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Better regulation and enterprise: the case of environmental health risk regulation in Britain

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Proposals for 'better regulation' and the policy dynamics behind them are examined with respect to the implications for the regulation of environmental health risks in smaller enterprises in Britain. Although better regulation has involved a fluid and rapidly changing discourse across the European Union, the regulatory reform agenda has recently refocused on competitiveness, simplification of targets and the reduction of administrative burdens on businesses. A review of the evidence base on the impact of regulation on business performance and the compliance behaviour of enterprises suggests that proposals relating to environmental health in Britain have been overly influenced by 'red tape' discourse which lends disproportionate weight to claims relating to regulatory burdens and underplays the benefits of regulation. Questions are raised with respect to some key aspects of better regulation: the policy to shift resources from enforcement to education; the limitations of comprehensive risk assessment applied to targeting enforcement; uncertainties relating to the potential of alternative means of achieving compliance and the adoption of good practice; and the over-emphasis in simplification exercises on the achievement of narrowly defined cost savings.
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Keywords: European Union; environmental health; regulation; regulatory impact assessment; risk assessment

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research, Middlesex University Business School, London, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2008

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