This independent blog collects news about projects or achievements in regulatory reform / better regulation. It is edited by Charles H. Montin. All opinions expressed are given on a personal basis.
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19 December 2012

New RR package (Australia)

Earlier this month, the Australian government announced a package of regulatory reform measures to improve regulatory performance. As part of the reform package the Government has agreed to;
  • adopt a two-stage process for developing regulation impact statements (RISs);
  • strengthen the role of annual regulatory plans (ARPs); and
  • encourage better and more informed stakeholder consultation.
The Office of Best Practice Regulation will be preparing revised guidance material to reflect the new arrangements.
The current arrangements for Regulatory Impact Analysis are set out in the Government's Best Practice Regulation Handbook and commenced operation on 1 July 2010. The Government committed to reviewing the framework within two years. The Minister for Finance and Deregulation agreed in December 2011 that an independent review be conducted of the arrangements. The Review was conducted by Mr Robert Milliner and Mr David Borthwick AO PSM and was handed to the Minister on 20 April 2012. On 11 October 2012 the Government released a Preliminary Response to the RIA Review for four weeks public consultation. The results of the consultation have informed the Final Response. For more, there is also a media release.

UK Gov claims success of deregulation

According to a press release from BIS on 17 Dec.," the UK government is winning the war against red tape." The Fifth Statement of New Regulation reports that the overall closing balance for 'One-in, One-out', the Government rule that dictates that every new cost on business must be balanced by an equivalent saving, is predicted to be around £836 million since January 2011. These figures are independently verified.
Additionally, the statement shows that the Government expects to reduce the regulatory burden by around a further £83 million between January 2013 - when 'One-in, One-Out' is replaced by 'One-in, Two-out' - and June 2013. Expected measures include reforms to environmental regulation, employment law and consumer law.

Recent deregulatory measures include:
  • Changes to modernise and simplify the registration of company charges, saving £21.9 million.
  • A series of changes to building regulations to reduce cost and complexity for industry.
  • Less heavy-handed Health and Safety regulations for low-risk businesses including shop and offices.
  • Improvements to speed up processes covering adoption and foster-carer eligibility.

Deregulation agenda in France

Yesterday (18 Dec.) in line with previously announced plans, the first meeting of the interministerial committee on modernisation of public action confirmed the objectives and ways of controling the regulatory flow, with a set of measures seen by some observers (for example Acteurs Publics article) as a "plan antinormes", something close to a deregulation agenda. This initiative is however primarily aimed at helping local government authorities face the constant stream of new rules from the centre, publicly denounced as excessive by President Hollande, and now the prime concern of better regulation in France.
The array of tools to be used include a better evaluation of public policies, and a "one-in, one-out" rule already announced by President Hollande.
For the wider context of administrative reform, see the PM's declaration closing the CIMAP meeting (VB.)

EC Smart Regulation: what's new?

The Communication of 12 December 2012 (see previous post) has outlined the future smart regulation (SR) initiatives of the European Commission for the next two years, in a carefully worded programme of action placed under the concept of "regulatory fitness". What new content can be found in this document (SR2), or is it a reformulation and confirmation of past proposals? To answer this question, one must compare the new text with its predecessor, the 8 October 2010 communication (SR1).
- some language shifts: the focus of the strategy is no longer "citizens and businesses" as in SR1, but adds "workers" to the addressees or benefiaries of the initiatives. This could be viewed as confirmation that the rebalancing between economic, and social, objectives, is continuing, though the overall aim of the policy is "responding to the economic imperatives";
- a new emphasis on "regulatory fitness", presented in 2010 as an exploratory dimension, now mainstream in the SR agenda;
- in keeping with the evolution in member states and the OECD, a widening of the impacts of regulation to include, beyond administrative burdens, the full "regulatory costs" or burdens, which classically include compliance costs; SR2 systematically avoids the old terminology "administrative" burdens;
- expressly declining to follow some "leading" member states in seeking quantitative reduction targets, whether sectoral or net targets, in favour of "a more tailored approach with an assessment of actual benefits and costs;"
- some further insistence on the responsibility of member states in the creation of regulatory burdens by inefficient transposition or "gold-plating" though the word is not used;
- the announcement of the REFIT programme to succeed, with a wider mandate, the action programme for administrative burden reduction (now redesignated "ABR", on the basis of the fitness check pilot schemes, with strengthened planning starting with the 2014 work programme; REFIT to include an "ABR Plus" programme focusing, with the help of the Stoiber group, on how member states have applied the recent (2007-2012) reduction measures decided at the EU level.

12 December 2012

New EC communication on Smart Regulation

Experts will need to examine a new milestone in the history of smart regulation: The Communication on EU Regulatory Fitness (December 2012) takes stock of the progress achieved since the launch of the Commission's Smart Regulation agenda in 2010. It also outlines how EU legislation can achieve its objectives even more effectively and efficiently. It is accompanied by two Staff Working Document reporting on the final results of the "Review of the Commission Consultation Policy" and of the "Action Programme for Reducing Administrative Burdens in the EU" The package finally includes a Press release "Smart regulation: ensuring that European laws benefit people and businesses"and an EC Memo.
From the press release: "Today's Communication presents the state of play of the Commission's smart regulation efforts and proposes measures to further advance the smart regulation agenda. In 2010, the Commission launched its Smart Regulation agenda to further improve the quality of EU legislation to enhance growth, jobs and competitiveness. Smart Regulation targets the whole policy cycle, from when a policy is designed to when it is put in place and finally evaluated. To put evidence even more at the heart of policy-making, a thorough impact assessment system has been complemented with new measures improving the evaluation of existing policies and the strengthening the voice of those directly affected by its initiatives. The reduction of administrative burden by 25% between 2007 and 2012 has been pursued in parallel and is expected, in the medium-term, to lead to an increase of 1.4% in EU GDP, equivalent to EUR 150 bn."
See also the Better Regulation page on the EC's website.
Also recently sent to the European Parliament, the EC's 29th annual report on monitoring the application of EU law , which gives the latest statistics on transposition and infraction procedures.

European Council confirms competitiveness policy

The Conclusions of the Competitiveness Council 10-11 December do not contain any significantly new commitments from the Member States, but confirm, on a number of specific of issues, orientations proposed by the Barroso II Commission. Your blogger has read those documents for you and selected a few useful passages concerning simplification and the reduction of the regulatory burden:
  • Simplification and flexibilisation of procurement procedures : The package provides for a simplification and flexibilisation of the procedural regime set by the current rules, which date back to 2004. To this end, it contains measures to make procurement easier and administratively less burdensome and to create flexibility for public authorities enabling better procurement outcomes. Promotion of electronic procurement as a more user-friendly feature of procurement procedures is throughout the package a cornerstone of the simplification process.
  • Review of accounting requirements for companies: "The Council took note of the progress made on the review and simplification of the accounting rules applicable to EU companies. The key objectives of the review include the reduction of administrative burden and the application of simplified accounting rules for SMEs" (...);
  • Single Market Act II: "The Council adopted conclusions on the second set of new priority proposals presented by the Commission on 3 October 2012 under the "Single Market Act II." These proposals will supplement the first set of measures of the Single Market Act I package for deepening and reinforcing the single market in order to create economic growth and jobs. Among other elements, the conclusions highlight the necessity for the single market to rest upon a strong economic and social basis and the importance for the SMA II actions to address the concerns of citizens and businesses.
  • "A stronger European industry for growth and economic recovery:" The Council invites the Commission to take forward further initiatives together with Member States, businesses and other stakeholders to reduce regulatory burden and boost the high innovation and productivity growth potential of EU industry, including SMEs; emphasises that competitiveness proofing has a prominent role to play to ensure the capacity to innovate, the consistency of rules and to prevent unnecessary red tape and compliance costs; The cost of crossing the borders in the Single Market, by having to comply with different national legislation, should also be taken into account; (...) Industrial Policy has to take care that no unnecessary burdens are created by new EU regulation in various policy areas (which are listed as SMEs, cohesion, trade, research. and innovation, environmental, climate, energy, transport, ICT, consumer, competition and state aid policies).

11 December 2012

France cuts red tape in competitiveness drive

Last week, the French government published a very complete press pack on the National Pact for Growth, Competitiveness and Employment, (the download includes anEnglish translation) which is a particularly welcome document for all experts monitoring, for comparative purposes, the new official policy.
Approach: As regards red tape onbusiness, the approach is spelt out in section VII of the paper ("simplfify administrative procedures and the regulatory framework surrounding business"): the government confirms its commitment "to exploiting all possible drivers to make things easier for companies (SMEs in particular), reduce the administrative burden on them and reduce administration processing times. These objectives will be pursued in the general interest and in line with Government guidelines in terms of ecology, public health, worker and consumer protection, etc."
How will the new policy be delivered: "Working closely with companies and their representatives, an initial multi-year programme to simplify administrative procedures is to be developed" by the next meeting of the Conseil interministériel pour la modernisation de l'action publique (CIMAP) in December 2012. It can be updated regularly with proposals from companies and ministers. Progress of this work will be monitored on the basis of precise indicators decided by companies and the CIMAP (quarterly). Companies will be closely involved in developing and monitoring the simplification measures.
Fast-track actions:
  • a five-pronged approach to reducing red tape on companies ("tell us just once" scheme to reduce information obligations, single declaration process for social information, streamline commercial property procedures, simplify aid mechanisms, limit gold-plating of EU law);
  • a sustained red tape cutting exercise under the authority of the Prime Minister;
  • an "SME test" for new draft legislation with the strongest potential impact on SMEs, to include tax issues;
  • by the end of 2012, a "rationalisation" drive on the tax burden, on the basis of zero net growth: no new tax to be levied without a corresponding reduction.
Departments working to support the policy (see also previous post):

Czech POINT "All in one place"

The Czech ministry of the interior has recently published a short report on the success of its initiative to help citizens in their relations with the administration: Czech POINT is a network of assisted public administration centres where each citizen can view and update, from a single access point, their personal information as stored in official registers as well as file applications.
Czech POINT (a kind of one-stop-shop) stands for "Czech Filling and Verification Information National Terminal. "

“Main objective of the project is the motto All in one place!. In the future, citizens will have access to Public Administration services not only at the Czech POINTs, but also via the Internet. Czech POINT is the most comfortable way of communicating with the authorities and institutions from a single place. The system is well-designed and I hope that it becomes quickly and spontaneously used by citizens and subsequently also requested,” said Minister of the Interior Ivan Langer.

07 December 2012

Self regulatory body for UK press, recommended

Following a widely report scandal on phone hacking, UK Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a public inquiry into improving the culture, practices, and ethics of the British press. The inquiry concluded last week with a long-awaited report from Judge Brian Leveson, who recommended the creation of “an independent self-regulatory regime” underpinned by the law to help police the industry. Acting independent of Parliament, the regulator would need to have the power to impose a range of sanctions, including fines, demands for apologies, and reporting corrections. If industry did not create its own effective entity, Leveson called for Parliament to pass legislation to give necessary legal powers to a self-regulatory body and establish standards.
Among other recommendations in report:
  • A committee composed of newspaper editors and independent members must establish a Standards Code for ethical journalism;
  • The proposed regulatory body would have an arbitration system in place allowing victims to seek redress without the expense of costly litigation;
  • The proposed regulator would replace the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), a voluntary regulatory body with no legal powers. Newspapers may choose to be regulated by the Office of Communications, which currently regulates British broadcasting, the most trusted form of news in Britain.
For more, see RegBlog analysis.

EU Internal Market still marred by regulatory barriers

Last week, the European Commission presented its annual report on the state of the internal market integration, with a focus on areas, such as services and network industries, where there is a strong growth potential, provided regulatory barriers are removed. In spite of overall progress of integration, the report finds that some barriers remain in services, of which it listed the main ones:
  • double regulation (enterprises need to comply with both home and host country rules), the uncertainty about the rules applying to cross-border service provision on a temporary basis,
  • the heterogeneity of regulation of professions (especially the scope of reserved activities), the diverse quality of the Points of Single Contact, the low use of the Internal Market Information system.
  • Specific problems in retail and wholesale, construction, and public procurement
This week (4 Dec), addressing one of the identified weaknesses, a new Regulation giving a solid legal basis for the Internal Market Information System entered into force, following approval by the EU legislator in October. It intends to provide strong guarantees for the protection of personal data handled in this system, which is already being used by more than 7 000 authorities across Europe.

EU perfects suppression of exequatur on civil & commercial judgments

According to a press release,the European Council adopted on 6 December the recast (amended and codified version) of a regulation on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (the so-called "Brussels I" regulation) including a number of new improvements. The purpose of this regulation is to make the circulation of judgments in civil and commercial matters easier and faster within the Union, in line with the principle of mutual recognition and the Stockholm Programme guidelines (a multiannual set of measures to develop an area of security, freedom and jutice). The updated instrument gives further substance to the principle of free circulation of judgments in civil and commercial matters by developing certain safeguards, including provisions to unify the rules of conflict of jurisdiction and to ensure better recognition and enforcement of judgments given across the Union.

Chinese officials to use plain language

According to the report today in China Daily, the newly elected Party leader Xi Jinping gave support to maintaining economic growth and persevering with market-oriented reforms in the face of multiple risks in the economy. The government should continue its proactive fiscal and prudent monetary policies next year and improve the economy's dynamics, said Me Xi at a symposium held last week with non-Party figures in Beijing. Among the policies required, the new leader cited more efficient and less showy administration and slashing red tape.
At a later event, the new leader insisted on communicating in a more transparent and efficient way with the citizens, by first avoiding jargon and empty words.