A Government Decision Should Not End The Engagement

A Government announcement on a policy could mean celebration or commiseration. But that should not be the end of the engagement. In reality, it is the start of the detailed engagement.

The UK Government has recently announced plans for tighter regulation of ‘buy now, pay later’ services. The media covered the issue in some detail and many were expressing their pleasure at the decision. But whether you are for or against the proposed changes, it is important to engage with Government to get the new rules right. The detail will be of critical importance.

Outcome

In this case a report that was delivered to Ministers that provided clear recommendations based on a detailed understanding of the issues involved. After consideration, the Government announced that: “the policy and legislative options for the Government to achieve a balanced and proportionate approach to regulation and I intend to take forward the necessary legislation as a matter of priority”.

The Minister, the Economic Secretary, also stated: “I would welcome continued engagement between the FCA and my officials as work progresses at pace to ensure timely and appropriate outcomes for consumers, Buy-Now-Pay-Later providers, the retailers that offer the product as a payment option, as well as the wider consumer credit market.”

So we have now entered a period when the Government, along with others, will start to work on the detail of changing the regulations in this financial services market. However, just because an expert report has been prepared, does not mean that those regulations will necessarily deliver on the Government’s aims.

Implications

The next stage of the process needs engagement by all those mentioned to ensure that the regulations deliver for consumers, providers, retailers and the market. We have to be aware that, despite everyone’s best efforts, there is the danger of unintended consequences, regulations that don’t have the impact intended and/or regulations that are overly burdensome.

All those involved have to continue to input into the process and check the details of what finally emerges.

Many, of course, will already have been active in their engagement but they can’t take their eye off the ball. The level of activity, especially focusing on the detail, may actually need to increase especially if the plans move to Parliament for consideration.

Depending on the form the plans take, when they come before Parliament they may be amended or may need amending. For the companies involved, the scrutiny of Parliament also throws up matters of reputation management as well. There may be debates and Committee hearings as part of the scrutiny process. Again, all this needs tracking and potential engagement by all those involved.

The reality

The level of advanced detail in this case, largely down to the report, cannot always be applied to others. If there are opportunities for earlier engagement, through White Papers, consultations and reports, then these should be grasped. Policy making is a competitive environment and if your views are not heard then those of others, potentially hostile to you, may well be.

Grasp the opportunities for early engagement but do not let up until everything is finalised. In some case, the even more important regulations, can come after the legislation has been passed. Never let your guard down and keep talking.

Stuart is a public affairs and communications specialist with BDB Pitmans advising clients on all elements of their public affairs strategies including political and corporate communications and reputation management. His work also includes consultation and planning communications and he has advised on a number of high profile media relations and crisis communications programmes. Stuart is an honorary research fellow at the University of Aberdeen and is the author of several books including ‘New Activism and the Corporate Response‘ (heralded as a book that “every aspiring business leader should read” by MIS Asia), ‘Public Affairs in Practice’ and ‘The Dictionary of Labour Quotations‘. His most recently published book, ‘Public Affairs: A Global Perspective’ has been called ‘an absolute treasure-trove’ and is a recommended read by the Government Communication Service (GCS). Stuart regularly writes and lectures on a range of business and political issues and as well as blogging for BDB Pitmans he contributes to the Huffington Post and has written for the CBI, (former) UKTI, Total Politics and LabourList. He is also an adviser to the Entrepreneurs Network (TEN) and a regular speaker and chair at conferences. He has appeared on Sky News, BBC 5 Live, BBC World, the Today programme and on Ukrainian TV and has been a judge for the Public Affairs News, PR Week, Public Affairs and the European Public Affairs awards. Stuart is a CIPR trainer leading the 'Practical Public Affairs' course.

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