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Business Regulation

Volume 609: debated on Tuesday 3 May 2016

The Government committed in their manifesto to cut £10 billion of business red tape through the business impact target. We will report on our progress in June this year.

The Government are doing well to cut regulation at home, but we cannot ignore the fact that the most burdensome regulations on British companies come from the European Union and cost British business £22 billion a year. Given that there were 1,469 new pieces of EU regulation and 51 EU directives in 2015, is it not clear that the only way to end the cost to British business is to vote to leave?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the issue of cutting business regulation, but I do not recognise the £22 billion a year figure for EU regulation. I am sure that he will agree that as well as looking at the costs of regulation, we should consider the benefits of the single market. With 500 million consumers, it is the world’s largest economic zone, and there is no doubt that it helps to generate jobs throughout Britain, including in Greater Manchester.

The Secretary of State will be aware that many small businesses often apply to only one lender for finance—usually their bank—and that two in five of those turned down do not go on to apply for finance anywhere else. What more are the Government doing to ensure that small businesses have access to as good a range of financial products as possible to keep the economy moving in the right direction?

First, the hon. Gentleman may know that one of the changes brought in during the coalition Government was that if a small business’s application for credit is refused, that application can be passed on, with the business’s permission, to other potential lenders. That has certainly helped to change the landscape. We can also help to increase competition, on which the Treasury has been leading. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the number of providers of SME finance, he will see that there has been a dramatic change there, too.