The Regulatory Gift: Politics, regulation and governance

13 Mar 2018

Abstract: This article introduces the ‘regulatory gift’ as a conceptual framework for understanding a particular form of government-led deregulation that is presented as central to the public interest. Contra to theories of regulatory capture, government corruption, ‘insider’ personal interest or profit-seeking theories of regulation, the regulatory gift describes reform which is overtly designed by Government to reduce or reorient regulators’ functions to the advantage of the regulated and in line with market objectives on a potentially macro (rather than industry-specific) scale. As a conceptual framework, the regulatory gift is intended to be applicable across regulated sectors of democratic states and in this article the empirical sections evidence the practice of regulatory gifting in contemporary UK politics. Specifically, this article analyses the UK Public Bodies Act (2011), affecting some 900 regulatory public bodies and its correlative legislation, the Regulator’s Code (2014), the Deregulation Act (2015) and the Enterprise Bill (2016). The article concludes that whilst the regulatory gift may, in some cases, be aligned with the public interest - delivering on cost reduction, enhancing efficiency and stimulating innovation - this will not always be the case. As the case study of the regulatory body, the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) demonstrates, despite the explicit claims made by legislators, the regulatory gift has the potential to significantly undermine the public interest.