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Plans for another regulatory shakeup

William Hatchett10/05/2012 - 13:00

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Mark Prisk announces expansion of primary authority scheme
Mark Prisk announces expansion of primary authority scheme

The government has pledged to broaden the scope of the primary authority scheme, reduce the number of regulators and to identify hundreds of regulations to be simplified, merged or reviewed in the coming parliamentary session.

Some of the measures will be contained in an Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill which was flagged in the Queen’s speech.

Mark Prisk, minister for business and enterprise said that, under changes to the primary authority scheme, inspections plans would be strengthened and smaller businesses allowed to participate. More organisations, including franchises and trade associations would be allowed to receive ‘assured advice’.

This is defined as ‘advice which provides protection from prosecution if it can be demonstrated that it has been followed’.

The government is considering extending the primary authority scheme to age-related alcohol sales, gambling and fire safety. There would be further consultation on age-related alcohol sales with local authorities and the police, leading to a pilot scheme.

Mr Prisk said that earned recognition and co-regulation for business would increase. He said: ‘There will be a presumption that co-regulation will be introduced wherever this is practical.’ A large-scale review of regulators later in the year would be designed to ‘reduce state-led enforcement’, with each regulator expected to justify its continued existence.

The government, he said, would encourage local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) to copy Greater Birmingham, Solihull and Leicestershire LEPs which have a ‘one-stop shop’ approach to advice and enforcement. He said: ‘The aim of any interaction with business should be to support business in achieving compliance.’

The regulators’ compliance code would be modified and given a higher profile. Mr Prisk said: ‘No business should face a sanction for simply asking a regulatory authority for advice.’ Exceptions would be made for emergencies or imminent risk to health.

Responding to consultations in the summer on enforcement and the primary authority scheme and the ongoing review of regulations under the red tape challenge, Mr Prisk said: ‘We heard that the regulatory system is a burden and the regulatory landscape over-complicated. There is a suspicion, among business, that “public sector creep” has led to a proliferation of enforcement bodies, leading to overlap, significant extra cost and lack of transparency.’

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