Regulation protects the weak and vulnerable. Regulation protects the environment. But all regulation has to strike a balance between respecting the freedom of the individual and the needs of the community. So:-
- Has the UK got the balance right? ... and
- Why is there more and more regulation in the UK and many other countries?
This section of this website examines these questions in some detail. You might like to start by considering ...
- Why is there so much regulation?
- What is the best way to regulate Individuals and Small Firms
- Consumer Protection
All this regulation has inevitably led to complaints about the burden and intrusiveness of regulation. Ministers have responded by launching frequent deregulation and better regulation initiatives, including the introduction of regulatory budgets. Have they worked?
This question was considered in a very sensible 2023 Social Market Foundation report by Stephen Gibson and others. They identified five key lessons for policymakers:
- Clearly signal political support for initiatives to reduce regulation – regulatory burden reduction can often conflict with other political objectives. If burden reduction approaches are to be effective, it is imperative that they have strong political backing.
- Independently validate regulatory burden calculations – this ensures that the impacts of regulations are properly assessed and improves the quality of regulatory burden calculations.
- Set the scope of the framework appropriately – ensuring that significant regulations are not excluded from the burden reduction framework.
- Focus on the small number of regulations that generate most of the regulatory burdens
- Involve stakeholders – both to identify regulations that might be removed and providing evidence to quantify the burden reduction.
But later reports that same year provided unwelcome though unsurprising evidence deregulation activity had become increasingly performative, seeking friendly headlines but lacking any intention to have a real-world effect. Further detail is here.
You might also like to read these two web pages which introduce:
And then ...
Has Deregulation Gone Too Far?
Most governments and most ministers have taken a sensible approach to deregulation, aiming to balance the aims of both new and established regulations against the ongoing cost to both businesses and individuals. They have aimed for 'better regulation' and encouraged in depth analysis of regulatory impacts. A detailed history may be accessed via the links further down this web page.
In taking this approach, they have deliberately or intuitively borne in mind the fallacy of Chesterton’s fence:
In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.
Put simply, don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up.
Policies and procedures that are in place are likely there for a purpose – someone has set it up that way for a reason. The same is true with contractual conditions. More than likely there is something there you don’t see. Something their experience and perspective provides that you can’t perceive.
But deregulation can be, and sometimes has been, taken far too far. Here are two examples:
Deregulation in the UK - A Detailed History
Risks to Health and Safety
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 was said to save one life - but it could save many more lives on the roads. How can this make sense?
The following link leads through to a number of interesting web pages.