HC Deb 16 October 1995 vol 264 cc13-5
31. Mr. Mark Robinson

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what progress has been made in implementing the Government's deregulation initiative. [35884]

37. Mr. Wilkinson

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the progress he has been able to secure on deregulation by Her Majesty's Government. [35892]

Mr. Freeman

With permission—[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. I can deal with the matter. The Deputy Prime Minister is replying to the question.

Mr. Freeman

I have been asked to reply to Question 31 as the Minister responsible for deregulation—[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. The Minister has been asked to reply; I accept his response.

Mr. Freeman

The Government announced a package of new measures on 19 September in response to a report by the deregulation task force. It included new joint working arrangements on taxation and national insurance. As well as changes to existing legislation, we accepted recommendations to make enforcement more business friendly and to minimise burdens from new regulations. We have now accepted more than 530 of the recommendations made by Lord Sainsbury's task force. Copies of the task force's report, the Government's response and a commentary on progress on Lord Sainsbury's recommendations have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Mr. Robinson

May I say how welcome that statement is to many business men in my constituency? I hope that, in progressing the initiative, my right hon. Friend will do his best to ensure that business men are aware of the progress that we are making in achieving deregulation.

Mr. Freeman

I shall certainly ensure that. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his supplementary question. The deregulation unit and the Office of Public Service must consider how European directives have been implemented in the United Kingdom. I confirm that the provisions of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 can be used to amend and simplify United Kingdom implementation of legislation in European directives. That will be much welcomed by the business community.

Mr. Wilkinson

I welcome my right hon. Friend to the Dispatch Box in his important new responsibilities and the Government's business friendly initiative announced on 19 September.

Has my right hon. Friend yet found time to read European Commission regulation 3223/94, which, if implemented, would impose an extra 50p on a litre of fresh orange juice sold in this country, costing an estimated 1,000 jobs? In addition, a quarter of our abattoirs would be put out of business by similar regulations—

Madam Speaker

Order. We are not in debate. The hon. Gentleman has asked about a particular document. The Minister must now be allowed to answer. He has had enough information about the document—I certainly have.

Mr. Freeman

I have, too. I confirm that I am aware of those directives.

Mr. Prescott

The Minister has not read them. Mr. Freeman: I have read them.

Before any European directive is implemented, we shall ensure—collectively as a Government and individually as Ministers—that no provisions are added and that we implement it quickly but fairly and with proper, balanced enforcement.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Is the Minister aware of the clear evidence that his pressure to deregulate is leading to fewer inspections of private care homes and residential care premises? That is not only a retrograde step but a dangerous one. If that is his idea of deregulation, his Government will suffer for it, but my constituents will suffer even more.

Mr. Freeman

That is not the idea of deregulation. It is principally to make sure that we, unlike the Labour party, seek to lift the burden on enterprise, particularly on small and medium-sized enterprises. We are not seeking to remove protection from the consumer, from those in care homes or from anyone else, particularly those in the workplace. We are deregulating to help the competitiveness of the United Kingdom economy.

Mr. Spearing

Does the Chancellor of the Duchy agree that the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994, which he and the Deputy Prime Minister support, gives unprecedented powers to central Government, because, by statutory instrument, the House can change Acts of Parliament? Does it not also show the undemocratic and centralised view of the Government that the Minister attempts to answer a question from the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Robinson) to the Deputy Prime Minister, who is sitting there beside him and does not have the guts to answer?

Mr. Freeman

I am sure that the Deputy Prime Minister can answer for himself, and he will. [Interruption.] The Deputy Prime Minister will answer for himself as soon as I have answered the question.

This is not an undemocratic process. The Scrutiny Committees of the House and the other place consider all secondary legislation to amend primary legislation. I can confirm that we shall lay one order a week to deregulate and to repeal unnecessary legislation.