HL Deb 16 December 1981 vol 426 cc165-6
Lord Gainford

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what they have done to reduce the burden of bureaucracy and form-filling on small businesses.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Bellwin)

My Lords, among other things the Government have lifted controls on prices, office and industrial development, simplified and speeded up planning procedures, reduced the amount of information to be returned to the registrar of companies, eased employment registration restrictions, reviewed powers of entry, taken steps to reduce the burden of rates and made substantial cuts in form-filling.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I sincerely thank my noble friend for that very encouraging Answer. Arising from that delightful reply, have the Government any more information on the possible increase in simplicity as well as reduction in quantity?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, to give chapter and verse on each of the items I mentioned would perhaps push Question Time too far. However, I take the point that my noble friend makes. Simplicity must, of course, be at all times as paramount as, indeed, the sheer quantum to which my noble friend refers.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, can the Minister assure us that there is one kind of form-filling which the Government will not abolish, and that is the form which noble Lords have to fill up every month claiming their expenses?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I should have thought that to have done that would have been to court disaster.

Lord Belhaven and Stenton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that when I was running a small hotel business in the Highlands quite recently, we had to answer questions from four tourist boards—the British Tourist Authority, the Scottish Tourist Board, the Highlands and Islands Development Board and the mid-Argyll Tourist Board? Is there any possibility of doing something about this sort of situation?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I was not aware of that, and I sympathise very much indeed with my noble friend. I can only hope that his having raised the matter today will ensure that it is brought to the notice of those concerned. Who knows? it may have some beneficial impact as a result thereof.

Viscount St. Davids

My Lords, is it in the mind of the noble Lord that in Italy they have gone a quite considerable distance towards getting rid of restrictions on small businesses? Are the Government monitoring this to see the results and to see whether it would be beneficial to do the same in this country?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I am not aware of what is being done in Italy. Certainly, we are very seized indeed of this whole matter of forms and circulars, and the impositions upon small businesses, indeed, in many other areas. Therefore, again, I shall note what the noble Lord says and, if there is anything to be learnt, we shall be glad to do so.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, will the noble Lord tell us—because we are all very puzzled—how the Government have eased the burden of rates?—when our rate demands have risen by anything from 10 per cent. to 30 per cent. a year since the Government have been in office.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, it has to be said that if the Government's requests to local government had resulted in the reduction of expenditure, which we have felt so necessary, the burden of rates would not have been as great as the noble Lord mentions. However, this is an ongoing situation with which we are concerned the whole time. Indeed, forthcoming legislation as well as other measures will, hopefully, contribute towards doing the very thing that I am sure the noble Lord wishes to see.

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