Manufacturers welcomed this long-overdue pledge to turn the tide of regulation that was weighing down on the economy. Since the publication of our report in September 2010, the government has embarked on a wide-ranging agenda of regulatory reform. A flurry of policies to cut the stock, stem the flow and improve the quality of regulation has been set in motion.
Serious progress has been made in some areas, but in others it has proved elusive. Some policies are working well; others have faltered. For many, such as influencing European regulation, it’s a long game and therefore too early to tell.
One year on from that report, our new report assesses how government reforms are shaping up against the recommendations that were made by our task group.