Economic Growth (Regulatory Functions) (Amendment) Order 2024 - Motion to Approve (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 15 April 2024.

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Photo of Lord Johnson of Lainston Lord Johnson of Lainston Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) 7:15, 15 April 2024

I am grateful to my noble friend for the intervention. I did not realise I did not have to give way; my newness to the House probably insisted that I did so.

What is important is that we were discussing the guidance on growth for 52 or 53 regulators. This is not a debate about the Wye Valley. I have heard what the noble Lord, Lord Fox, said about that situation. I understand that the Government have announced this week an action plan and full review. I am delighted that this is a good example of where there is cause and consequence.

I want to bring us back to the guidelines. It is important that a functioning economy allows all stakeholders to operate in it. Clearly, that is the whole principle. If there is one stakeholder that is dominating its universe through its own actions, that is unacceptable in terms of creating the trust and framework we need in the market.

I return, in conclusion, to what has been a very important debate. I hope it will continue to be an important debate. I stress again that in four years we will have a full review of the growth duty so that we can see how it has been successful. One of the questions asked was: how soon will we know whether it has been successful? I hope it will start to show economic growth, in some of the points I will come to in a moment, immediately. We will certainly do a review after four years. There will be an explicit focus on ensuring that areas such as the derogation of consumer rights, the environment, or whatever it may be, will clearly be included in this.

I will touch on two final points because it is good to have this on the record. Regulators should have regard to medium- and long-term growth—not necessarily short-term growth or the profitability of the actions of any one company—by ensuring that key policy decisions and strategic choices are informed by consideration of key drivers of economic growth. This may include, but is not limited to, innovation, infrastructure and investment, competition, skills, efficiency and productivity, trade, and environmental sustainability, which I have touched on before. That is very important because, if you are running a business, you want to produce phenomenal products for the future of our nation. All too often we have had issues with regulators and the Government being slow to regulate on the innovative products we need to make this economy successful, both for our health and the economy around that.

How many times have businesses come to noble Lords—not all of your Lordships will have been approached by businesses, but many will—to complain about the lack of transparency around the regulator’s decision-making or the timeliness of its response on permitting, or to suggest that international standards could be used or that our own standards could be improved on, or to ask for more skills in regulators or for regulators to help them be skilful? It is so important that we respond to this. I am aware of the comments made around the water industry, and I hope that, to some extent, I have reassured noble Lords that this in no way derogates our responsibilities and abilities to act.