Headlines: October 11th, 1999

The Government is still too quick to regulate, says the Better Regulation Task Force.In its annual report the task force says that regulation should be subject to the same scrutiny as creating a new tax or a new public spending initiative.

According to the task force there is insufficient assessment of the impact of new rules on economic activity and competitiveness.

Departments are urged to consider every possible alternative first, including better information for citizens, the promotion of best practice and self-regulation.

The report also warns that regulation is a waste of time unless sufficient attention is paid to the quality of enforcement, with an emphasis on helping people comply rather than on penalties.

In the coming year ministers have been asked to consult the task force more often and at an earlier stage about new policy proposals.

On its task list for the coming year the task force expects to scrutinise regulation concerning the Food Standards Agency, the employment relations bill, and gaming regulations.

The team will also look at making demands on employers’ payroll sections simpler, whether the regulation of the hotel and restaurant sector in the UK could be made more ‘joined-up’, and further work on whether small firms should be exempt from some regulations.

It will also be examining the impact of regulation in the public sector using the example of what headteachers have been expected to take on.

The full text of the report is on the task force website at http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/regulation/index/task.htm.