Assessing whether or not a particular act or state of affairs constitutes compliance is itself an act of interpretation. And because regulatory activity is continuously subject to assessment this interpretation might be open to negotiation. Indeed, as we have seen in Chapter 4, there could be a series of definitions of compliance, for example in circumstances where a programme of work had been decided upon. Stringent definitions and deadlines might then be set for the most serious problems, but rather more relaxed temporary definitions constructed for the minor faults identified. And over a longer time-scale administrative definitions could change.
Officials could employ a variety of methods to assess whether or not compliance was being achieved. Some of these centred exclusively upon inspectors' own initiative and activity, with inspection and sampling being the obvious examples. Others, often those involving non-compliance, were brought to the agency's attention by a third party, such as a complainant or other regulatory agency, or, more unfortunately, by an accident or incident. The way in which agencies organize and mobilize their resources around these different modes of assessment is usually referred to in the literature by the concepts of proactive and reactive enforcement. Proactive enforcement is essentially law enforcement through agency initiative, so it involves officials seeking out offences. This is in contrast to reactive enforcement, where the agency response is prompted by an outside person or event, typically through lodging a complaint or reporting an accident (see Reiss, 1971). Alternatively, or in addition, the regulated may assess matters themselves, for instance through their own internal inspections or, if appropriate, by sampling. The Robens Committee strongly advocated self-regulation. Each of these methods is suitable for differing types of