§ 7. Mrs. Ann Winterton
To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to remove unnecessary administrative and regulatory burdens on businesses.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs (Mr. Neil Hamilton)
Departments are conducting comprehensive reviews of regulations for which they are responsible and will shortly provide me 291 with their candidates for repeal and simplification. Seven private sector business task forces are producing their own hit lists, which I hope will be radical and extensive.
Among many other initiatives, we are determined to force EC institutions to recognise the job-destroying effect of over-regulation from Brussels and roll back the tide of Euro-regulation.
§ Mrs. Winterton
Is my hon. Friend aware that regulation is stifling business? Does he agree with the Institute of Chartered Accountants, which seeks to abolish burdensome auditing requirements on small firms? Is he aware that, when businesses register for value added tax, they are sent a 180-page hook, a 20-page leaflet, a 17-page leaflet, a 14-page leaflet, a 12-page leaflet and two six-page leaflets, all of which warn of dire consequences if the contents are not fully understood? When do the Government intend to put their money where their mouth is and reduce burdensome regulations on business?
§ Mr. Hamilton
I congratulate my hon. Friend on her enthusiasm for the cause which I have embraced. I am most grateful to her for coming to the House today with that catalogue to demonstrate to hon. Members on both sides of the House the difficulties that small companies must endure before they can even get on with the business of trading at all. As my hon. Friend will know, there is a consultation exercise under way at present, which we hope will lead to the removal of an important but unnecessary regulation the requirement for a compulsory audit for small companies. I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for the strong support that she gives to this worthwhile cause.
§ Mr. McAllion
Is the Minister aware that, if the Government persist with their policy of promoting inward investment on the back of reducing what they call the burdens of labour and social costs, they will find themselves in competition with the likes of Thailand, where the social costs are so low that health and safety regulations are generally ignored and where recently more than 200 workers lost their lives in a factory fire? Does the Minister understand that although that policy may make Britain a place in which it is easy to do business, it will also make it a place in which workers' lives are held to be cheap and of no account'? Labour Members want no part of that strategy.
§ Mr. Hamilton
The Government are concerned with inward investment. What the hon. Gentleman and his party would produce is not only outward investment but the export of jobs. As the Member for Dundee, East, the hon. Gentleman has significant experience in these matters because, as a result of his neanderthal attitude and that of the Transport and General Workers Union, a large number of jobs that would otherwise have gone to Dundee did not go there.