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Regulatory Burden

Volume 459: debated on Wednesday 2 May 2007

2. What plans he has for encouraging a reduction in the burden of central Government legislation on Welsh business. (134260)

The Government are wholeheartedly committed to cutting the regulatory burden on all businesses and are currently undertaking one of the most radical reform agendas in the world.

I am pleased to hear that, but is the Minister aware that recent surveys of Welsh business reveal overwhelming opposition to the Budget proposals to increase the rate of the small firms corporation tax? Will he pledge to do all that he can to resist those anti-business Euro-directives, particularly the working time directive, from which the UK had an opt-out, and the agency workers directive, both of which would do untold damage to Welsh tourism?

The Government have reduced the regulatory burden on business arising, for example, from Department of Trade and Industry regulations, by more than £1 billion. Some 900,000 companies are now exempt from audit requirements on their accounts. The hon. Gentleman refers to various surveys, and the CBI survey shows that manufacturers in Wales have received the highest surge in orders for more than a decade, and that Welsh firms are experiencing much stronger order and output growth than the UK as a whole. The latest figures show that new VAT registrations for businesses in Wales are up significantly. Moreover, 130,000 jobs have been created since 1997.

All those facts demonstrate that the Government are extremely successful in dealing with these matters. Small businesses are growing substantially in Wales, and are being created on a regular basis. That shows that we have the right policies, which could only be put at risk if we ended up with some sort of rag-bag coalition.

Will my hon. Friend remind Conservative Members that it was a Conservative Government who devastated business and industry in Wales, although siren voices suggested that measures such as the minimum wage would devastate business and industry rather than introducing fairness? Will he restate this Government’s policy of introducing measures from European directives properly, not gold-plating them but ensuring that there is fairness in industry for all, including business?

I agree with everything that my right hon. Friend has said. I know from the hard work that he did in ensuring the passage of legislation to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses that he is an expert in the field. The facts are clear: businesses in Wales are growing and are being created faster than ever before, and all the surveys indicate that the Government’s regime is working.

Of course, we will resist any attempts to gold-plate European regulation. We will continue with the formula—the partnership between the Welsh Assembly Government and the Labour Government here in Westminster—which has proved so successful, putting 138,000 more people in work than was the case 10 years ago.

Is not the misery-mongering from Norfolk mocked by the reality of thriving private industry in Wales? In Newport alone we have benefited from a huge amount of investment, resulting in thousands of new jobs in EADS, Yellow Pages, International Rectifier and the Quinn Group. Is that not largely due to the strength of the partnership between the Labour-controlled Welsh Assembly and the Labour-controlled Government, which would be put at risk if it fell into the instability of an Assembly controlled—

Surprisingly, I agree, yet again, with my hon. Friend. What he says is true, although that success is happening not just in Newport, but in my constituency: we now have record levels of employment where we used to have record levels of unemployment. Indeed, it is true throughout Wales. Ibsen Biopharm has announced an investment of more than £39 million in a pharmaceutical plant in Wrexham, and the Amazon investment was announced only last month.

Industry recognises that Wales is a good place in which to invest. We are seeing existing industries growing and new industries being created, because—as my hon. Friend says—of the wonderful partnership between Westminster and Cardiff.