Chaired by Professor Denis Galligan, the event started with the author summarising the main findings of the research, including the fact that most UK regulators adopt a supportive approach to improving compliance and performance by most businesses, and that approach is supported by behavioural psychology and empirical evidence from ‘responsive regulation’ studies. Further, there is limited evidence that a sanctions regime based on deterrence affects behaviour, whereas proportionate responses to deliberate wrongdoing are widely expected. Many regulatory systems now operate in tiers (co-regulation, or overseen self-regulation), with agreements and transparency on who does what (such as the expanding Primary Authority scheme), and are based on constant circulation of information on performance. However, a blame culture will inhibit the volunteering of vital information, as shown in civil aviation. Whilst regulation may be seen as ‘top down’, the financial crisis illustrates that it needs to be complemented by actors behaving ethically, on a ‘bottom-up’ basis.
A series of comments were made on the book by Frank Vibert (London School of Economics), Richard Thomas CBE (Member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, formerly Information Commissioner), Graham Russell (Director of Better Regulation Delivery, Department of Business Innovation & Skills), Professor Julian Roberts (Professor of Criminology, Oxford and Member of the Sentencing Council), Professor Donal Nolan (Professor of Private Law), Robin Simpson (Consumers International), Ruth Steinholtz (AreteWorks, former General Counsel, Borealis).
Many commentators fully supported the thesis of the book, and expressed admiration for its breadth, depth and originality. Richard Thomas CBE called it “the book I have been waiting for someone to write all my life”. A series of next steps for policy were noted that follow from the findings. Professor Hodges has been asked to follow up by contributing to two government publications.
Professor Hodges also addressed a meeting in Glasgow organised by the Scottish Government on ‘Ethical Regulation’ on 3 December that was attended by representatives of Citizens Advice Scotland, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), Dundee City Council, Federation of Small Businesses, Food Standards Scotland, Highland Council, OFCOM, OFT/CMA, OFGEM, Office of Rail Regulation, Ombudsman Services, Passenger Focus, Scottish Legal Aid Board, Scottish Public Sector Ombudsman, Water Commission, and the University of Dundee.
He will be giving seminars on the book at Singapore Management University on 8 January, in the European Commission on 24 February, and at LSE on 8 March 2016.