Understanding Regulation

Facts, Analysis and Comment

Too Much, Too Little, Too Hard to Understand?

The United Kingdom has a well-deserved reputation for sensible regulation. It was an innovator in deregulation and economic regulation, and it is now home to tough no-nonsense regulators who nevertheless deploy sensible discretion about who to punish and when. But there have been some dreadful regulatory failures, and the burden of regulation is getting heavier, not only for business but also for the police, teachers etc. - and for taxpayers who have to foot the bill. Are we over-protecting our children? And is 'the regulatory state' now too powerful?

This website aims to provide information about, and to analyse, these issues. It focuses on regulation in the UK and is written for the general public, journalists, civil servants, students and other non-experts. It therefore seeks to avoid technicality, whilst offering broadly accurate information, and a balanced range of views.

The menu below should help you quickly find the pages you need. There is also a comprehensive online library. You might also like to use this search facility:

Key & Current Issues

Getting The Balance Right - Better Regulation & Deregulation

Ministers have in recent years found that regulation is generally more politically attractive than the alternatives (such as tax and spend). This has led to consistent complaints about the burden and intrusiveness of regulation.

The regulation of risks to health and safety is a particularly tricky policy area. There are constant complaints that we are paying far too much attention to health and safety, and producing dull young adults who are risk- and exercise-averse. However ... we have cut child deaths as a result of preventable accidents from 1,100 in 1979 to less than 200 in 2011. There aren't many parents who would turn back this particular clock. On the other hand - the UK invests heavily in automatic train protection (ATP) where every £5 million saves one life - but it could save 50 lives on the roads. How can this make sense? Some answers are below.

Competition Policy & Utility Regulation

Competition, like fire, is a great servant and a terrible master. This section describes the UK competition regime, and discusses what works well, and what doesn't. (A separate section, below, focuses on specific sectors and industries.)

Regulated Industries and Sectors

About, Resources & Contact

Further information About this website, and Contact information, is here.

There is an extensive on-line reference library here.

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