Parliament and regulators: How select committees can better hold regulators to account

Think tank: Institute for Government

Author(s): Matthew Gill; Maddy Bishop; Callum Parris

April 24, 2024

This report from UK think tank The Institute for Government looks at how select committees can better hold regulators to account.

The UK’s new post-Brexit regulatory responsibilities and powers are not matched by adequate levels of parliamentary scrutiny – with almost a third of UK regulators not scrutinised by parliament since the 2019 general election.

This report says a focus on high-profile regulatory controversies – such as Ofgem’s role in the June 2021 collapse of 29 energy companies or the Environment Agency and Ofwat’s response to raw sewage spills – leads parliament to take an overly reactive approach to scrutiny.

As a result, a clear majority of regulators are almost never examined in a meaningful way by parliamentarians on vital issues such as their objectives, performance, and plans to mitigate future risks, with regulators often only called in front of parliament once a problem hits the front pages.