Are regulations achieving their objectives?

Think tank: Social Market Foundation

Author(s): Stephen Gibson; Krishna Kenche

December 12, 2023

This report from UK think tank the Social Market Foundation highlights the lack of priority given to evaluation and ex-post review of regulatory measures.

Regulatory policy is often under-prioritised by governments, particularly when compared with the detailed focus associated with tax and spending measures. Even where a clear policy development process is adopted and applied for regulatory measures, it rarely has the same profile or attendant resources as applied to fiscal measures.

This paper, with a foreword by John Penrose MP, highlights one aspect of this regulatory policy deficit – the lack of priority given to evaluation and ex-post review of regulatory measures.

It reviews the different approaches to PIRs in the UK, Canada, Australia, the US and the EU in terms of system governance, methodology and public transparency and capacity building. It highlights the methodological challenges in undertaking PIRs, in particular the importance of a well-designed monitoring and evaluation plan and the failure to feed the results of the PIR into subsequent modifications to the regulations which suggests a systematic failure in the policy making framework.

It proposes seven policy approaches that might lead to a more comprehensive approach to PIRs, however the common thread running through all of these approaches is the critical importance of high-level political support. Without high-level backing, statutory requirements will be variously disregarded, internal and external voices ignored and the pragmatic short-term pressures to focus on new and high- profile policy measures will trump the longer-term benefits from a comprehensive approach to policy evaluation.