HC Deb 22 July 1996 vol 282 cc1-3
1. Mr. Spring

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the impact of deregulation initiatives on small businesses. [36746]

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

Our assessment is that the package of deregulation measures announced at the "Your Business Matters" conference on 11 March was widely welcomed by small businesses.

Mr. Spring

Given the assistance that has been given to so many small businesses by raising the VAT threshold, cutting corporate taxes and other methods of reducing bureaucracy on small businesses, is it surprising that there has been such a net expansion of small businesses? Given the importance of small businesses in job creation, will my right hon. Friend assure the House that, when he considers the deregulation initiatives, he will continue to take into account the needs of small businesses and continue to consult them widely?

Mr. Freeman

We shall certainly continue closely to consult small businesses. Our aim over the coming months is to continue the progress already made on simplification of PAYE and national insurance contributions; to ensure that enforcement of the law is uniform and proportionate; and to try to reduce the burdens of forms, surveys and licences on small businesses.

Mr. Grocott

While everyone would agree that it is desirable to cut unnecessary red tape, does the Minister agree that one discipline that must always remain is the proper keeping of accounts? Will he comment on last weekend's reports that some businesses contributing to the so-called Premier Club, which is a method of financing the Conservative party, have been advised to disguise their contributions by describing them as "entertainment"? If that practice exists, will he condemn it unreservedly?

Mr. Freeman

It goes without saying that all companies must observe not only the law relating to company accounts but the Inland Revenue's requirements. I had hoped that the hon. Gentleman would ask me about taxation. Some 500,000 small companies no longer need their accounts audited and more than half a million pay VAT annually.

Mr. Sykes

Has my right hon. Friend had time yet to assess the impact of the 48-hour week that is likely to be imposed on this country from 23 November onwards? Is he aware that Cleveland Potash, a fairly important employer in my constituency, told me that a 48-hour week would be disastrous for the company, and that it would have to lay men off as a result? What will the Minister do about the 48-hour week?

Mr. Freeman

Any restriction in terms of hours and patterns of work on companies' flexibility to employ staff is to be deprecated. The Government want our economy to achieve growth and prosperity, which comes about through limiting the burdens of social and employment legislation on our work force.

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