Regulation, we are told, is a vital part of society, it is local, national, European and some cases global yet despite it ever invasive, viral presence in UK society it seems that the more we regulate the worse it gets.
And the regulator in just about every case will claim it is not their fault.
Regulators raison d’être is to ensure that consumers are protected at all times, sometimes in every possible way verging on protection from themselves.
But regulation is self-perpetuating, a real life version of perpetual motion that pays a lot of money to those for whom that career path is chosen. For example, over the past decade, the average pay per employee at the FSA was around £78,000.
We all know about the failures of regulation in financial services, but would UK plc and its population (now commonly referred to as ‘vulnerable consumers’, ‘stressed commuters’, ‘long suffering motorists’ or ‘hard working families’) be better off as a result of much reduced regulatory action. Or see it replaced with that all important mix (of fast diminishing human attributes that regulation has rendered idle) common sense, caveat emptor and intuitition?Here is just a sample selection of regulators, where I think many reading this would see confusion, failure, cover ups, unintended consequences and huge spends seeing zero benefit for everyone except those that work in regulation.
There are many, many more.
Electricity regulation: OFGEM is the regulator; their strap line is “making a positive difference for energy consumers”. Deregulation and creating free markets (that in fact now need all this regulation) or the failure of regulators to keep up with fast-moving markets, can become unbelievably costly, as we can all now see. The worldwide electricity sector reforms of the early 1990s have revealed the complexities of introducing market driven reforms and making them work in network and infrastructure industries.
Were we better off pre- denationalization and pre regulation with just one supplier?
Gas regulation: OFGEM again. Ofgem found British Gas incorrectly blocked businesses from switching and failed to give some businesses notice that their contract was due to end. The fine was £5.6m, but really just another large fine that means nothing.
Most complaints about energy companies are about inaccurate, late or unclear energy bills. The Code of Practice for Accurate Bills from the Energy Retail Association sets out requirements for how energy bills should be calculated and issued.
Were we better off pre- denationalization and pre regulation with just one supplier?
Food regulation: That other FSA, the Food Standards Agency. Paris says Brussels and London are dragging their heels over proposals to improve food safety by introducing the labeling of meat in ready-made meals. And only last week we hear that the lamb in our kebabs is chicken or beef. The cost of food labeling compliance in the UK is estimated at £32.5m for just one major retailer.
Were we better off pre regulation? Were we better off when we did not have supermarkets and fast food outlets, seeing what we brought at butchers, bakers, greengrocers?
Telephone regulation: OFCOM is the communications regulator. We regulate the TV and radio sectors, fixed line telecoms, mobiles, postal services, plus the airwaves over which wireless devices operate.
The regulatory ‘Waterbed’ effect is already well illustrated in the mobile phone industry where regulation fixes the prices of basic products and services only for consumers to see significant increases in the price of peripherals and additional services as a direct consequence.
Were we better off pre- denationalization and pre regulation with just one supplier, the GPO?
Railways: ORR The Office of Rail Regulation are the economic regulator for railway infrastructure (Network Rail and HS1); the health and safety regulator for the rail industry as a whole – including mainline, metro, tramways and heritage railways across Britain; and the industry’s consumer and competition authority.
Were we better off pre- denationalization, privatisation and pre regulation with just one supplier- British Rail?
National Health regulation: Now here it get’s really complicated and it is little wonder that healthcare is in such a mess.
In hospitals we used to have a simple management structure, it was called ‘Matron”.
Look at these regulatory bodies, is it any wonder that we see so many problems, with the very simple mission objective being to make people better being thwarted at every regulatory door, often ending it would seem in DBNHS (death by national health service).
MHRA is the government agency responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices work, and are acceptably safe. The MHRA is a centre of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which also includes the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC), and the Clinical Practice Research Data link (CPRD). The MHRA is an executive agency of the Department of Health.
CQC’s The Care Quality Commission (CQC) makes sure hospitals, care homes, dental and GP surgeries, and all other care services in England provide people with safe, effective, compassionate and high quality care, and encourages these services to make improvements.
NICE National Institute for Health and Care Excellence provides national guidance and advice to improve health and social care. It develops guidance, standards and information on high quality health and social care. It also advises on ways to promote healthy living and prevent ill health.
HFEA Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is the UK’s independent regulator dedicated to licensing and monitoring fertility clinics and research involving human embryos.
NIHR The National Institute for Health Research is a large, multi-faceted and nationally distributed organisation. Together, NIHR people, facilities and systems represent the most integrated clinical research system in the world, driving research from bench to bedside for the benefit of patients.
PHE Public Health England was established on April 1 2013, just like the FCA, to bring together public health specialists from more than 70 organisations, including the former Health Protection Agency (HPA), into a single public health service.
PSA Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care promotes the health, safety and wellbeing of patients, service users and the public, by raising standards of regulation and voluntary registration of people working in health and care. It is an independent body, accountable to the UK parliament.
Is it any wonder that doing businesses, society and life in general is made more expensive, difficult, confusing and less fit for purpose?
Here, with some help from Wikipedia, is a list of some I may have missed:
- Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator
- Charity Commission for England and Wales
- Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
- Ofqual – Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation
- Ofsted – Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills
- Environment Agency (EA)
- Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA)
- Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
- Natural Resources Wales (NRW)
- Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC)
- General Chiropractic Council (GCC)
- General Dental Council (GDC)
- General Medical Council (GMC)
- General Optical Council (GOC)
- General Osteopathic Council (GosC)
- General Pharmaceutical Council (GPC)
- Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
- Health and Safety Executive
- Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE)
- Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority
- Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
- Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)
- Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI)
- Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB)
- General Council of the Bar
- Solicitors Regulation Authority
- Law Society of Northern Ireland
- Law Society of Scotland
- Care Council for Wales (CCW)
- General Social Care Council (GSCC)
- Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC)
- Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)
PhonepayPlus – regulator for phone-paid services in the UK, part of Ofcom, replaces ICSTIS
- Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR)
- Ofwat – the Water Services Regulation Authority
- The Utility Regulator – regulating electricity, gas, water and sewerage industries in Northern Ireland
- Water Industry Commissioner for Scotland
- Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
- British Board of Film Censors (BBFC)
- Consumer Focus – the statutory consumer champion for England, Wales, Scotland and (for postal consumers) Northern Ireland
- Engineering Council – the regulatory body for the Engineering profession
- Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
- Food Standards Agency
- Forensic Science Regulator
- Gaming Board for Great Britain (GBGB)
- Information Commissioner’s Office
- Planning Inspectorate
- Police Complaints Authority
- Press Complaints Commission (PCC)
- Scottish Housing Regulator (SHC)
- Council for Registered Gas Installers
- Direct Marketing Authority
EU leaders met in Brussels in October 2013 to discuss ways to improve growth and competitiveness across Europe. Using data from the UK Government’s impact assessments of these rules, Open Europe estimated that the top 100 EU laws cost the UK economy £27.4 billion a year. This was more than the UK Treasury expected to raise in revenue from Council Tax in 2013 (£27 billion). And laws equal regulatons equals regulators.
Those hardworking families are doing so just to keep this lot going.
The unintended cost burdens of regulation in the UK are almost unquantifiable, certainly vast and in almost every case there are grounds to think that life could be simpler, cheaper and more fulfilling if we all took responsibility for our actions, adopted common sense in management styles, business practices, directives and substituting ‘elf and safety’ with sanity.
Time for a rethink?