HC Deb 09 February 1994 vol 237 cc280-1
11. Mr. Burden

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will set out the procedures established by his Department to determine whether a particular regulation is a burden to business; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

If Parliament is to take rational decisions, hon. Members must be informed in advance of debates of the costs that proposed legislation would impose on business. In future, a compliance cost assessment will be published with all such regulations put before Parliament. The procedures for preparing CCAs are set out in a guide which I have placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. Burden

Is the Minister aware that, although existing statute allows Ministers to replace health and safety regulations if they are out of date, the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill, which received a Second Reading last night, gives Ministers the power to repeal health and safety legislation without replacing it? On the day when it has been reported that accidents and ill-health at work will cost employers between £4 billion and £6 billion, will the Minister tell the House of one health and safety regulation or law which Ministers would not have the power to repeal if the Bill becomes law?

Mr. Hamilton

All that we seek to do by that provision in the deregulation Bill is to repeal legislation that is wholly redundant; we already have that power under legislation passed since 1974. The Health and Safety Commission has requested that change because it recognises that its cause is not assisted by all sorts of nonsense cluttering up the statute book. The Agricultural (Ladders) Regulations 1957, for instance, which regulates the number of nails that must be put in wooden ladders, and all sorts of unnecessary restrictions have been replaced by new British standards and more modern legislation.

Sir Michael Neubert

Is it not less than satisfactory that the only safeguard against ministerial misjudgment in the exercise of delegated powers of deregulation is the consideration of a 90-minute debate on statutory instruments that are unamendable by the House? My hon. Friend may argue that there is consultation before the orders are drafted. In the case of the proposal to abolish charter market franchises, the representations were 10:1 against, but the Government are still going ahead with it. What confidence, therefore, can people have in consultation?

Mr. Hamilton

It comes as no surprise that the majority of those who responded to that consultation exercise possessed the monopoly privileges which we propose to abolish. Of course they were against taking away from themselves an undesirable privilege which they now possess, but I am satisfied, as a result of consultation, that the British public generally will benefit from the removal of antique, mediaeval restrictions which have no place in the modern age.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Does the Minister regard as an antique, mediaeval regulation the protection of consumers, particularly in relation to small lorry firms which, in future, will be able to park lorries under six tonnes wherever they wish and, once they receive licences, will no longer be monitored by the Department of Transport? Will he ensure that he consults the Department about the safety of our constituents before he goes ahead and abolishes rules that protect them?

Mr. Hamilton

I make it absolutely clear that we neither need nor desire to reduce public protection in health and safety or in other areas. In the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill, as the hon. Lady will know if she has read it, there is a requirement that necessary protection should not be removed if the order-making power that we seek will be used. I do not know the details of the case that the hon. Lady mentioned, but if she would like to write to me about it, I should be happy to look into it.

Mr. Gallie

Is my hon. Friend aware of reports that the European Commission is intent on banning through regulation the use of the United Kingdom standard 240-volt plug? Is he further aware that the intention is to replace it with the inferior European two-pin model? How does he anticipate that that would affect the United Kingdom electrical market? What can be done about that?

Mr. Hamilton

I am happy to say to my hon. Friend that no such proposal is before the Commission. If it were, I am sure that we would pay the greatest possible regard to the criticisms that he has made.