Kirsten Lass meets three regulators in 'The New Powers That Be'
Almost everything we do in the UK is regulated.
Often we don't even realise it. But the food we eat, the medicines we take, the trains we travel on are all regulated, usually by an independent body.
But who are they, the people who monitor us?
Mysteriously, they regulate what we do, but no one regulates them. We don't elect them so how did they get the job? What exactly do they do? The Regulators are increasingly powerful bodies who remain largely invisible to the general public and seemingly unaccountable.
Regulation is big business in the UK. It already accounts for about 10% of GDP and it's growing. It's being used more and more by the Blair government as a means of governance. But critics argue it's a way of creating policy through the back door, and making other people doing the government's business.
In the second series of 'The New Powers That Be', broadcast on The Westminster Hour in November and December 2005, Kirsten Lass interviews three key regulators and find out more about the people who keep a watchful eye on us, and what makes them tick.
Part One - Ofsted
Ofsted - the body that regulates our state schools strikes fear into the heart of head teachers around the country. But it's becoming increasingly powerful - regulating almost everything that takes care of our children. David Bell stands at the helm of this mighty organization. In September, he made radical changes to the way state schools are inspected, promising to regulate with a lighter touch and reduce the inspections notice from several months down to two days. Will this continue to safeguard standards in our schools, as David Bell promises, or is it a move that frees Ofsted to pursue its increasing duties of monitoring all our childcare from nannies to further education colleges?
Part Two - The Pensions Regulator
At a time when pensions are hot in the headlines, David Norgrove takes up the position of chair of the new Regulator of pensions. He explains why pensions are in a healthy state, even though the final salary pension system is collapsing. Already, over 80,000 people have seen their financial futures slip through their fingers, and pensioner Willie Riggan vehemently disagrees with the Regulator's opinion that pensions are "not in a sorry mess". David Norgrove also defends his decision that attracted widespread controversy this summer - to bail out a failing insurance company to help save its pension scheme.
Part Three - The Charity Commission
A controversial new Charities Bill is making its way through parliament and is set to overhaul our ancient laws the govern the voluntary sector. At the same time, the regulator that oversees charities is undergoing major changes. The Charity Commission is two hundred years old and making waves at its head is Geraldine Peacock the charismatic new chair. She talks to Kirsten Lass about her plans to bring the organisation and the charities it regulates firmly into the twenty-first century.