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Burdens on Business

Volume 541: debated on Wednesday 29 February 2012

4. What recent discussions she has had with (a) ministerial colleagues and (b) others on measures to reduce administrative burdens for businesses in Wales. (96373)

6. What recent discussions she has had with (a) ministerial colleagues and (b) others on measures to reduce administrative burdens for businesses in Wales. (96375)

I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues, the First Minister and other organisations on reducing the regulatory burden on businesses and the public in Wales.

Does the Secretary of State agree that although some decisions on business regulations are devolved, it is vital that the Welsh Government do not introduce any measures that are seen as a disincentive to invest in Wales?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Government—whether the UK or Welsh Government—must be careful to send signals to business that we are on its side. We must not place any more barriers in the way of businesses creating jobs in Wales, which is why I was particularly disappointed when the First Minister supported the extra financial transactions tax. I am sure the financial services industry in Wales will have been daunted by that.

The UK Government are scrapping new regulations that would have cost businesses more than £350 million a year and are radically reforming the planning system in England. Many such decisions are devolved to the Welsh Government, but would my right hon. Friend like Labour Ministers in Cardiff to follow suit?

Yes. We are aiming to be the most business-friendly Government in history. By scrapping new regulations and with the red tape challenge, we have thrown down the gauntlet to all those organisations that put barriers in the way of business. I wrote to the First Minister about that some time ago—I am still waiting for his response, but I am sure he would share my sentiments that we need to encourage and not stifle business.

At a time when unemployment is at a 17-year high and more people than ever are forced into short-term work, is the Government’s decision to withdraw working tax benefits from low-paid, part-time workers an example of reducing administrative burdens, or is it simply an example of the Government kicking someone after they have thrown them on the ground?

I hope the hon. Gentleman has noticed that in creating the most competitive tax regime in the G20, which is the aim of the Treasury and this Government, we have also taken the lowest-paid out of tax. That will make a great difference to families and individuals across the UK, including in Wales.

But John Longworth, the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, says that businesses tell him that they are still not feeling the burden of regulation lifting. Will the Secretary of State listen to business and confirm that the Cabinet was yesterday lambasted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for not achieving satisfactory growth?

Right from the beginning when I was appointed Secretary of State for Wales, I set up a business advisory group so that I could listen directly to the concerns of business and industry. I hold regular meetings with that group, and as recently as this week I met the new chief executive of the CBI Wales. I certainly listen to what businesses are saying, as do this Government.