HC Deb 15 July 2003 vol 409 cc148-50
22. Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton)

What progress has been made in implementing the regulatory reform action plan. [125457]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Douglas Alexander)

We are on course to deliver the commitments set out in the regulatory reform action plan published last year. This is a three-year programme and, as of April this year, 31 per cent. of the measures in the plan had been completed. We will be publishing a formal progress report at the half-way stage in the autumn of this year.

Mr. Love

I thank the Minister for that reply. He will be aware of the concerns about the regulatory burden, especially among small businesses. He will also know that the Select Committee on Regulatory Reform is willing and able to take up the cudgels in this area on the Government's behalf. What action does he intend to take to ensure that the action plan is implemented by the end of this Parliament?

Mr. Alexander

I hope that I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that he seeks. This is a matter of concern to me, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it clear that it is one of the Government's priorities. The National Small Business Council has recently published an important report on this area of work, to which I shall give due consideration. It is worth noting the comments from the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In two recent reports, the OECD identified the strength of the better-regulation agenda in Britain, compared with that of our international counterparts.

Bob Spink (Castle Point)

Is the Minister aware that the British Chambers of Commerce, no less, has said that red tape is growing like topsy, damaging jobs and our economy and destroying our international competitiveness? It is probably even more damaging than Labour's massive tax hikes, which businesses have had to suffer.

Mr. Alexander

If the hon. Gentleman wants to trade quotes from business associations, we should look at what Digby Jones of the Confederation of British Industry said in the Sunday Express on 12 January of this year. He said: Britain is definitely the best place to do business, compared with the rest of Europe. Although we must of course continue to strengthen our work on regulation, Britain easily bears comparison with many international competitors.