PN060504Const

EMBARGOED UNTIL 00.01

THURSDAY 6 MAY 2004

LORDS PUBLISH MAJOR REPORT ON THE ACCOUNTABILITY OF THE UK'S POWERFUL REGULATORS

A report − The Regulatory State: Ensuring its Accountability − was published today by the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution.

The inquiry focuses on the accountability of regulators. Many were appointed to encourage competition and protect consumers following the widespread privatisation of nationalised industries late last century. They monitor monopoly or near-monopoly businesses (for example the railways, water companies and communications). The question is − who monitors them?

The Chairman of the inquiry, Lord Norton of Louth, said:

"Regulation is now a major feature of the British state.  Our inquiry reveals widespread concern, especially among regulated companies and consumer bodies, about the sheer number and powers of UK regulators operating at arm's length from the Government."

"There have been some very able and innovative regulators, but there are problems of consistency, openness and accountability.  There are significant costs of complying with regulation. Changes in regulations can create drift and uncertainty.  Regulatory burdens are increasing, sometimes unnecessarily."

"The activity of regulators has to be checked by more effective and systematic accountability. This should be undertaken by Parliament, but citizens should also have more opportunities to challenge regulators, both through public meetings and through a more accessible appeals system."

"Necessary, cost-effective regulation can then be properly identified; unnecessary regulation can and should be removed."

The Committee recommend that:

  • Simplified systems of fast track appeals against regulatory decisions should be developed for the Competition Commission and the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

  • Independent consumer bodies should be obliged to hold open meetings and conduct regular surveys of consumers.

  • A dedicated (preferably joint) parliamentary committee should be established to scrutinise the regulatory state.

  • Parliamentary scrutiny should be focused around regulators annual reports and published regulatory impact assessments (RIAs).

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. The inquiry was undertaken by the House of Lords Constitution Committee. The current members of the Committee are:

Lord Acton

Lord Elton

Lord Fellowes

Baroness Gould of Potternewton

Lord Holme of Cheltenham

Baroness Howells of St. Davids

Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle

Lord Lang of Monkton

Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market

Earl of Mar and Kellie

Lord Morgan

Lord Norton of Louth (Chairman)

2. The report is published by The Stationery Office: The Regulatory State: Ensuring its Accountability, House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution, 6th Report, Session 2003−04, HL Paper 68-I, ISBN 010-400439- 8, price £20.50.  The report is accompanied by a CD-ROM. The report will also be available on the House of Lords website ( www.parliament.uk) from 3.30pm on Thursday 6th May.

3. The Committee received evidence about a wide range of regulators and regulatory activities.  See appendix 3 (pages 77−79) for a list of witnesses and appendix 8 (pages 90−91) for a summary of the range of witnesses. Examples include gas and electricity, water, postal services, rail, air, financial services, education and communications.

Further information from:

Ian Mackley

Clerk to the Committee, on 020 7219 1228.

Requests for reports or interviews with Lord Norton of Louth from:

Jillian Bailey

Press and Publicity Officer (Committees), on 020 7219 8659.

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