Letter: Deregulation the cure for UK Ltd

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The Independent Online
Sir: My report did not simply hail interest rates cuts as the panacea for our economic problems, as readers of your article ('Tory chairman pleads for peace', 25 Aug) might be led to believe. Such attempts to nurture fragile economic growth are doomed to medium-term failure unless we also attack and reform the over-regulating culture of government and the EC. We need a strategy for government that fosters, encourages and helps British industry and 'UK Ltd' to be competitive.

We must start by recognising that the European Community is not now our prime market and reduce our reliance on Western Europe, while building our market share in the fastest growing parts of the world - the Pacific Rim, Japan, China, India and the US. Those are the markets that will grow in the next five years, and it is against their standards of efficiency that we must be judged.

The announcement of a 'Deregulation Bill' in the autumn is a great step forward, but it is only a start. We must replace the culture of bureaucracy and over-regulation with a clear and comprehensible framework of necessary legislation on standards, health, safety and hygiene. It must not be confusing to small business.

Yet that is exactly what we have in this country. Small businesses in particular do not know of the existence of many of the regulations they need to comply with until trading standards officers or health and safety executives prosecute them. The fines and the cost of remedial work runs into thousands, sometimes millions, putting firms out of business and destroying jobs.

At home the list of issues for administrative and legislative change which could reduce the cost structures of UK Ltd and enhance its international competitiveness is endless - simplifying National Insurance and PAYE, VAT administration, employment law, health and safety regulations affecting all businesses, down to specific over-regulation of individual industries. Similarly, the current test for new Euro-regulation is not what is required or affordable, it is what the tidy-minded bureaucrat and his politically motivated European Commissioner want.

We need a proper test of the benefits of all new legislation. Industry must be consulted to ensure that any proposed new regulation is necessary, workable, affordable and effective, and that it hits its target and only its target. Both government and the European Commission must be required to publish an early estimate of all compliance and other costs to industry of new legislation and

regulation.

None of this need reduce standards, make work more dangerous, or damage consumers. Many of our existing regulations simply miss the mark, and abolishing them would save cost but remove protection from no one. The Government has made a start in deregulation, but like its economic policy, it needs to be fully developed and then proclaimed to the world.

Yours faithfully,

NICHOLAS R. WINTERTON

Chairman

The Manufacturing & Construction

Industries Alliance

London, SW1

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