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Business Regulation

Volume 129: debated on Wednesday 9 March 1988

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To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what further plans he has to lift the burden of regulation on business.

Active efforts to reduce the burden of regulation on business continue in all areas of the Government's work. A White Paper on deregulation in the summer will give further details of our strategy and programme of action.

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply and congratulate the Government on their deregulation policies to date. There is a great deal more to be done, and we look forward to the White Paper. However, will my hon. Friend carefully examine the possibility of abolishing the statutory audit for small businesses?

We are certainly looking at that matter. A good deal of concern has been expressed to the effect that the statutory audit has placed an excessive burden on small businesses. I am grateful for my hon. Friend's remarks about the deregulatory programme. It is important. None of it is dramatic in itself, but the cumulative effect of lifting small burdens from business is dramatic.

Will the Minister assure the House that the Government will in no way attempt to diminish standards of health and safety at work? As he knows, each year more days are lost through industrial injury than through strike action. It would be a savage attack on workers if there were any attempt in any businesses to lower the standard of health and safety at work.

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us about the curious situation whereby business organisations claim to want the Government off their backs, but invite retired civil servants on to their boards?

The latter phenomenon demonstrates that public servants have a great deal to offer industry. One of the things that we are trying to develop is a greater flow of personnel to and from the public sector. It would be helpful for business if more people from the private sector were to be seconded into the public sector, and vice versa. The public and private sectors have a great deal to learn from each other.

We continue to attach high priority to health and safety at work. There are advances to be made by simplifying the burden of regulations so that users find it easier to comply with them.

Will my hon. Friend take encouragment from the deregulation programme so far? Does he accept that real obstacles and burdens make it difficult for firms to expand and grow, and that it is important to cut red tape? Will he consider placing before Parliament an annual report on progress made in all Government Departments, so that Parliament can see how far the deregulation programme has gone?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's remarks. The White Paper that we propose to publish in the summer will effectively amount to that. Since the deregulation initiative started three or so years ago we have published two formal White Papers and a further paper. These papers outlined the progress that has been made right across the board. We shall continue to do that.