Lords Committee Accuses Business Department of Obstructing Inquiry into Regulators

The House of Lords Industry and Regulators Committee launched an inquiry into the relationship between regulators and the government in October 2023, with the aim of examining the roles, remits, independence, accountability, and effectiveness of UK regulators. The inquiry covered regulators in various sectors, such as water, energy, pensions, finance, and education.

The committee published its report on February 8, 2024, and made several recommendations, such as:

  • Clarifying the responsibilities and expectations of regulators and the government, and ensuring that regulators have sufficient resources and autonomy to carry out their functions

  • Improving the transparency and scrutiny of regulators, by requiring them to publish more information on their activities and decisions, and by enhancing the role of Parliament in overseeing and challenging them
  • Encouraging more cooperation and coordination among regulators, by creating a network of regulators, and by establishing a cross-cutting body to oversee and advise on regulatory issues
  • Developing the skills and culture of regulators, by investing in training and development, and by promoting diversity and innovation

The criticism and the response

The committee also criticised the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for hampering its inquiry, by failing to provide timely and adequate information, and by refusing to allow some regulators to give evidence to the committee. The committee said that this behaviour was “unacceptable and disrespectful” , and that it raised “serious questions about the department’s attitude towards parliamentary scrutiny and accountability” .

The committee urged the government to respond to its report within two months, and to implement its recommendations as soon as possible. The committee also warned that it would continue to monitor the performance and the conduct of regulators and the government, and that it would not hesitate to hold them to account.

The BEIS said that it welcomed the report, and that it would consider its findings and recommendations carefully. The BEIS also said that it was committed to working with regulators and Parliament to ensure that the UK had a “world-class regulatory system that supports innovation, growth, and public trust” .

The implications and the prospects

The report is an important and timely contribution to the debate on the UK regulatory system, which has been under scrutiny and pressure in recent years, due to various challenges and changes, such as Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and the technological revolution.

The report highlights the need and the opportunity for improving and reforming the UK regulatory system, by making it more clear, consistent, transparent, accountable, and effective. The report also emphasises the role and the responsibility of regulators and the government, as well as Parliament and the public, in ensuring that the UK regulatory system delivers the best outcomes for the economy and the society.

The report is expected to generate a lot of interest and discussion among the stakeholders and the experts involved in the UK regulatory system, and to influence the future policies and actions of regulators and the government.

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