Regulation & Industry

Reforming the Regulators

This briefing paper, by ASI fellows Tim Ambler and Keith Boyfield, notes the extraordinary growth of the UK's regulatory agencies since 1997 and the deleterious consequences for the UK economy. They argue that the UK's regulators should first be restricted to their original, purely economic role, and subsequently merged into a single, competition-focused Office of Fair Trading.

Read this report.

Re-energizing Britain

In Re-energizing Britain Nigel Hawkins warns the UK faces blackouts unless the six major energy companies invest. New nuclear plant should be encouraged by replacing the existing Renewables Obligation with a new Low Carbon Obligation, which would include nuclear power. The three key aims of energy policy – security of supply, reduced carbon emissions, and lower prices – would all benefit from this change, since nuclear energy is both low-carbon and less expensive than many other ways of generating electricity, and does not depend on risky supplies of gas from Russia. The government also needs to work with the energy companies to make sure that they have both planning approval and access to finance to increase Britain's gas storage facilities substantially. The UK has only one-tenth of the gas storage of Germany, and is dangerously exposed to interruptions in supply.

Read it here.

Stemming the growth of UK regulatory agencies

The ASI's regulation supremos, Keith Boyfield and Tim Ambler, have published a new briefing paper as part of our Regulatory Monitor project, entitled Stemming the growth of UK regulatory agencies.

The ultimate objective is to merge all the existing regulatory agencies into a single Fair Trade Authority, which would be formally responsible to parliament and which would intervene only to ensure free, competitive markets. A great deal of the regulation aimed at protecting the consumer could be left to the courts, while the greater use of market mechanisms, such as mandatory insurance, would serve to improve standards.

Read it here.

The Financial Crisis: Is regulation cure or cause?

In this briefing paper the ASI's regulation fellow Tim Ambler examines the populist demands for financial stability and security though increased regulation. The question the paper poses is whether existing regulation mitigated the 2008 financial crisis, had no impact, or exacerbated it. Answering this question is the key to deciding how we respond to the crisis. The paper's main conclusion is that improving regulation will not provide more than modest help in future. The important thing is that the Bank of England, the FSA and the credit agencies do the jobs they are supposed to do more effectively.

Read it here.

 

Road Map to Reform: Deregulation

"Over-regulation depresses corporate profits, consumes valuable management time and saps entrepreneurial morale," say the authors. "It makes the UK less attractive to investors and destroys the wealth creation on which the whole of government depends."

There are three big sources of red tape - the EU, Whitehell, and the regulatory offices like Ofcom and Ofwat. For each one, we need to make sure that fewer new regulations are created, that existing ones are rationalized, and that enforcement does not become over-zealous.

Read it here.

Competition in Corporate Control

Do we need regulation, rule-books and new codes of practice to keep boardroom executives in check? Corporate-governance specialist Elaine Sternberg says not. The keys to getting on-the-ball, responsible management are competition and shareholder empowerment. Her punchy report takes on the regulationists and shows how to achieve good governance without politics.

Read this report.

Consigned to Oblivion - What future for Insignia?

Fugitives commonly change their name in the hope of escaping justice. In 2001 The Post Office changed its corporate name to Consignia and adopted a new logo, which appears to depict the view down the barrel of a gun. The wisdom of changing a brand name that has been established since the days of Rowland Hill is unclear, but according to Consignia:

Our new name, Consignia, will support our moves in the wider distribution market and onto the global stage. However, we will continue to serve our U customers through our trusted brands - Royal Mail, Parcelforce Worldwide and Post Office for our network of retail branches.

Two points can be made:

  • globally there are no other postal administrations called 'The Post Office'. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US Postal Service have all attached their national identities to the word 'post' or 'postal' in their titles so there could have been no confusion on the 'global stage'; and
  • by long-established precedent British postal stamps d not include a national designation because they were first in the field. By analogy the UK Post Office could robustly have argued that it was the first organisation in the field named The Post Office and should therefore be known worldwide as such. It is extraordinary that the Post Office's managers abandoned the huge asset of this brand name in favour of one that is meaningless and, to the general public both in the UK and worldwide, unknown.

Read it here.