CBI says split DTI to separate regulation from promotion

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The Independent Online

The Confederation of British Industry is expected to call for a break up of the Department of Trade and Industry in a paper to be sent to Stephen Byers soon.

The Confederation of British Industry is expected to call for a break up of the Department of Trade and Industry in a paper to be sent to Stephen Byers soon.

Mr Byers has asked interested parties to express their views of the future structure of the DTI, but the Trade Secretary is expected to be quite stunned by the response of the bosses' organisation.

The CBI is currently putting the final touches to its submission. However it is keen that its radical plans do not overshadow its annual conference, which starts today.

"We think it's very important that every Government department looks at itself and the DTI are looking at themselves," Digby Jones, the director-general of the CBI told the Independent on Sunday. "We are making a submission about what we think they should do. There is a very important issue, as to whether a regulator can be a champion."

The CBI's proposals include splitting the role of promoting British industry and employment from the more supervisory roles of ensuring compliance with company law.

One way of doing this might be to re-establish a Board of Trade, which may also be given responsibility for promoting employment and regional investment. This would leave an industry department, which would deal with regulation of companies, competition and issues such as telecommunications and the utilities, and relations with the European Commission.

There is a feeling within industry that there is a lack of joined-up Government, with too many departments failing to talk to each other about how they work. The Prime Minister set up a Better Regulation Taskforce, which is run out of the Cabinet Office, and is under the auspices of Mo Mowlam. It is headed by Lord Haskins, the Labour-leaning chairman on Northern Foods, and has criticised duplication and lack of communication between departments.

The CBI's proposals for reform of the DTI are part of a new, more pragmatic, approach which Mr Jones has promoted since he has taken over the running of the DTI from Adair Turner.

Mr Turner was a keen promoter of sterling joining the single currency, but Mr Jones has placed the euro on the back burner, preferring to concentrate on issue where he feels the CBI can have some impact.

"Both the main parties have laid out their policies," said Mr Jones. "Labour wants to have a referendum on the euro after the next election, and the Tories want a referendum for the election after that. Business has an unique opportunity to make a difference in so many other areas."

The CBI conference opens today in Birmingham.

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