NAO recommends one stop regulation database

Reducing the burden on SMEs

The National Audit Office has urged the government to consolidate its three databases of regulatory information into one system.

The NAO makes the recommendation in a wider report into the drive to reduce the administrative burdens on business in complying with regulations. It says the move would help to demystify and rationalise the regulatory system.

As part of the deregulation programme, which was initiated by the Better Regulation Task Force's 2005 report Less is more, departments were asked to map their regulations that impose administrative burdens on business. This information was recorded across three databases to help departments carry out a wider assessment of the impact of regulations.

The NAO says that this information, which also includes qualitative comments and cost figures, should now be fed into one central system. This would create, for the first time, a "one stop shop" of information about UK regulation.

There is currently one stock database with information from the Better Regulation Executive/Price Waterhouse Coopers measurement exercise and another for the HM Revenue & Customs/KPMG exercise.

In December 2006, the Department for Constitutional Affairs (now the Ministry of Justice), launched the UK Statute Law Database (SLD) – an electronic version of the official revised edition of the UK statute book. The Office of Public Sector Information also holds records of UK legislation.

"Policy officials now have access to three different sources of information that should, when finished, map out the entirety of UK regulation that is currently in force (from EU regulations all the way down to industry specific Codes of Practice)," says the NAO report. "However, for the sake of clarity and consistency, and to avoid confusion about the current stock of UK legislation, the government should consider linking the SLD and OPSI systems with the information about regulation in the stock databases."

This would assist departmental policy staff to clarify regulation or remove regulation that is out of date, as well as address regulatory overlaps. It would also improve transparency and understanding of what regulation is in place in the UK.

Each department could be given responsibility to submit annual updates to a central team, which would add these to the main database, suggests the report.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Enterprise, and Regulatory Reform told GC News it was not in a position to comment on the NAO's recommendation, as it was still coordinating a response to the full report.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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