RPC guidance for businesses, stakeholders and civil society organisations

The Regulatory Policy Committee provides the government with external, independent scrutiny of the evidence supporting changes in law that affect businesses, charities and community groups.

Who we are

The Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) is an independent verification 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 private sector business, the voluntary sector and academia. The committee is supported by a secretariat of civil servants formed of economists and policy advisers.

What we offer you

The Regulatory Policy Committee:

  • helps government departments and ministers to make better policy, based on robust evidence.

  • helps to ensure that departments have a good understanding of the likely costs, benefits and risks of the policy being proposed, and have considered potential alternative options and the impacts of the measures on different sectors.

  • provides confidence to businesses and civil society organisations that government’s estimates of the costs of regulation are supported by robust evidence.

  • checks whether central government departments’ estimated costs or savings to business, as a result of regulatory reforms, are accurate; in particular, we check that the government minimises the effects on small businesses.

How we do it

We provide opinions on the impact assessments and post implementation reviews submitted by government departments.

Regulatory proposals are accompanied by an impact assessment, which assesses the likely costs and benefits, as well as presenting the associated risks, of a regulatory proposal that has an impact on businesses or charities and voluntary organisations. A well written impact assessment should explain clearly the issue the Government is trying to tackle, how it intends to tackle it and what the effects of the proposal will be.

The RPC provides an independent opinion to government ministers on the quality of analysis and evidence presented in the impact assessment, including comment on wider societal impacts. This opinion then assists the decision making of ministers as to whether they proceed or not with the proposal. Our opinions can also be used in parliament during bill debates and to support and improve government consultations.

The opinion we provide rates the impact assessment as ‘fit for purpose’ or ‘not fit for purpose’. In the case of the latter we then work with the department to improve the quality of the impact assessment. We also provide an opinion on the post implementation review of regulatory measures. This give us the opportunity to comment on the performance of regulatory measures, which helps ensure that departments tackle the unforeseen consequences of legislation.

For more detailed information on how we undertake casework please see our guidance document.

Small and Micro Business Assessments (SaMBA)

Smaller business (up to 50 employees), including micro-businesses (up to 10 employees), are thought by government to suffer disproportionately from the burden of regulation. The SaMBA is intended to ensure that all new regulatory proposals are designed and implemented so as to lessen the burden.

A SaMBA is mandatory within an impact assessment, for domestic measures that regulate business. The reason for an exemption, mitigation or lack of mitigation should be clearly explained in the impact assessment to avoid a ‘red’ opinion.

How we work with businesses, civil society organisations and other external stakeholders

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 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

We work with organisations which have a similar role in their own nation. We work with colleagues from Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and the Czech Republic under the title of “RegWatchEurope”. Our work with this group has influenced other European nations, Iceland, Norway and France, to establish their own bodies to work on this subject.

Why do it all

Our work helps ensure ministerial policy decisions are made based on accurate evidence. We provide independent advice on the quality of the evidence used to inform policy changes. As a result of our scrutiny:

  • businesses and civil society organisations are less likely to be burdened by regulation that is not supported by robust evidence;

  • the estimated costs and benefits of regulatory proposals are more accurate; and

  • the Government’s claims regarding the balance of the ‘regulatory account’ are more reliable than would be the case without independent scrutiny.

What we don’t do

We do not comment, or offer opinions, on policy – such decisions are for the Government. We do not typically review impact assessments for proposals that are not in the scope of the Reducing Regulation Cabinet sub-committee. As such, we do not scrutinise impact assessments that relate to tax or spending decisions. We do not review impact assessments for proposals that only regulate individuals or public bodies. We do not typically scrutinise proposals with an impact of less than £5m, but we would welcome stakeholder intelligence on proposals which you may consider are close to this threshold. This will assist the committee’s consideration to call in such cases for scrutiny.

The Call in procedure

As part of a more proportionate approach for the assessment of regulatory proposals with a low impact, departments are required to submit to the RPC only those IAs with an EANDCB above the +/- £5m de minimis threshold. The call-in process was created, in part, to support departments in correctly certifying cases as falling below this threshold, which means they are not subject to mandatory RPC scrutiny or included in business impact target accounting. It was also intended to ensure that appropriate analysis is undertaken for proposals that fall within the threshold but have significant wider impacts (or other factors as set out in the better regulation framework).

Under the process, the RPC can, having considered information in departmental pipelines, or available publicly, request - via BRE - formal sight of IAs supporting proposals that it considers could have impacts outside the threshold. This is undertaken in order to support departments in providing the correct level of analysis and to ensure that a sufficiently- robust system is in place.

Impact Assessments considered for call in

Case name Date Position of call-in Progress/Outcome
Immigration Bill 7 May 2019 RPC issued opinion to department RPC published a fit for purpose rated opinion
Agriculture Bill 7 March 2019 BRE requested IA for scrutiny Awaiting departmental response
Fisheries Bill 7 March 2019 BRE requested IA for scrutiny Awaiting departmental response
Obesity strategy 26 Feb 2019 RPC currently engaging with Department on scrutiny of IAs All pre-consultation stage IAs assessed and informal/ formal opinions provided to the Department. Final stage IAs have started to be provided by Department for RPC scrutiny

What our impact has been

We have helped deliver better policy making. The quality of evidence underpinning regulatory changes has improved since the RPC was established in 2010.

We have helped maintain the integrity of the system. We have looked at the evidence for over 1,600 proposals, and issued over 2,400 opinions, since 2010. Our work has improved the accuracy of the estimated annual costs and savings to business by nearly £500 million per year, meaning the Government’s estimated benefits to business and civil society organisations from regulatory changes would be £2 billion each year, rather than the £1.5 billion validated by the RPC.

How our role and remit are expanding

We have been asked to take on additional roles where an independent perspective is required. For example, our role in examining how departments propose to lessen the effects of their regulatory proposals on small business, where doing so will not compromise the policy intent, was added in 2013. Since taking on this role, we have identified many cases where such an approach has not been satisfactory and where this assessment alone has resulted in the impact assessment being rated as not fit for purpose or red.

We also arbitrate between regulators and businesses where there are disagreements on the cost of proposed changes in the enforcement of regulation. This applies to non-economic regulators. Information on how we undertake this role can be found here.

We also have a role in looking at whether issues relating to public risk have been taken into account in departments’ assessments of the impact of proposals.

For further guidance, or if you have any questions, please contact us here.

Published 7 August 2014
Last updated 19 May 2020 + show all updates
  1. Link added

  2. Call in process added

  3. Updated 2019

  4. First published.