Improving Regulatory Performance: Lessons from the United Kingdom

Testimony Before the Senate Budget Committee

SOURCE: Center for American Progress

CAP Senior Fellow Jitinder Kohli testifies before the Senate Budget Committee. Read the testimony. (CAP Action)

Mr. Chairman, members of the taskforce, I am pleased to be here to talk about the U.K. experience with regulatory performance.

There are two points I should note at the outset. First, while I have expertise on how government can reform regulation, I am inexpert on the U.S. regulatory context and debate. My work in Washington has intentionally had a different focus, and so others who have expertise in the U.S. context should determine the extent to which the experience of the United Kingdom is relevant here. Second, these are my personal views and are not necessarily those of my colleagues at the Center for American Progress.

The United Kingdom has had a policy framework on regulatory reform in place for 25 years, and over those years, there has been a considerable evolution of the policy. In this testimony I focus on the period from 2005 to 2009, when I was the chief executive of the Better Regulation Executive. As such, I was the lead official in the British government responsible for regulatory reform.

The context in the United Kingdom was similar to that in many European nations and did not suffer from the polarization around the issue of regulation that you appear to have in this country. There was broad consensus that regulation played an essential role in providing protections for our citizens and quality of life. No one argued that we did not need regulations to protect workers, or consumers, or provide clean air and water, and there was even agreement that regulation was needed to tackle emerging challenges such as climate change. And yet British business often claimed that there was too much regulation, and in many cases regulatory oversight felt like mere bureaucracy. As a result, they called on government to reduce the burden.

Meanwhile, as technology, science, and cultural norms developed, groups such as environmentalists, consumer groups, and trade unions reasoned that new regulations were needed to provide better protection against risks to society. Politicians found themselves caught between these two forces—both of which they wanted to satisfy.

CAP Senior Fellow Jitinder Kohli testifies before the Senate Budget Committee. Read the testimony. (CAP Action)