With the UK General Election behind us, a familiar phrase seems apt to describe the new Government’s approach to better regulation – something old, something new, something borrowed....something blue?
Putting aside the reference to something blue – better regulation will be a central plank of the new Government’s approach. It’s too easy to see better regulation as only an issue of cutting red-tape for business – it has be a principle that extends from lawmakers to law enforcers.
And whilst the new Business Secretary, Sajid Javid in his first major speech yesterday said he would cut red tape, (something old), and achieve £10 billion of savings over the lifetime of the Parliament, (something old, again), we will need some extra spice to the mix this time around to meet this target – ultimately we need 'something new.'
Whilst there is still some red-tape to cut, the roll is now shorter and thinner than it has been. And the new Government won’t get to the £10billion figure by relaxing rules on knitting yarn, jam, ice-cream van chimes and releasing businesses from the burden of reporting grey squirrels they happen to encounter whilst answering their emails.
So, then, how might we find £10 billion of red-tape savings?
The answer may some from 'something borrowed' - from a place which the new Government might not instinctively think of looking – from Europe.
Europe has been changing. The juggernaut has slowed down, but not quite stopped. There is currently very little new regulation in the pipeline, largely thanks to the new First Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans. By coincidence, probably, yesterday he was also speaking about what Europe will do to reduce the burden of regulation. He laid out two principles – better scrutiny and more transparency. Traditionally, European law is settled after marathon negotiations as dawn is breaking, and is determined by the stamina of the parties.
Perhaps the UK is a little more transparent than the EU in its law-making but perhaps we can borrow the principles of VP Timmermans and create something new. Put simply, we need better scrutiny of what regulators are doing with the regulation that they have been entrusted with. Some are taking the need to reduce the burden of red tape more seriously than others, and perhaps now is the time for those who lead these organisations, publicly and individually, to account for their progress towards the £10 billion target.
The new approach then is to look at how the regulation is used, not just how wide the red tape is.