Ministers told to keep tabs on edicts from Europe

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Ministers are to be held responsible for checking all European legislation to cut down red tape on business and charities, under deregulation measures announced yesterday by the Cabinet Office.

The guidelines warn ministers that they should carry out their checks "at the earliest possible stage". And it points out: "It is much easier to influence a proposal when it is being discussed within the Commission than when it is being discussed within the Council of Ministers".

Ministers must personally certify that they have read both the risk assessment and a compliance cost assessment in order to satisfy themselves that the benefits of the regulation justify its costs.

The risk and cost assessment will also apply to all government legislation in the initiative on deregulation masterminded by Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister.

The guidance to all Whitehall departments says new laws must be necessary, aimed at the right target, and in proportion to the problem.

It also applies to all documents for the Cabinet or Cabinet committees, and all minutes to No 10 Downing Street for collective discussion that deal with proposals for business, charities and voluntary bodies, and recommendations by public inquiries.