HC Deb 29 January 1996 vol 270 cc627-8
1. Mr. Mike O'Brien

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what analysis his office has made of the number of regulations approved by the Government since 1979 which affect businesses; and how many of these regulations he has removed. [9978]

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Roger Freeman)

In 1994, there were 1,467 statutory instruments, excluding road closures and local transitional and commencement orders, of which two thirds either were specifically intended to help business or had no impact on business. I do not have comparable figures for earlier years. We are now monitoring all statutory instruments on a monthly basis to ensure that they are necessary and that the benefits exceed the cost.

Mr. O'Brien

I do not know who the Minister thinks he is kidding if he thinks that the Government have a record for deregulation, because he is certainly not kidding business men in my constituency. Is it not the case that this Government have created more regulations than any Government in British history and that they are in the process of creating an administrative bungle, on the scale of that in the Child Support Agency, with their introduction of self-assessment for the self-employed and for businesses, which will create an enormous burden on business in my constituency and across the country because it is being rushed in?

Mr. Freeman

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman about self-assessment, which is due to be introduced in the next financial year. It will be a success and its introduction is being carefully monitored. Labour opposed the 1994 Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill on Second Reading and at all other stages. That is an example, once again, of Labour saying one thing but doing another.

Sir Sydney Chapman

How many of those statutory instruments and other regulations affecting business have been brought on us through EU directives? Is my right hon. Friend confident that he has the powers to deregulate those regulators or the mechanisms and proposals to put before the intergovernmental conference later this year? [Interruption.]

Mr. Freeman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to an important subject, which the deputy Leader of the Opposition seems to find funny. The number of directives likely to be passed by the Council of Ministers in the coming year is likely to be substantially down on the past few years. Yes,. we have the mechanism to deregulate existing European law, where it is sensible so to do.