What happened next? A study of Post-Implementation Reviews of secondary legislation

A large number of the instruments that the Committee considers amend existing regulations. It is Government policy that Departments should evaluate legislation, usually within 3 to 5 years of it becoming law, to see whether it is having the intended effect, and it makes sense to do so before you make any significant changes to the legislation.  However  the Committee found little evidence of that happening in the paperwork that accompanies the SIs it scrutinises and decided to explore the issue further.

The National Audit Office (NAO) conducted a benchmarking study (PDF PDF 224 KB) for us: it found that 46% of the sampled SIs with Impact Assessments from 2005 had not been subject to any evaluation of their effectiveness after 4 years, and only 29% had received a full post-implementation review. Although this figure is rather distorted because a few Departments seem much better geared up for the process than the rest.

If Departments do not know whether their previous legislation is effective, they are missing opportunities to improve the quality of both their policy formulation and delivery methods. In particular departments need to do more to evaluate how the original instrument performed before bringing forward amending regulations.

The report's main recommendations are:

  • Central Government should take a more active role in supervising both Impact Assessment (IA) and Post-implementation Review(PIR) systems to ensure that the approach is appropriate and the reviews are done. The formats for both should be more closely aligned in terms of content and method.
  • Departments should ensure that all IAs include a clear statement of the baseline position against which the change introduced by the legislation can later be measured to assess whether the success criteria have been met.
  • Departments should propose arrangements for PIR in the consultation exercise on the draft regulations that are appropriate and proportionate to the content of the regulations. This applies just as much to public sector legislation as to regulations that affect business.
  • Only 15% of the SIs in the sample published their evaluation, in future all PIRs/evaluations on Statutory Instruments should be published online, alongside the original IA.
  • Each Department should establish and maintain an online register of its legislative portfolio to track PIR commitments, aid consolidation, and also to smooth transition when machinery of government changes are made.

The Government response  accepted most of the recommendations and in the debate on 24 February 2010 the Minister undertook to review progress after 12 months.


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