§ 9. Patrick Mercer (Newark)
What recent representations he has received from the British Chambers of Commerce regarding business taxation and regulation. 
§ 10. John Baron (Billericay)
What recent representations he has received from the Federation of Small Businesses regarding business taxation and regulation of small businesses. 
§ The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo)
As is normal in the run-up to the Budget, the Government have received a number of representations from business organisations, including the Federation of Small Businesses and the British Chambers of Commerce.
§ Patrick Mercer
I am grateful to the Minister for her reply. Whenever I am in the chambers of commerce in either Retford or Newark, I receive constant questions about the burden of red tape that is being imposed on small businesses. May I remind the Minister of the Chancellor's promise given before the last election? He said:We will not impose burdensome regulations on business, because we understand that successful businesses must keep costs down.Has that promise been kept? Has the level of red tape risen or fallen?
§ Dawn Primarolo
The answer to the—[Interruption.] I thought that the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) was going to get up again. He bobs up and down all the time, and he confused me. If he will allow me to answer the question first, I am sure that he will be able to come in later.
The promise has been kept on a number of fronts. First, on the lowering of tax burdens and the lowering of pressure on small businesses through regulations, the Government have cut the tax bill for those small businesses and made a number of reforms. For example, we announced in the pre-Budget report the flat-rate payment for VAT, which will be enormously helpful to 300,000 small businesses. Furthermore, the Carter review, which is currently out for discussion, takes forward the 833 discussions on how we can ensure that small businesses can operate efficiently with the minimum amount of requirements on them to comply with legislation.
§ Mr. Baron
As the number of new business regulations introduced by the Government stands at a record high, and as the findings of a survey last year by the largest employment firm in the country showed that employers spend on average the equivalent of one and a half days of the working week administering employment law and dealing with personnel issues, will the Minister accept the CBI's charge that the Government are a regulatory Government?
§ Dawn Primarolo
The hon. Gentleman does not mention that many regulations are about decent wages for employees, paid holiday and time off for employees to attend to family matters, and that many of them are requested by businesses to help them in their environment. The Government must strike a fair balance between the rights of employees, which are good for small and large businesses, and ensuring that businesses can operate efficiently without the burden being too great.
As the hon. Gentleman well knows—he might care to check the Inland Revenue website—a massive programme of regulatory reform is under way. It is examining everything that is requested of business to see whether it is still necessary, whether it can be streamlined and how we can ensure that the rights of business and employees are respected, and that businesses can flourish in an environment that is suitably regulated, not over-regulated.