HC Deb 24 February 1999 vol 326 cc337-8W
Mr. Steen

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what steps the Government have taken to give priority to their better regulation policy. [71941]

Mr. Kilfoyle

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office on 21 October 1998,Official Report, column 1152.

In addition, the Better Regulation Task Force is currently reviewing the role of regulation in relation to productivity, the operation of fit person regimes, the applicability of self-regulation, and law on anti-discrimination and enforcement practice. The productivity review was first announced in the pre-Budget Statement of 3 November 1998, Official Report, columns 681–702. The Task Force will shortly offer initial findings on the impact of regulations on business start-up, success and growth and will publish full reports on all reviews by the summer.

We continue to work actively with our European partners to ensure further progress towards effective regulation across Europe.

Mr. Steen

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what discussions he has had with businesses with regard to improving the clarity of regulations. [71881]

Mr. Kilfoyle

We are working with others to help business to understand and comply with regulations and to ensure constructive and consistent enforcement. We aim to make the regulatory system more transparent, accessible and helpful. The Access Business group of departmental Ministers, local government and business is looking at a number of issues, including Direct Access Government, which provides business and the self-employed with 24-hour access to regulatory guidance and forms via the Internet.

The Enforcement Concordat sets out for businesses, and society in general, what they can expect of enforcers. Enforcers will give to business clear explanations of what they need to do and by when, opportunities to resolve differences before enforcement action is taken (unless immediate action is required), and an explanation of their rights of appeal. There are now 88 local authorities in England and Wales and 19 in Scotland who have signed up to the Concordat.

My Department has actively promoted the setting up of local business partnerships between business and enforcement communities. These are designed to maximise regulatory understanding and compliance at least burden.

Mr. Steen

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what steps he has taken to ensure that regulations are enforced consistently across the European Union; and if he will make a statement. [71882]

Mr. Kilfoyle

Failure by a Member State to enforce adequate Community legislation is itself a breach of Community law. As such, it is primarily a matter for the European Commission. Where the UK becomes aware of such a breach, we can draw it to the attention of the Commission. Direct action by the UK can be taken by the UK pursuant to Article 170 TEC. Wider political, policy or legal concerns would influence whether such action would be appropriate in any particular case.

In the area of the Single Market, we have a unit in the Department of Trade and Industry (Action Single Market) which co-ordinates complaints from UK companies and seeks bilaterally with the Member State in question and with the Commission to remove obstacles to provision of goods or services in that Member State.

Mr. Steen

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what steps the Government have taken to improve regulatory impact assessment procedures. [71883]

Mr. Kilfoyle

As part of their Better Regulation Initiative, the Government want to encourage good practice at all stages of regulatory work.

Last August, the Better Regulation Unit published new guidance to help Departments in applying the Task Force's principles of good regulation and in assessing the impact of regulatory proposals.

The publication of the Guide also heralds the introduction of a more comprehensive system of regulatory reporting. Every Department will be required to publish an account (in their Departmental Reports in March this year) of their regulatory activity with examples of how they have improved the quality and effectiveness of regulation through the application of the Task Force's principles.

Almost all Departments have now received training on the new Guidance, with some Departments setting up their own training programmes.

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