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Business Regulation

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 31 March 2011

We have introduced the one-in, one-out rule to stem the flow of new regulation. We have also introduced sunset clauses on new domestic regulation, stopped gold-plating EU directives and launched a consultation on tribunals. In the Budget we announced a three-year moratorium on new regulation for micro-businesses. We will shortly launch a public review of the existing stock of over 21,000 regulations.

I welcome all those measures, but spin-offs and start-ups in West Worcestershire are discovering that in order to win Government procurement contracts they need to have accounts for the past two years, and I wonder whether the Secretary of State would urgently review that.

We are taking steps to open up public procurement for the kinds of small spin-offs the hon. Lady describes. There is, of course, an aspiration to increase public procurement from SMEs to 25%. At the beginning of the year the pre-qualification questionnaires, which were appallingly complex, were simplified, and they will shortly be removed altogether from companies trading at over £100,000.

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will work very closely with industry to tackle increasing environmental regulation, which has already been touched on, especially that coming over from the European Union, so that we do not have uncompetitive industries?

Environmental regulation is covered by the moratorium that I have just described. Of course, if it is European Union regulation, we cannot unilaterally disband it, but we can ensure that there is no gold-plating, which is why we are following a minimal copying-out procedure for EU legislation.

The regulation of business is important for promoting employment. In my constituency, youth unemployment is 30%, which is way too high, so will there be an enterprise zone to look at business regulation and employment in the south Wales valleys?

As I discovered when I discussed the matter with them on Monday, the Welsh Assembly Government have responsibility for designated enterprise zones. I hope they will follow the model we are pursuing in England, and indeed we strongly commended it to them.

The Secretary of State’s very own figures show that he is not a deregulator but a regulator. It is 53-in, 3-out, not one-in, one-out, but apparently there is hope on the horizon, because he is going to repeal another regulation— one introduced to seize German-owned property after the war. I am sure Chancellor Merkel will be happy about that, but the point will be lost on UK business.

We hear from the Secretary of State about his plans to review 21,000 business regulations, but at this rate it will take more than 7,000 years to achieve that aim—and looking at the Secretary of State I do not think he has the time on his side. When will he ditch his rhetoric and begin practising what he preaches before it is too late?

The regulations that related to my Department were either European or related to the implementation of the minimum wage. I know the Opposition are showing considerable political versatility at the moment, but I did not think that they had got around to demanding the abolition of the minimum wage.