What steps she plans to take to take to contribute to lifting the burden of regulation on business and industry.
The Government are committed to a radical agenda of regulatory reform. In the March 2005 Budget, they announced a programme to lift the burden of regulation. They have engaged with business and industry and are undertaking measures to reduce unnecessary and burdensome regulation. Last but by no means least, we are legislating to make it easier to reduce unnecessary or outdated regulatory burdens on business, charities and the voluntary sector.
I thank my hon. Friend for that response and welcome him to his new position, in which I am sure that he has experienced great joy in the past few days. In my constituency of Ochil and South Perthshire in Scotland, a number of businesses are creaking under the burden of regulation. Is he being bold enough in his attempts to address that?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. The strong and stable economy that we have enjoyed in recent years is of course essential to business growth and business health. In addition, all Government Departments have been asked to produce a plan to cut unnecessary red tape by the time of the pre-Budget report later this year. However, businesses in my hon. Friend's constituency and, indeed, throughout the country will want to know why the Conservative party voted against the Third Reading of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill yesterday. Conservative Members say that they want to reduce the burden of regulation, but when it came to action, they voted against the Bill.
The Minister has walked into a bit of a trap, if I may say so. Given the vast amount of European over-regulation that accumulates as burdens on business, will he explain why his Bill does not include an express override of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993 so that the judiciary can ensure that we do not have the burdens on business that European legislation provides?
The hon. Gentleman must face up to the fact of our membership of the European Union, however much he dislikes it. He will also be aware that the Bill to which I referred contains measures to enable Departments not to gold-plate European directives when they are introduced in this country.
One of the problems that I find when I visit businesses in Stourbridge is complaints about the number of regulators with which they must deal. What are the Government doing to simply the process?
My hon. Friend might be awarethat as a result of the Hampton review, over the next three years, 31 existing national regulators will be consolidated into seven.
With an average of 3,800 regulations now being imposed on British business a year, will the Minister tell us how many he proposes to abolish next year?
Given the way in which the hon. Gentleman's party voted last night, he, by his actions, is making that process more difficult. However, happily, the Bill was passed, which will mean that when Departments come up with their simplification plans by the time of the pre-Budget report, we will have an Act in place that will make it much easier to remove outdated and unnecessary burdens on business, charities and the voluntary sector.
One of the complaints that I get from businesses in my constituency is about the alleged gold-plating of EU legislation. What are the Government doing about that?
Business is rightly concerned about that. My colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry are taking action to reduce the problem. I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that the Bill that was passed last night makes it easier to address the problem of gold-plating, so that when we have an agreement on a new directive in Europe, the problem will not be added to through the way in which that is implemented in this country.