HC Deb 14 June 1995 vol 261 cc785-6
8. Mr. Spring

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessment he has made of the importance of deregulation initiatives in increasing the competitiveness of industry in the United Kingdom. [26810]

The President of the Board of Trade and Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Michael Heseltine)

As we made clear in our second White Paper on competitiveness, deregulation is central to improving United Kingdom competitiveness. Unnecessary requirements stand in the way of market entry, innovation, investment and jobs. We have a programme of repealing or amending more than 1,000 regulations and we are on target to deliver nearly 500 by the end of the year. We are also taking action to ensure that regulations are enforced in a business-friendly way.

Mr. Spring

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the immense frustration in commerce and industry caused by the over-zealous application of red tape and regulations? In view of his considerable success in setting up one-stop shops, does he envisage the provision of specific help in providing advice and expediting the appeals procedures, which would be a great morale boost for the business sector?

Mr. Heseltine

My hon. Friend raises a most important matter. We are exploring the opportunity to improve the appeals mechanism and, with the business links, we are exploring the possibility of introducing a single point of access to information about the regulatory system.

Dr. John Cunningham

If the right hon. Gentleman's ideas and policies are so effective, why is it that, under the Conservatives, Britain has fallen to the bottom of the league of Group of Seven—the largest industrial economies in the world? As he is talking about competitiveness and always lauds privatisation, how does he explain that, in the past five years, increases in British Gas's productivity have averaged only 0.42 per cent. but that, at the same time, increases in the chief executive's salary have averaged 27 per cent.? How does he reconcile those things?

Mr. Heseltine

What the right hon. Gentleman fails to point out is the reduction in prices that have taken place over that period as a result of the improved management that has been brought to that industry. Consumers have gained—that should be attractive to Labour Members.

Sir Peter Hordern

On the question of deregulation, does my right hon. Friend accept that there is increasing evidence that when directives issued from Brussels are translated into statutory instruments, they become far more comprehensive, and that such directives are given different interpretations in different countries in the European Union? Will he therefore consider appointing an independent commission to consider carefully the way in which those directives are interpreted not only in this country, but in other EU countries?

Mr. Heseltine

My right hon. Friend raises an important issue. We addressed precisely that dimension of the European single market implementation programme when we invited Lord Sainsbury to set up task forces to consider our implementation of the directives. I am pleased to give the House an assurance that, if any evidence of over-zealous implementation were put before me, I would consider it most carefully.