Laying down the law: Acting within the rules to aid growth

15th January 2015

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Environment agencies


Colin Price

Simon Colvin says the new code and the planned duty on regulators to consider the impact of their actions on the economy change the regulatory landscape

The regulatory landscape never stands still. One aspect that has seen a lot of change last year and which will see further change in 2015 and beyond are the rules that regulators, such as the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales, have to abide by when exercising their regulatory functions. Businesses need to know and understand these new rules so they can make best use of the opportunities they present.

The EU and UK perspectives

At a European level, commission recommendation 2001/331/EC on minimum criteria for environmental inspections sets out a number of requirements that must be followed by environmental regulators in all member states. The recommendation is designed to create a level playing field but, as it was published in 2001, it is now quite old.

The seventh environmental action programme, agreed by EU leaders in November 2013, places significant emphasis on the need for better implementation and enforcement of existing environmental laws. This will be especially important with the potential scrapping of EU initiatives, such as the circular economy (p.8). The message at the moment is to squeeze more out of what we already have, and I expect to see the 2001 recommendation updated or replaced soon to help achieve that aim.

From a UK point of view, a new code for regulators was published last summer and a new “economic growth duty”, which is contained in the Deregulation Bill (now in parliament), is due to come into effect in April and require regulators to consider the impact of their actions on growth.

Both these developments have gone relatively unnoticed but businesses need to ensure they understand what these changes will mean for them.

Code of conduct

The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 details a number of principles that regulators must have regard to when exercising their regulatory functions. The first code was published in 2008 but was replaced in 2014.

The updated code sets out a detailed framework within which regulators should exercise their functions. It contains six sections. These are: act in a way that supports regulated businesses to comply and grow; offer simple and straightforward ways to engage; adopt a risk-based approach to regulation; share information about compliance and risk; provide clear information, guidance and advice; and adopt a transparent approach.

Regulators must have regard to the code when developing their own policies and procedures as well as when exercising their functions. The code includes a note on monitoring, and it encourages businesses to challenge regulators who they believe are not complying. There is also the right to report any non-compliance to the Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO). Businesses need to use these tools when they believe they are not being treated fairly.

The code is supported by a guidance for regulators information point (GRIP), set up by the BRDO. This drills down into the code in more detail and gives examples of the types of behaviour expected of regulators. Highlights include:

  • The need for regulators, when responding to non-compliance, to clearly explain what the non-compliant activity is, provide advice and give reasons for actions taken.
  • To provide opportunities for dialogue to ensure regulators are acting proportionately and consistently.
  • To create an environment in which regulated businesses have confidence in the advice they receive and feel able to seek advice without the fear of triggering enforcement action.

Firms need to remember they are entitled to bring failings by regulators to meet the standards provided for in the code to the attention of the regulators as well as the BRDO. This should help to bring about a change in behaviour and approach on the part of the regulator.

The growth duty

The planned duty will be another powerful tool in the armoury of the business community in their dealings with the environmental regulators. As stated, it provides that regulators must have regard to the promotion of economic growth when exercising their regulatory functions. It has been much criticised by environmental NGOs for the weight it attaches to economic growth.

The draft guidance document that has been published alongside the duty stresses that regulators must be accountable and transparent in their decision making. The guidance is clear that the duty can be used as a ground to challenge regulatory decisions. In an environmental context, this would mean it is relevant in terms of applications for environmental consents, enforcement notices and compliance assessment forms. Businesses will be able to ask regulators to explain what impact the duty had on a regulator’s decision.

It is evident that the duty and the code will have a significant role to play in the future of environmental regulation in the UK. Businesses need to understand what the code and the duty mean so they can identify the opportunities that both developments offer them.

Further information

A copy of the regulators’ code is available at, while a summary can be found at The guidance for regulators information point is at


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Fifth of UK food firms unprepared for deforestation regulation

One in five UK food businesses are not prepared for EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) coming into force in December, a new survey has uncovered.

16th May 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

Dr Julie Riggs issues a call to arms to tackle a modern-day human tragedy

15th March 2024

Read more

The UK’s new biodiversity net gain (BNG) requirements could create 15,000 hectares of woodlands, heath, grasslands, and wetlands and absorb 650,000 tonnes of carbon each year.

13th March 2024

Read more

Campaign group Wild Justice has accused the UK government of trying to relax pollution rules for housebuilders “through the backdoor”.

14th February 2024

Read more

Digital tracking, packaging data delays and new collections provide a waste focus for this edition’s environmental round-up by legislation expert Neil Howe

28th November 2023

Read more

Environmental crimes could result in prison sentences of up to 10 years and company fines of 5% of turnover under a proposed EU law agreed by the European parliament and council.

21st November 2023

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close