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Regulatory Reform

Volume 694: debated on Wednesday 25 July 2007

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (John Hutton) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government are today publishing the document Next Steps on Regulatory Reform, which sets out a range of initiatives that will help to realise the benefits of better regulation for businesses, third sector organisations and the public sector front line.

I have placed copies in the Libraries of both Houses.

Real progress has been made on regulatory reform in the UK over the past 10 years. The UK is taking forward an ambitious and wide-ranging regulatory reform agenda. Delivering on this is central to our overall economic aims—meeting the challenges of globalisation, improving productivity and promoting innovation—in a modern and fair society.

Major improvements include:

improving the stock of regulation with plans for £2 billion savings leading to a 25 per cent cut in administrative costs by 2010; and

progress towards a risk-based culture in regulators.

The new Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) leads the Government’s drive on better regulation. The Next Steps on Regulatory Reform document sets out how the new department will continue to improve its own regulatory performance, plus the steps that the Government as a whole will take to drive improvement.

Action will be taken forward in three principal areas:

Targeting simplifications to improve the effectiveness of regulation

BERR’s own simplification plan:

Rethinking consumer protection legislation—BERR is launching a review of the consumer protection regime in the UK. This will:

examine the scope for simplification of existing legislation and enhancing flexibility and future-proofing;

explore avenues to simplify and rationalise enforcement, allowing greater targeting of action on higher-risk sectors or businesses; and

investigate the options for improving consumer empowerment and redress.

Working to make employment law more straightforward for all parties—BERR will be working to implement the Gibbons review of employment tribunals and has an ambitious programme to improve the use of guidance and tools to give business more confidence in dealing with employment issues.

Relieving the burden of health and safety risk assessment in small and lower-risk businesses—The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is launching a widely applicable set of concise, practical and sector-specific example risk assessments for a convenience store/newsagent, an estate agent and a general office cleaning contractor. These bring together in one document a sensible response to all their health and safety risk assessment requirements. Example assessments for dry cleaning, hairdressing, cold storage warehousing and catering are planned for launch in November.

Health and safety: improving outcomes, easing the burden on low-risk businesses—The Government, with support from HSE, are launching a review to consider, from the perspective of low-risk businesses (especially small firms), what more can be done to deliver strong health and safety outcomes in a modern working environment while minimising the burden on business and maintaining the confidence of society. The review is to report by spring 2008.

Helping people understand regulation

High-quality and timely guidance—The Government are announcing that they will improve their performance in producing good-quality and timely guidance for complying with regulation that has an impact on business. This would be achieved through a package of changes including developing a code of practice for guidance and working to give greater prominence to guidance in the regulatory process.

Better communication of change—For the next common commencement date in October 2007, the Government will pilot a new approach to providing businesses with information on regulatory change. It will produce a summary document highlighting the most important changes and ensure that this is seen by as many businesses as possible.

Holding government and regulators to account

Working with Parliament—The Government would like to work together with key members of both Houses on how Parliament can play an even fuller part in scrutinising its work to deliver regulatory reform.

Creating a statutory duty on regulators to address burdens—The Government will work with regulators to frame a power that would allow such a duty to be introduced through secondary legislation at a future date. It would require those regulators whose focus is primarily on business to keep burdens under review and take action to minimise unnecessary burdens.

Applying the principles of the regulators’ compliance code to public service inspectorates—For regulators whose primary work is with business, the Government are developing a compliance code that puts risk-based enforcement on a statutory footing. The Government will review the case for applying the principles of the code to those regulators whose principal responsibility lies in the public sector.