The subject of regulation is on the table in the UK these days. Gordon Brown has been talking about a Better Regulation Action Plan. This all makes me feel very old – I can't help but feel that I have heard all of this before – in the 1970s and 1980s and 1990s and in particular in 1997 when the Blair Government changed the terminology from deregulation to better regulation and set up the Better Regulation Task Force. The Blair Government inherited a 1994 statute, the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act which was supposed to facilitate the destruction of uunnecessary regulation. Then there was the Regulatory Reform Act 2001. But after the Arculus Report and the Hampton report (Dec. 2004 version) Gordon Brown now proposes a bill for “removing outmoded and unnecessary regulations” He says:
We will begin a widespread consultation with businesses to identify regulations that should be removed or simplified.
Some of Brown's other language reeks of Thatcherism:
A risk based approach helps move us a million miles away from the old assumption – the assumption since the first legislation of Victorian times – that business, unregulated, will invariably act irresponsibly. The better view is that businesses want to act responsibly. Reputation with customers and investors is more important to behaviour than regulation, and transparency – backed up by the light touch – can be more effective than the heavy hand.
So a new trust between business and government is possible, founded on the responsible company, the engaged employee, the educated consumer – and government concentrating its energies on dealing not with every trader but with the rogue trader, the bad trader who should not be allowed to undercut the good. And the risk based approach has wide application from environmental health, to financial services and even taxation.
No wonder the conservatives lost the election!