§ Mr. Gardiner
The hon. Gentleman is aware that insurance is a "reserved" matter. HM Government are conscious that many businesses have been hit hard by significant price increases in the liability insurance market. They are committed to playing their part in helping business in this area.
The Government's agenda for action at national and local levels is being directed towards improving the functioning of the insurance market, including promoting better risk management and health and safety practices in order to reduce premium costs.
The Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment is working closely with the Federation of Small Businesses and the Insurance sector on the production of guidance for local businesses.
§ Mr. Gardiner
Government are aware of the potential problems faced by small businesses in complying with regulations.
In December 2001, the Northern Ireland Executive approved the introduction of the Northern Ireland Better Regulation Strategy which actively seeks to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses, including revised arrangements for Regulatory Impact Assessments and the introduction of a Micro Business Test to assess the impact of any proposed legislation on businesses with less than five employees. It also requires Northern Ireland Departments to give businesses at least 12 weeks advance notice of any legislation and to provide appropriate guidance on implementation.
I acknowledge fully the vital role of small businesses in the local economy and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment is striving to ensure that they benefit from the application of the Better Regulation Strategy.