Minister plans compliance test for red tape

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The Independent Online
ALL government regulations in future will have a price tag attached to them, Neil Hamilton, the minister charged with cutting red tape, announced yesterday, writes Chris Blackhurst.

Before a piece of legislation is introduced, ministers will be forced to complete what Mr Hamilton called a compliance cost assessment - how much will it cost business and how will it affect the consumer?

Mr Hamilton said that when he was given the job by the Prime Minister, 'he told me he wanted me to be unpopular with ministers . . . in fact he urged me to behave like an absolute bastard'.

He said that since he started his purge of bureaucracy, he had found that the 'length and complexity of a piece of legislation is often in inverse proportion to its value' - the Lord's Prayer is 59 words; the Ten Commandments 290; the American Declaration of Independence, 1,325; and the EC directive on the import of caramel, 26,911 words.

As proof of his zeal, Mr Hamilton said that ministers who 'proudly announce they are heavily pregnant with Bills for the new session' will have to contend with him, 'as a form of legislative contraceptive'. But his speech only skirted controversial aspects of his job: that much of the red tape was introduced during 14 years of Tory rule, and, more significantly say his opponents, that he is endangering the health and safety of workers and consumers.

'Of course, we aren't going to abolish essential regulations, but they must be reasonable,' the minister said. A Deregulation Bill in the next session of Parliament, he claimed, will begin the work that the Government should have done years ago.

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