I have received a number of representations from business men about the need to cut regulatory burdens. What a first-class job my right hon. Friend the Chancellor did by cutting a large number of them in his Budget yesterday. The business men came, we heard, the Chancellor listened, and he has incorporated in his proposals a large number of deregulatory measures, which will ease cash flow and make it easier to deal with the VAT man and the Inland Revenue. How much I welcome that. I hope that Opposition Members will support it in the Division Lobby when the time comes.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the CBI, in its publication, "Competing with the World's Best", drew attention to the fact that industry does not want to be organised, run and intervened in by TV producers, social workers and others? Industries want to be left alone so that they can continue to export more than the Japanese. In particular, the Scotch whisky industry, with such a splendid export record, does not want its business to be run by politicians, who should only consume the stuff and not organise and manage the businesses.
My hon. Friend is a great champion of the Scotch whisky industry, and many of my hon. Friends and Opposition Members support British business by drinking Scotch—and how wise they are. This Government will ensure that discriminatory taxes are not imposed on that industry by our friends in Europe, because it is a vital British interest. My hon. Friend is also right that business wants regulations kept in bounds, with decent regulations so that markets are fair and open, but it does not want the masses of red tape that the Opposition are always recommending day after day in the House.
Turning from the attractions of the Scotch whisky industry, can the Minister give us more information about the important regulatory aspects of getting companies which sub-contract to the Ministry of Defence to pay their bills or have them paid quickly? As I am sure that the Minister will appreciate, it is important for the cash flow of small businesses that settlements be paid appropriately and quickly. Can he give us more information on how that might be done?
I cannot improve on the information that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor gave in his statements to the House yesterday and in the papers supporting the Budget. Yes, the Government are insisting that the bills are paid on time when the work has been done, and that that should flow through the system from the main contractors to the sub-contractor. I know from my discussions with business men that prompt payment is vital. The Government should and will give a lead.
Is my hon. Friend aware that a large proportion of those employed in the south-west, and certainly in Devon, are part-time workers in residential homes? Is he aware that the owners of those homes are already burdened by a large number of regulations and that any new regulations from Brussels should be resisted by him and his colleagues, particularly regulations on part-time workers and the implementation of a minimum wage?
My hon. Friend is quite right. For that very reason, the Government are standing up for British businesses and British services in Brussels as we want more jobs, not fewer. Some of the regulations from Brussels would destroy jobs as surely as the policies of the Labour party would if they were ever to be followed.
Is the Minister satisfied with his Department's record on regulating financial businesses after Blue Arrow, Guinness, Maxwell and this morning's extremely critical report from the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee on the Bank of Credit and Commerce International? Does he not recognise that his Department has failed, because the electorate will on 9 April?
The hon. Lady seems to be confusing the regulatory record of my Department with the regulators outside my Department, who were deliberately set up as independent regulators as a result of legislation passed by the House. Unless she asks a more precise question about a particular regulator and a particular action, I cannot comment on the detailed points that she makes. I believe that the legislation passed by the House has created a strong regulatory framework and I am always encouraging the regulators to root out fraud, incompetence and crime wherever it may be.