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Risk Assessment and Risk Management: Improving policy and practice within government departments

Second Report Prepared By The Interdepartmental Liaison Group On Risk Assessment

Contents

Membership, Mission Statement and Terms of Reference of ILGRA

Preface

The Interdepartmental Liaison Group on Risk Assessment (ILGRA) is an informal committee of officials from all major Government Departments responsible for developing policy on, and promoting the practical application of risk assessment and risk management. Since the group first reported to Ministers in 1996, the trend for networking and co-ordination of policies across Departments and Agencies has accelerated. Moreover, the mechanism developed by ILGRA is fully in line with that trend.

This report presents an account of ILGRA's efforts over the past two years to stimulate more efficient and effective ways for regulating and managing risks. It does this by building on good practice developed within Departments and by improving the information base on issues that are common to many areas of Government.

Despite the gains that have been made in protection of health and safety and the environment, Government Departments and Agencies are being increasingly pressed for public explanations of the basis of decisions in these areas. Recent events have made it clear that though people want to be reassured about the food they eat, the air they breathe and potential risks to their health and safety, they do not want their freedom to be unduly restricted. They want to be free to choose if they wish. This requires good information consistently presented and good decisions by Government on issues where individual choice is not the only consideration. It is, of course, just such developments that led to the establishment of ILGRA.

In this report we describe the progress that we have made to help Departments improve their approaches to risk-management, and identify the areas that we need to concentrate on in future. These include the need for Departments to describe comprehensively their frameworks for characterising a problem, obtaining the necessary information to evaluate options to address it, and adopting decisions, while actively engaging stakeholders. Moreover, there is a need for Departments to improve the ways they communicate on risk issues, and to be clearer on the role of experts and on the uses and limitations of scientific and economic analysis in the decision-making process.

I would like to thank the members of ILGRA and its sub-groups for their many contributions which I believe have resulted in substantial progress on a wide range of issues. This report reflects their commitment. The compilation of the report has been undertaken by Jean Le Guen and Colleen Bowen of the ILGRA Secretariat. I would like to record the appreciation of the Group for their efforts.

Dr J McQuaid, CB F Eng
Chairman Interdepartmental Liaison Group on Risk Assessment.

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Executive Summary

Risk issues are rising on the public agenda. Following on from the publication of its report to Ministers in 1996 on the use of risk assessment in Government Departments, Ministers agreed that ILGRA should continue work to develop consistent approaches to regulating risks and provide a second report on progress. This report:

Chapter 1 sets out developments and influences since the last report.
Changes such as globalisation of the economy, developments in science and technology and attitudes towards regulation and governance are influencing public attitudes towards risk. This has led to an increasing expectation from the public for regulators they can trust to protect their interests and for greater openness and stakeholder involvement in decision making. However, demands for more consistency and transparency in the ways Departments use risk assessment in decision making is exposing weaknesses in current systems which need to be addressed. As a result, it is becoming increasingly untenable for Departments to adopt a narrow outlook on the risks they manage. ILGRA provides a much needed forum for taking forward these issues.

Chapter 2 describes the results of work undertaken during the last two years, including:

Chapter 3 sets out the action required for achieving greater coherence and consistency among Departments.
The report identifies the need to build trust as essential to obtaining public acceptance of risk management decisions. This in turn requires Departments and their Agencies to have consistent, fair and transparent approaches to decision making which reflect the values of society. As a result, the report seeks Ministerial endorsement of ILGRA's future priorities which will concentrate on:

These measures will require a strong commitment from Departments in order to ensure progress. This will be the subject of a fuller report to Ministers in two years time.

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GLOSSARY OF ACRONYMS

BBSRC

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

BRU

Better Regulation Unit

BSE

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

CAA

Civil Aviation Authority

CBA

Cost Benefit Analysis

DETR

Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

DH

Department of Health

DTI

Department of Trade and Industry

ESRC

Economic and Social Research Council

EA

Environment Agency

EC

European Commission

EU

European Union

FAO

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations

HMT

Her Majesty's Treasury

HO

Home Office

HSC

Health and Safety Commission

HSE

Health and Safety Executive

ILGRA

Interdepartmental Liaison Group on Risk Assessment

IPCS

International Programme on Chemical Safety

MRC

Medical Research Council

MAFF

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

MoD

Ministry of Defence

NERC

Natural Environment Research Council

OPS

Office of Public Service

OECD

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

PSD

Pesticides Safety Directorate

RATSC

Risk Assessment and Toxicology Steering Committee

SSAS

Sub-group on the Setting of Safety Standards

UNCED

United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development

VMD

Veterinary Medicines Directorate

WHO

World Health Organisation

Updated 2010-08-04