Primary Authority: a guide for national regulators

An overview of Primary Authority for national regulators including the role of supporting regulators.

Primary Authority is a statutory scheme concerned with legislation enforced by local authority trading standards, environmental health and fire services. It is relevant to regulators such as the Health and Safety Executive and Food Standards Agency, for the areas of legislation where they are the national lead.

This guide outlines the roles and responsibilities of Primary Authority for national regulators, and provides links to further information.

What is Primary Authority?

Primary Authority enables a business or a group of businesses to partner with a local authority (known as the primary authority) that acts as the lead regulator for the business.

The primary authority provides the business with Primary Authority Advice on compliance with legislation. Other local authorities have to have regard to Primary Authority Advice when regulating the business.

This approach means that local authorities have to work together to ensure the law is applied consistently and fairly to a business. Primary Authority is designed to improve information sharing between regulators and improve consistency across the regulatory landscape. It can further help national regulators achieve their regulatory aims by giving them a role working with individual partnerships as a supporting regulator.

Primary authorities can seek the support of specified supporting regulators in relation to the provision of Primary Authority Advice or the development and management of an inspection plan.

Role of national regulators

By involvement with Primary Authority, national regulators can improve the consistency of local regulation and better target resources to areas of high risk.

Primary authorities are required to have regard to guidance and codes of practice produced by national regulators when creating Primary Authority Advice.

National regulators have a direct role to play in Primary Authority, in relation to:

  • inspection plans
  • determinations

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (Safety & Standards) may consult with national regulators about the suitability of a particular local authority to act as a primary authority and on Primary Authority Advice to Local Authorities that has been submitted to the Secretary of State for consent.

National regulators may also be specified as supporting regulators.

Supporting regulators

Supporting regulators are specified in the Co-ordination of Regulatory Enforcement Regulations 2017.

These are the:

  • Food Standards Agency
  • Health and Safety Executive
  • Competition and Markets Authority
  • Gambling Commission
  • Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in relation to metrology and product safety

A supporting regulator is able to agree arrangements to provide support to the primary authority in its provision of Primary Authority Advice or Primary Authority Advice to Local Authorities, or in its development and management of an inspection plan. These arrangements may relate to a single piece of work, such as the preparation or review of specific advice, or they may relate more widely to the primary authority’s partnership work with a business or a group of businesses.

The involvement of a supporting regulator can bring a range of benefits to the primary authority and the partner business, or group of businesses, such as:

  • access to the supporting regulator’s technical expertise and facilities
  • links into networks of expertise, such as Expert Panels, regional, national and international regulatory liaison groups
  • the most up-to-date knowledge of forthcoming changes to regulatory requirements and guidance
  • the ability to draw on broad data and intelligence
  • improved co-ordination with other regulators
  • a wider perspective on inspection plans including national inspection strategies
  • the ability to agree an interpretation of the supporting regulator’s generic guidance that is tailored to the particular circumstances of the business, or group of businesses, for example, to take account of technological or other innovation

Supporting regulators will publish details of their support offer to primary authorities, describing their services and cost recovery policy.

Further information about the role of Supporting Regulators is available in Part G of the statutory guidance.

Primary Authority Advice

Primary Authority Advice is any advice and guidance given by the primary authority to a business or to a co-ordinator (for communication to its member businesses).

Primary Authority Advice can help a business understand:

  • how the legal requirements apply to them
  • how they can achieve compliance
  • whether the controls they have in place are acceptable

Primary Authority Advice is assured which means that provided the business follows the advice it should not be subject to enforcement action. The primary authority can direct against any proposed action against the business that conflicts with Primary Authority Advice issued.

Primary Authority Advice should take into account any relevant guidance and other good practice documents published by a national regulator. A supporting regulator can have involvement in the development of Primary Authority Advice and can approve the advice.

The Primary Authority Advice, or details of the regulatory questions, topics or issues in relation to which Primary Authority Advice has been issued, is published in the secure area of the Primary Authority Register where it is available for other regulators to consult.

Further information is available in Sections 6 and 34 of the statutory guidance.

Primary Authority Advice to Local Authorities

Some primary authorities issue advice to guide enforcing authorities in how they regulate a particular business. This should be consistent with any guidance or codes of practice published by national regulators. Supporting regulators may be asked to support primary authorities to create this advice.

Safety & Standards may consult with national regulators before consenting to Primary Authority Advice on behalf of the Secretary of State.

If the primary authority has worked with a supporting regulator to develop the advice, the regulator will normally be identified in the advice document.

Further information is available in sections 7 and 34 of the statutory guidance.

Inspection plans

Inspection plans may be beneficial for businesses which receive a significant level of regulatory checks. An inspection plan helps guide enforcing authorities through their inspection process and other checks, such as sampling visits and test purchases.

Supporting regulators can assist in the development and management of inspection plans.

Inspection plans are approved by the Secretary of State, following consultation with any relevant national regulator, before being published in the secure area of the Primary Authority Register.

Further information is available in sections 8 and 34 of the statutory guidance.

Help and advice for national regulators

For information about a business in a Primary Authority partnership, you are advised to contact the primary authority itself via the Primary Authority Register.

A helpdesk is available to support users of the Register and answer queries. You can reach the helpdesk by calling 0121 345 1201 or emailing

Published 1 October 2017