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REPORT FINDS BUSINESS CONCERN AT GOVERNMENT PRACTICE

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The Social Market Foundation's business forum's regulatory best practice group works with its members, led by the C...
The Social Market Foundation's business forum's regulatory best practice group works with its members, led by the Confederation of British Industry, Institute of Directors and British Chambers of Commerce, and the institutions of government to promote more user-friendly policy and regulatory processes in the UK and Brussels.

Its latest report*, published today, draws on a surveys of a wide range of business organisations and a forum series in which several sector regulators offered their thoughts on deficiencies and improvements.

The report, Accountable Government, ranks the top 20 business concerns about

the system, ranging from 'process failure' items such as investment

uncertainty associated with political risk, poor cost: benefit analysis and

insufficiently evidence-based decision-making to annoyance over poor

communication, including documents often being unavailable until days after

they are announced and difficulties in learning about policy developments or

simply finding out who does what. It draws on the views of regulators, RBPG

members and others to offer recommendations including:

- A review of areas where, following the example of interest rates and

merger control, political withdrawal from the policy process might be

appropriate.

- A requirement that expert scientific and technical advice to ministers,

and the justification for any departure from it, should be published

- Giving Regulatory Impact Assessments legal status, allowing them to be

challenged if policy decisions have not taken proper account of costs and

benefits.

- Following the example of regulators in running the policy process to

strict timetables.

- Implementing the Labour 2001 Business Manifesto pledge to review

legislation and regulation after, say, three years to consider effectiveness

and whether actual costs and benefits are out of line with initial forecasts.

- Opening up the Panel For Regulatory Accountability, meant to ensure that

rules for governance of the policy process are followed but currently

operating behind closed doors, to parliamentary and public scrutiny.

- Establishing online facilities to provide automatic notification of

consultations, reports etc

- Establishing (and publicising) a One Stop Shop giving access to all

consultations across Whitehall and Brussels.

None of our recommendations call for a step change in the way Whitehall and

Brussels work. Most do not involve great cost or upheaval - they only

require a cultural Rubicon to be crossed. We are encouraged that some bodies

have already started to implement several of our ideas, but slow progress

will only entrench the concern that the survey has revealed over unnecessary

lack of transparency, accessibility, and political skewing of evidence.

* The report is available here.

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