widely be defined as any government measure or
intervention that seeks to change the behaviour of
individuals or groups. It can both give people rights
(e.g. equal opportunities), and restrict their
behaviour (e.g. compulsory use of seat belts).
Government interventions have an impact on us all,
both at home and in the workplace. In prosperous
societies there are constant demands for more
regulation to protect the environment, workers or
consumers. But where regulation is poorly designed or
overly complicated it can impose excessive costs and
The job of
government is to get the balance right, providing
proper protection and making sure that the impact on
those being regulated is proportionate. Politicians
differ about the appropriate level of intervention,
but all governments should ensure that regulations
are necessary, fair, effective, affordable and enjoy
a broad degree of public confidence. To achieve this,
any policy intervention, and its enforcement, should
meet the following five principles which the Better
Regulation Task Force devised in 1997:
The Principles are a
useful toolkit for measuring and improving the
quality of regulation and its enforcement, setting
the context for dialogue between stakeholders and
government. They should be applied to the full range
of alternatives for achieving policy objectives, when
dealing with both domestic and European legislation.
Government Departments and independent regulators
alike should use them when considering new proposals
and evaluating existing regulations. The Principles
should also be used to avoid unnecessary bureaucratic
burdens being imposed on the public sector.
The Government has endorsed the five Principles, and
integrated them into its Guide to Regulatory Impact
Assessment. The European Commission has also taken
steps to give the Principles life through its recent
Action Plan on Better Regulation.
This leaflet references other documents that will be
of use when developing or enforcing regulation.
Policy makers have a
wide range of options available for implementing
policy objectives. The Task Force urges them to
consider them all, rather than automatically assume
prescriptive regulation is required. The options
chosen will have implications for the incentives
facing stakeholders; the burdens imposed on them;
levels of compliance; and ultimately the success of a
policy. The unintended consequences need to be taken
into account, as well as the desired outcomes.
Solutions that give stakeholders the flexibility to
solve problems themselves are often preferable to
imposing rules on them.
Below are some of
the alternatives available:
Government consistently faces demands from interest
groups and the media to take action, often in
response to one-off incidents or tragedies. In many
cases the most appropriate response is to do nothing,
as government action may be unnecessary, or worse,
have costly unintended consequences.
Advertising campaigns and education Government can
influence the behaviour of individuals and firms
through information, advice and persuasion
perhaps reinforced by other incentives or penalties.
This approach was used to good effect in the campaign
against drink driving.
Using the market
Government can remove problems preventing markets
from working effectively or can introduce a market
where none exists. Often markets do not function
effectively if participants do not have all the
information necessary to make an informed decision.
Industries can adopt codes of practice, regulating
the provision of information themselves or Government
can require producers of goods or services to provide
relevant information or provide the information
itself. Many industries causing pollution do not meet
the financial cost of its impact on the environment
and peoples lives. Many countries are now using
or developing tradable permit schemes to address this
problem, effectively creating a market in pollution
and incentives to reduce it.
Financial incentives may take the form of taxes,
charges and levies; tax breaks and subsidies; and
price caps in non-competitive industries. These
create incentives to achieve the outcomes government
wishes to secure (e.g. increased innovation or
reduced pollution), and have the advantage of leaving
managers to manage.
voluntary codes of practice
Self-regulation and voluntary codes of practice have
the advantage of involving stakeholders themselves in
the process of regulation, and may be cheaper and
more flexible to use than government enforced rules.
There are many forms of self-regulation and the level
of government intervention will vary, according to
the risk posed by the activity being regulated.
Government can prescribe the behaviour it expects
from business and individuals by setting rules or
standards (e.g. proposals that part-time workers must
be treated no less favourably than full-time
workers). There are areas where this is the best
means of achieving a policy objective. However,
prescriptive regulation, like many other means of
government intervention, may have unintended
consequences (e.g. employers might avoid employing
part-time workers), and without enforcement
compliance may be limited. It will often be less
flexible and less sympathetic to the way markets work
than other tools.
This table sets out,
against each of the five Principles of Good
Regulation, what regulators should bear in mind when
devising, implementing, enforcing and reviewing
only intervene when necessary. Remedies should be
appropriate to the risk posed, and costs identified
solutions must be proportionate to the perceived
problem or risk and justify the compliance costs
imposed dont use a sledgehammer to
crack a nut.
options for achieving policy objectives must be
considered not just prescriptive
Alternatives may be
more effective and cheaper to apply.
"Think small first". Regulation can
have a disproportionate impact on small
businesses, which account for 99.8% of UK
Directives should be transposed without gold
Enforcement regimes should be proportionate to
the risk posed.
should consider an educational, rather than a
punitive approach where possible.
Regulators must be
able to justify decisions, and be subject to public
should be published and all those affected
consulted before decisions are taken.
Regulators should clearly explain how and why
final decisions have been reached.
Regulators and enforcers should establish clear
standards and criteria against which they can be
should be well-publicised, accessible, fair and
effective complaints and appeals procedures.
Regulators and enforcers should have clear lines
of accountability to Ministers; Parliaments and
assemblies; and the public.
Government rules and
standards must be joined up and implemented fairly.
Regulators should be consistent with each other,
and work together in a joined-up way.
regulations should take account of other existing
or proposed regulations, whether of domestic, EU
or international origin.
Regulation should be predictable in order to give
stability and certainty to those being regulated.
Enforcement agencies should apply regulations
consistently across the country.
Regulators should be
open, and keep regulations simple and user-friendly.
objectives, including the need for regulation,
should be clearly defined and effectively
communicated to all interested parties.
consultation must take place before proposals are
developed, to ensure that stakeholders
views and expertise are taken into account.
Stakeholders should be given at least 12 weeks,
and sufficient information, to respond to
Regulations should be clear and simple, and
guidance, in plain language, should be issued 12
weeks before the regulations take effect.
being regulated should be made aware of their
obligations, with law and best practice clearly
being regulated should be given the time and
support to comply. It may be helpful to supply
examples of methods of compliance.
consequences of noncompliance should be made
Regulation should be
focused on the problem, and minimise side effects.
Regulations should focus on the problem, and
avoid a scattergun approach.
appropriate, regulators should adopt a
"goals-based" approach, with enforcers
and those being regulated given flexibility in
deciding how to meet clear, unambiguous targets.
and support should be adapted to the needs of
should focus primarily on those whose activities
give rise to the most serious risks.
Regulations should be systematically reviewed to
test whether they are still necessary and
effective. If not, they should be modified or
Policy makers and
enforcers may also find the following publications
policy making: a guide to regulatory impact
Practice on Written Consultation
on implementation periods
Office guidance on policy-making
good regulation, and pitfalls to be avoided
These tests build on
our five Principles of Good Regulation. They should
be applied to the full range of policy tools, not
just prescriptive regulation.
- Be balanced and
avoid knee-jerk reactions
come under pressure to react immediately in
response to high profile public concerns. This
can lead to ineffective or disproportionate
regulation being introduced.
control measures introduced following the tragedy
at Dunblane School appear to have largely been
ineffective in tackling gun crime.
Government resisted pressures for a knee-jerk
reaction in the wake of the financial scandals
surrounding Enron and Worldcom.
- Seek to
reconcile contradictory policy objectives
assessments of the likely impact of regulations
are essential for identifying and reconciling
Environmental protection must be balanced against
economic need when taking planning decisions.
legislation needs to protect workers, the public
and the environment without reducing the
competitiveness of chemical industries.
Regulatory Impact Assessments help policy makers
to think through the full impact of proposals and
to identify alternative options for the desired
- Balance risks,
costs and benefits
It is neither
practical nor desirable for regulators to seek to
remove all risk. Trade-offs between the costs and
benefits of regulation need to be assessed, and
citizens allowed, within reason, to make their
own judgements about the risks in question.
Rehabilitating criminals into society carries
some risk that they will re-offend, but this must
be assessed against the potential benefits.
government delivers its policies through
intermediate agencies, it has a duty to ensure
that taxpayers money is spent
appropriately. But excessive audit and reporting
requirements hinder front-line staff.
accountability burden in the higher education
sector is out of proportion to the risk of
financial or academic mismanagement.
to children of using mobile phones have been
managed through making information available to
parents and letting them decide for themselves,
not by imposing restrictions.
By regulating in
one area, regulators may unintentionally create
requiring single occupancy rooms in care homes
prejudiced the therapeutic needs of those being
treated for drug and alcohol addiction.
Requirements to recycle fridges created a
"fridge mountain" in the UK, which was
ill-prepared to process them.
employment rights could lead to indirect
discrimination against those the regulations are
trying to help.
regulation often places small firms and voluntary
sector groups at a disadvantage against large
People know that
they must pay a TV licence fee or are entitled to
a minimum wage because the legislation is
straightforward. But the complexity of some
regulations can undermine their effectiveness.
Working Time regulations are complex and
difficult to administer, reducing their
complexity of the Housing Benefit system has made
it difficult for claimants to make the transition
Safety regulations which were the subject
of 120 Acts and a similar number of subordinate
regulations are being consolidated into a
single risk-based regime.
- Have broad
support for a policy or regulation is a good
indicator that the public sees it as necessary.
Where such support is absent, compliance is
likely to be low.
on beef on the bone was widely
considered to be excessive, with people
preferring to judge the risks themselves.
Compulsory use of seatbelts in the rear of
vehicles is widely supported, as people
understand why it is necessary.
publics view can change over time,
resulting in better compliance or in a gradual
disregard for previously accepted regulations.
Drink-driving laws, which were ineffective for
many years are now working well.
trading restrictions, on the other hand, which
had been well respected for over a century,
suddenly lost credibility and were substantially
To be effective
regulation must also be practical to enforce.
Criminal Records Bureau was unable to cope with
the demands of conducting checks on all new
on the other hand, can provide very effective
Advertising Standards Authority, through its
influence in the printed media, can ensure that
an advertiser cannot find a medium to publish
adverts it has not approved.
When things go
wrong there must be clear accountability without
resorting to unfair retribution.
a risk of blurred accountability for the
regulation of the rail industry between Ministers
and a number of independent regulators.
Self-regulation can ensure that industries
themselves are held accountable for their actions
and how they are regulated (e.g. the Banking
- Be relevant to
should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure
that they remain necessary and relevant.
Prescriptive regulation quickly becomes outdated
in areas where market conditions or technologies
change rapidly, and may inhibit innovation.
legislation limiting opening hours was widely
seen as an outdated response to public order
concerns, and is being reformed.
"sunset" clauses into legislation can
be a useful tool for keeping regulation up to
Regulation Task Force
Regulation Task Force was established in 1997. It is
an independent body that advises the Government on
action to ensure that regulation, and its
enforcement, accords with the five Principles of Good
Regulation. The Task Force is sponsored by the
Cabinet Office, and its members and Chair are
appointed by the Minister for the Cabinet Office.
The Task Force influences government by publishing
reports on specific policy issues, and has published
reports on issues as diverse as Employment
Regulations, Housing Benefit, Licensing Legislation
and Higher Education. The Task Force also influences
government policy by contributing to consultation
documents and other policy proposals (see
Chair, David Arculus, sits on the Panel for
Regulatory Accountability, a Cabinet Committee that
holds Ministers to account on their regulatory
Task Force members come from a wide variety of
backgrounds, but all have experience of regulatory
issues. Members are drawn from large and small
businesses; citizen and consumer groups; the trade
union movement; the voluntary sector and those
responsible for enforcing regulations. A full list of
the members, along with biographies and a Register of
Members Interests, is published on our website
(http://www.brtf.gov.uk) and is available on request.
If you have any queries about the work of the Task
Force or would like to request a publication, e-mail
us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call
us on 020 7276 2142.
Better Regulation Task Force
2 Little Smith Street
London SW1P 3DH
Tel: 020 7276 2142
Fax: 020 7276 2042
ISBN: 0 7115 0438 5
© Crown Copyright 2003 5 Better Regulation Task