The independent better regulation watchdog
Bringing an external perspective on how regulatory proposals can impact businesses and civil society organisations. We do this by appraising critically the evidence and analysis presented in impact assessments, which support regulatory policy decisions.
Our views are made available both to ministers making decisions and subsequently to Parliament when scrutinising proposed legislation.
The Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) provides an independent view on better regulation and how to promote this across government, ensuring due consideration is given to limiting the unnecessary burden of regulation on businesses and civil society organisations; while supporting the development of appropriate, evidence-led regulation.
The RPC works with government to improve the quality of evidence and analysis to support regulatory policy development and, where necessary, states independently where the principles of better regulation are threatened.
The RPC presents transparently the regulatory costs to business and civil society organisations likely to arise from government regulatory policies and, where required, questions where impacts are not captured by regulatory exemptions.
Who we are
The RPC is an independent body, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
The committee is formed of independent experts from a range of backgrounds, including the private and voluntary sectors, business, the legal profession, and academia. Collectively, the RPC has experience and knowledge of employee, consumer and economic issues. Our committee members are:
Members of the committee are appointed after an open competition, which follows the Ministerial Governance Code on Public Appointments. The committee is supported by a secretariat of civil servants formed of economists, policy advisers and operational researchers.
What we do
We assess the quality of evidence and analysis used to inform regulatory proposals affecting the economy, businesses, civil society, charities and other non-government organisations. Our independent advice and scrutiny helps ensure that ministerial policy decisions are based on accurate evidence, and helps to produce better regulation. Where we assess the impact of regulatory proposals, we provide advice in the form of opinions, which help to convey whether:
central government departments’ estimated costs or savings to business, as a result of regulatory reforms, are accurate and can be validated. The accuracy of these estimates is important as they help to inform decisions on whether or not proposals are taken forward;
government departments have explained why new regulation is more appropriate than non-regulatory, or voluntary, options. A clear principle of the Government’s better regulation framework is not to presume that regulation is the answer, and to consider a range of meaningful alternative options, we help to ensure that proposals consider these points; and
government has, where appropriate, minimised the regulatory burdens on small and micro businesses, in particular.
The key to our success is independent scrutiny, which means we provide:
- strong challenge to policy makers;
- a counter to any bias towards regulation, and to optimism bias in assessments; and
- an external view of regulatory impacts.
As a result of our scrutiny:
- the government produces better regulatory outcomes for society;
- businesses and non-government organisations are less likely to be burdened by regulation that is not supported by robust evidence;
- there has been a drive for cultural change – both on the use of evidence and on reducing regulation;
- the estimated costs and benefits of regulatory proposals are more accurate;
- the accuracy of the Government’s regulatory account is more reliable than would be the case without independent scrutiny;
- the Government’s regulatory framework has enhanced credibility; and,
- there is increased transparency around evidence and government’s use of it.
Our blog is an opportunity for us to share our independent views on better regulation principles and regulatory reform proposals, to inform and stimulate policy debate and discussion.
We welcome and encourage comments and views on the issues we raise in our posts. This is a real opportunity for interested parties to share their ideas and views on live issues to help shape the future regulatory landscape.
Our posts should not be interpreted as government policy, intent, or news.
External Stakeholder Engagement
We actively engage with business groups, sectoral associations and representatives of wider civil society to understand the impact of regulations from their perspective. If stakeholders are concerned about the impact of a particular regulation or legislation, then we welcome any evidence of that impact to assist us in our scrutiny, particularly on published impact assessments.
We work directly with government departments and regulators. Information or views from stakeholders on new regulatory and deregulatory proposals should be submitted to the department responsible for developing the policy during their consultation. However, if you have additional information, including your consultation response, that you think the committee should be considering when deciding if an impact assessment is fit for purpose, please get in touch.
How you can engage with us
Follow us on Twitter and feel free to make use of the direct message facility. Visit our website www.gov.uk/rpc where you can find our latest news, published opinions, and blogs by our chair/committee members. Email us if you have any questions, please contact us here.
How we collaborate with European and International partners
The RPC has been conducting extensive International Engagement since its creation in 2009. We promote best practice and share in-depth technical knowledge on regulatory scrutiny to enhance bilateral and multilateral regulatory compatibility. Our international outreach develops and strengthens the RPC’s reputation as a Centre of Excellence and contributes to the Global Britain vision and the UK’s perception as a key bilateral partner.
We exchange best practice with similar and like-minded organisations, which scrutinise impacts from regulatory changes in their own country. We work with colleagues from Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Norway and the Czech Republic in the RegWatchEurope network. Our work with this group extends to regulatory scrutiny bodies in other European countries including Iceland, Slovakia, Portugal, Denmark, Italy, Estonia and Lithuania, to establish their own regulatory scrutiny bodies and to enhance their methodology.
We also work with the OECD Regulatory Policy Committee, the OECD’s global expert forum for the enhancement of domestic and transnational better regulation policies. Alongside making substantial contributions to improving regulatory scrutiny and better regulation, we also lead on engagement with the OECD RPC on behalf of RegWatchEurope.
In addition, we engage bilaterally with key trading and capacity building partners, to exchange knowledge and best practice overseas. Most recently, this has included South Korea, Hong Kong, Moldova and Iceland. We have also engaged with our partners from the Seychelles, Australia, Chile, France and China in our London offices.
RPC Guidance and Training
The RPC also regularly produces and updates guidance for departments and regulators. Our guidance helps to support the formation of better regulation and is supplementary to our training offers. Please get in contact with us if you would like to find out about our tailored impact assessment training for policy teams.
What we don’t do
As our work is impartial, we do not comment or offer opinions on policies themselves; these are matters for the Government.
We do not review impact assessments for proposals that are not in the scope of the better regulation framework. We do not scrutinise impact assessments (IAs) that relate to tax or spending decisions. We scrutinise IAs that relate to the regulation or deregulation of business or civil society organisations, and we do not review IAs for proposals that regulate only individuals or public bodies.
Regulatory proposals are accompanied by impact assessments, which assess and estimate the likely associated risks, costs and benefits of regulatory proposals that have an impact on business, charities or voluntary organisations, the public sector or individuals. A well-written IA should: explain clearly the issue the Government are trying to tackle; how they intend to tackle it; and what the effects of proposals will be.
For proposals that regulate or deregulate business or civil society organisations, the RPC scrutinises IAs, and provides to ministers opinions on the quality of analysis and evidence presented. These opinions inform the decisions of ministers as to whether or not to proceed with proposals.
The opinion-writing process and opinion ratings
Once an IA is submitted by a government department for RPC scrutiny, the RPC operates an established, rigorous and consistent multi-stage assessment process. This is undertake in line with guidance published by government in the Better Regulation Framework Manual.
For final stage impact assessments:
|Initial review notice (IRN)
|The IA, as first submitted to the RPC, is not fit for purpose. If major concerns over the quality of evidence and analysis are not addressed after an IRN has been issued to a department, this could result in a formal red rating. IRNs contain informal advice and are, therefore, not published.
||The IA is not fit for purpose following the department’s response to an IRN. The RPC retains major concerns over the quality of the evidence and analysis, and the overall quality of the IA, that need to be addressed. Red-rated opinions are formal and are published once the corresponding IA has been published.
||The IA is fit for purpose. The RPC has no significant concerns or where some minor issues could be improved. There may be many points for improvement, which the department should consider. Green-rated opinions are formal and are published when the corresponding IA has been published.
For equivalent annual net direct cost to business (EANDCB) validation IA:
|The EANDCB figure in the IA is validated. There are no significant concerns over the quality of the evidence and analysis. There is sufficient analysis to suggest that the EANDCB is accurate to within £100,000.
||The EANDCB figure in the IA is not validated. There are significant concerns over the quality of the evidence and analysis; calculations or data may be missing or not verifiable. There is insufficient analysis and/or the RPC believes that the EANDCB figure is inaccurate.
For consultation stage IAs we offer to provide informal advice, which is not published. If an IA is not fit for purpose at the consultation stage, we provide advice on: what must be addressed at the consultation stage; what must be addressed at the final stage; and what should be improved.
Consultation stage IAs may also follow the formal route, as for final stage IAs above.
The RPC used to issue amber-ratings however these have since been replaced by just green or red opinions.
Published copies of RPC opinions can be found here.
The RPC was established in 2009. It was the first body in the UK set up to provide independent scrutiny of proposed regulatory measures, put forward by government. In 2012, the RPC became an independent advisory non‐departmental public body (NDPB) - defined as a body that has a role in the processes of national government, but is not a government department or part of one, and which accordingly operates to a greater or lesser extent at arm’s length from ministers.
The business impact target (BIT) and the independent verification body (IVB) for the 2017 - 2022 parliament
The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 requires the government of the day to do the following within the first year of a new parliament:
Publish a business impact target (BIT) for the duration of the parliament (and an interim BIT for the first three years).
Publish details of regulation that does, and does not, count towards the BIT during the parliament (i.e. in scope of the target).
Publish a metric for calculating the economic impact on business of measures in scope of the BIT.
Appoint an IVB to verify the economic impact on business of measures in scope of the BIT.
The appointment of the IVB was awarded to the Regulatory Policy Committee for the 2017-2022 parliament.
De minimis 2018
In 2018 the de minimis threshold of a £5 million positive or negative impact on business was introduced.
Usually, if the direct impacts on business of either primary legislation, and/or the exercise of secondary powers arising from it, are greater than ±£5m EANDCB, then the legislation is subject to the better regulation framework and the related IAs should be submitted to the RPC for independent scrutiny.
If the direct impact on business of the primary legislation and related secondary legislation is below the de minimis threshold, or falls under the safer building exclusion, then a proportionate IA is required.
It is for departments to establish an appropriate process to record decisions on whether a measure is below the de minimis threshold. Such measures may be subject to ‘call in’ to confirm that the de minimis threshold has been appropriately applied. For more information and clarity please see the Better Regulation Executive (BRE) Better Regulation Framework: guidance.
The RPC holds regular meetings where the committee assembles to discuss: better regulation policy updates; methodology; forthcoming regulation; stakeholder engagement; guidance we have produced; and our own performance.
We ensure that, where there are conflicts of interests between committee members and the subject of regulatory proposals, committee members are excluded from seeing these papers. This helps our independent scrutiny remain impartial and unbiased. To keep track of any conflicts of interest we update our register of interests regularly.
We comply with general BEIS guidance for gifts and hospitality. All gifts, hospitality and other services whether offered, accepted or rejected need to be registered within three days of being been offered. We keep our gifts and hospitality register updated regularly.