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Red Tape Challenge Environment Theme

Volume 542: debated on Monday 19 March 2012

Environmental regulations will remain as strong as ever but be made simpler and more effective following a review of red tape which also will boost British business by more than £1 billion over five years. Simpler and smarter environment regulations will protect the environment by being cheaper and easier for companies to follow, while enforcement will be targeted to where it is most needed.

I undertook at the start of the challenge to maintain the vitally important protection our environment needs. This exercise was about getting better rules, not weaker ones and in so doing to support, not undermine, the environmental outcomes that the Government are striving to achieve. The results of the red tape challenge will be good for the environment and good for business because, as well as assuring protection of our environment, we will, by removing unnecessary bureaucracy, allow businesses to free up resources to invest in growth. We are therefore making it easier for people to do the right thing, by making rules clearer and by getting rid of old, unworkable regulations. This is a prime example of how we can help grow a green economy while looking after our natural resources.

The proposals being made today have been developed in consultation with green groups and businesses, including 3,500 website responses and written submissions. They will see 132 regulations improved, mainly through simplification or mergers; 70 kept as they are necessary to uphold important environmental protections; and the repeal of 53 others that are obsolete.

The proposals will both ensure protection of the environment and benefit a wide range of businesses, particularly small and medium sized firms. Businesses told us they were particularly frustrated by the amount of red tape and paperwork needed to deal with their waste and the amount of staff hours responsible companies are spending dealing with bureaucracy and inspections. The proposals are intended to address this and once implemented, are anticipated to provide savings to businesses of more than £1 billion over five years.

The Government’s environmental objectives remain unchanged and we will maintain the strong protections already established as we continue to look for further opportunities to reduce burdens for business. Many comments in the red tape challenge suggested that the environmental framework—covering 257 regulatory instruments, over 10,000 pages of guidance and 397 data sets—is overly complex and inconsistent and gets in the way of businesses complying effectively with their environmental obligations. Work will start immediately with business and environment organisations to identify the scope for significant rationalisation of guidance leading to a report to Ministers by September with the aim of an announcement in the autumn. We will similarly examine the scope for significant rationalisation of data sets and report by the autumn. Changes that can be easily introduced will be taken forward as soon as possible.

Details of the package are available online at:

http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/about/how/regulation/