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regulators and politics April 18, 2008

Posted by Bradley in : Uncategorized , trackback

Interesting article by Tom Winsor in today’s FT, commenting on the applicability of the decision in Corner House Research and Campaign Against Arms Trade v Director of the SFO to economic regulators:

Despite the policy perils, and the outright illegality, of submitting to improper political threats, regulators now too often bend the knee. Some blur the distinction between the will of parliament and the will of ministers, insisting that appointed regulators lack the democratic legitimacy of elected politicians. When challenged that his legitimacy comes from the highest democratic authority — parliament and the rule of law — one economic regulator recently said to me that he regarded the supremacy of the rule of law as a “scary concept”. Such a fundamental error may suit control-obsessive ministers, but it does great harm. This decision of the High Court should fortify regulators when next they face interfering ministers. Their eager supplications should end.

Commentary at OurKingdom suggests that the article is “astonishingly muddled”, but I don’t see it in quite the same way. Winsor clearly says that:

Regulators can lose their independence or jurisdiction in two ways. Either parliament legislates, or the regulators, by their behaviour, show that they will give way to improper pressure to act contrary to their statutory duties.


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