Removing the burden of removing regulation

Related tags Law Regulation

The government’s ‘One-In, One-Out’ (OIOO) strategy to repeal one regulation every time a new one is introduced raises a number of concerns.

First, will it be possible to ensure that when a new regulation is introduced the burden removed will be one that affects the same category of business? If not, the OIOO might place a new burden on some types of business. But this might not stop the government from claiming a victory if the results are presented in numerical terms, eg 20 added and 20 removed.

The OIOO initiative applies to England only. Therefore, where regulations are added or removed in England alone, this could create a net increase in burden for large firms that operate across the UK, which would have to juggle different requirements.

What if the new regulation is of benefit to parts of industry but a burden to others? For example, farmers support statutory country of origin labelling (CoOL), but some manufacturers perceive it as a burden. This is a theoretical example because the UK cannot take unilateral action on statutory CoOL and has to content itself with a voluntary scheme. But would this qualify for one-out?

The Local Better Regulation Office identifies the number and frequency of regulatory changes as a key element in the burden on business. OIOO would involve more changes and therefore be a potential burden, particularly for businesses that have learnt to live with regulations.

Some customers, such as retailers, may decide to continue to operate certain standards to protect themselves even though regulations have been removed. In such cases suppliers would keep the burden although the costs of enforcement for authorities would have been removed.

If the objective of OIOO is to maintain the burden at its current level maybe a 'One-Out, One-In' policy should be adopted instead, whereby a new regulation cannot be implemented until one has been removed in advance.

Most people seem to accept that most regulations were introduced for a purpose, often to protect consumers. If consumer lobbies object to proposals for repeal of regulations, adverse publicity for the industries concerned may incur management time and costs to deal with the repercussions.

Aside from OIOO, cost cutting in the Civil Service might in itself reduce the burden because, with fewer people available to make policy, effort is more likely to focus on the areas of greatest need and reduce the gold-plating. However, removal of regulation can take up a lot of officials' time. Will they be able to spare it?

Clare Cheney is director general of the Provision Trade Federation. Contac her at

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