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‘Good regulation’ praised by Environment Agency Chief Executive

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, gave a speech at the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry on environmental regulation

 

Environment Agency - getting regulation right post
Sir James Bevan

In a recent speech on environmental regulation, Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency talked about why regulation work, he said: “Good regulation protects people and the environment from harm. Good regulation creates a level playing field for business, allowing well-run companies to thrive and stopping those who don’t want to play by the rules from undercutting them. Good regulation drives growth and innovation. Good regulation doesn’t just protect the environment but enhances it.

Good regulation is also a moral duty: responsible industries welcome it as a way to help reduce the risk their operations could otherwise pose to people or the environment. Responsible industries also accept that they, not the government or the taxpayer or the local community, should pay the cost of being regulated: the cardinal principle for protecting the environment is that the polluter pays.”

He talked of the reasons for regulation is to manage the risks, he said: 

“At its heart regulation is about managing risk. Nothing in life is risk-free. But you only need regulation where there is a material risk to life, livelihoods or the environment which needs to be carefully managed. That is why the Environment Agency regulates nuclear power stations, chemical plants and the waste industry but not (say) ice-cream sellers or kite-flyers.

As well as regulating the right things, we also need to regulate in the right way. That means regulation which is risk-based, proportionate, and business friendly. The amount and nature of regulation needs to be keyed to the amount of risk in the activity being regulated; and it needs to be proportionate to the risk – too much regulation of too little risk is a cost on business and a dangerous distraction for the regulator from other activities on which we should be focused.

Good regulation also looks actively to support legitimate businesses. Those businesses are providing the jobs, growth, and goods and services we all need. It is our duty as regulators to help them do that while protecting people and the environment.

That is why the Environment Agency’s philosophy is “Yes, If”: yes to a business operating as it needs to operate, if the necessary protections can be put in place.

That is why, as businesses struggle with the impact of Coronavirus, the EA has supported them, including by adopting Regulatory Position Statements that allow them not to give effect to all their normal obligations if they cannot do so in the current circumstances. And that is why our default regulatory approach is to provide advice and guidance to businesses to allow them to operate successfully and to use our powers of enforcement only when necessary.

But good regulation also needs teeth, because not everyone plays by the rules. The EA will not hesitate to go after waste criminals who damage communities and legitimate businesses or water companies who cause serious pollution of our rivers.”

He said: “What matters is the outcome you are seeking to achieve. It is much better for regulators to tell companies the effect they need to achieve and let the business identify the most cost-effective way to achieve that effect: the business is much more likely to know the right answer than the regulator.”

He ended his speech by saying: “Let us resolve to avoid wanton regulation. But let us also recognise that good regulation is not red tape: it is what gets you green growth and a blue planet.”

To read the full speech, go to www.gov.uk

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