Orders of the Day — Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:04 pm on 8th February 1994.

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Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans , Ribble Valley 9:04 pm, 8th February 1994

Just as the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) has great passion about what he believes in, Conservative Members have great passion about removing the red tape which has tied down our businesses for far too long. If I have any reservation about the Bill, it is that it has taken so long to reach the Chamber.

I am the vice-chairman of the Small Business Bureau. There are 3·5 million small businesses in Britain. My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) said how important small businesses were to the economy. They employ the vast bulk of the employed population. Small business men are the sort of people who work all hours. I should know, because I was a small business man once. They are the people who invest their life savings in their business. They risk everything to make sure that their business succeeds. They are the bedrock of Britain. If they fail, Britain fails. We must also pay heed to the many millions of people who are self-employed in Britain. If the self-employed are successful, they become employers.

It is the role of the Government to encourage small businesses. How can they encourage small businesses? By getting out of the hair of those small businesses. The Government create the conditions in which small businesses can grow. Today's interest rate cut will go some way to help them. The banks must pass on the interest rate cut to their businesses.

Many measures in the Bill will receive wide applause from our wealth creators. Another such measure is the rolling programme of deregulation. The Bill is a bonfire of regulations, but it is only one small bonfire. I sincerely hope that after this first bonfire many others will follow. The new rolling programme and the new task force led by Francis Maude will have plenty of work ahead of them in the years to come.

No regulation must be left unturned. If it is unnecessary, it should be scrapped. If it is complicated, it should be simplified. If it is not working, we should either repeal it or reform it. Labour Members have made accusations that we do not care about public service. That is patently not true. But we also care that our businesses should not face public strangulation.

The guidelines that are given to local authorities need to be made absolutely clear, to ensure that they are used in a way that is fair to all our business people and implemented uniformly. The same rules and regulations should be interpreted in exactly the same way throughout the country. I have heard all sorts of stories from my constituents about rules and regulations being interpreted in one way in one area of the constituency and in another way by someone else in another part of the constituency. All rules and guidelines should be cleared up.

We also need to ensure that our town hall bureaucrats are more helpful to small businesses to ensure that they can become far more profitable. I ran a small convenience store in Swansea. The environmental health officer visited me one day. He looked at the sink at the back of the shop, and said, "You wash your utensils here. Where do your staff wash their hands?" I said that they washed their hands either in the sink or in the toilet and cloakroom upstairs.

The environmental health officer said that that was not good enough and that I must tear out the sink and replace it with two sinks—one for washing the utensils and one for staff to wash their hands. I asked him to show a little common sense because we had carried on the business for many years and had never had a problem. I asked him to show just a smidgen of common sense, but he refused. In the end, the heavy hand of the town hall came down and we had to tear out the sink and put in a new one at a cost of more then £250. The staff still washed the utensils in one side and went upstairs to the cloakroom to wash their hands, as they had always done. That is an example of where I hope that the deregulation Bill will prove effective.

Several hon. Members have mentioned recent abattoir legislation. There are many abattoirs in my constituency, some of which are very small, and I have received many letters from their owners, who are burdened by the extra cost of the new European Community regulation. It is costing one abattoir an extra £20,000 a year with no perceptible benefit to the consumer. We need to clear up that problem—I hope that the Bill will do so—so that one person can inspect abattoirs and do the work of both the meat inspector and the veterinary surgeon.

I know that I do not have time to mention all the measures contained in the Bill as another hon. Member wishes to speak, but many of them will be welcomed by businesses, both small and large. We must constantly study the rules and regulations. One criticism is that we have been in power 14 years, so why have we only just started to consider them.