My hon. Friends and I have regular meetings with all sections of business. Yesterday, I visited the constituency of the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) and talked to representatives of its chamber of commerce and a number of businesses. Last week, I attended a debate organised by the Social Market Foundation with the chief executive of the British Chambers of Commerce.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government's approach to dialogue with trade unions and business, as manifested in the setting up of the Low Pay Commission, is the best way of building consensus and driving forward social change? Will my hon. Friend consider setting up a similar body to drive through and monitor the recommendations that will follow the consultation on the Government's Green Paper on working parents, so that we can further improve the lot of workers?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. There is no doubt that the Low Pay Commission has been successful in improving the pay and working conditions of many British people. I hear what my hon. Friend says and we shall consider that point.
How many of the 100,000 manufacturing jobs that have been lost in the past 12 months does the Minister ascribe to the increase in the regulatory burden under this Government?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, that figure is considerably less than the number of jobs lost every year in the industrial sector under the Conservative Government. If the hon. Gentleman cares to consider Britain's regulatory performance as against that of comparable countries, he can look to the report of The Economist Intelligence Unit, which found that, taking into account 70 different factors, among comparable countries Britain was the best placed for foreign investment.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that, with the regulatory reform legislation going through the other place, it is the Government's objective to get rid of unnecessary and unhelpful regulation and move increasingly to good and positive regulation which will help British industry and people?
My hon. Friend is right. We shall not repeat some of the simplistic and asinine comments made by the previous Administration who, for example, said that they would burn vast amounts of red tape, yet proceeded to introduce 13 times as many petty regulations as existed before. As my hon. Friend knows, the Regulatory Reform Bill seeks to remove unnecessary red tape, particularly that resulting from overlapping regulatory regimes. We have put before Parliament a number of examples of how that legislation will improve regulations.