By Marcus Leach

Plans to scrap or simplify more than 160 regulations, freeing the public and retailers from rules that are unnecessarily burdensome, overly bureaucratic or completely redundant have been announced today by Business Secretary Vince Cable.

The proposals are the first results from the Red Tape Challenge and will see significant changes to legislation that will make life easier for businesses and promote personal freedoms. Comments from the public and business, along with a vigorous process of challenge within Whitehall, on the 257 regulations under consideration have led to proposals to:

- replace or simplify more than 12 pieces of overlapping, costly and confusing consumer rights law, with a single new piece of legislation;

- remove a number of burdens specifically identified by retailers including consolidating and simplifying the procedures for age verification or identification for the selling of age-restricted goods; simplify the ineffective and burdensome poisons licensing system for low risk products such as fly spray and toilet cleaner; remove the requirement on retailers to notify TV Licensing about TV sales; and removing and simplifying a range of rules on transport products such as tyres and catalytic converters;

- promote greater personal freedom and responsibility by getting rid of symbolic cases of heavy handed intervention, such as requiring a shop selling liqueur chocolates to have an alcohol licence, and by lowering the age for buying harmless Christmas crackers; and

- prevent business confusion, and cutting down the dead weight of the statute book, by removing redundant legislation, such as the antiquated Trading with the Enemy Act and its 98 linked regulations and rules around the safety of pencils, prams and hood cords where consumers are already protected by other legislation.

The Government’s response also outlined how it had listened to comments from the public and kept well designed and valuable regulations that have widespread support, such as the hallmarking regime.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“We have to roll back the number of rules and regulations that our businesses have to deal with if we are to create the right conditions for sustainable economic growth. We have heard these promises by successive Governments before but these first proposals from the Red Tape Challenge show that we’re serious about doing that and we are making real progress.

“But this is just the start. We still need the help of business and the public to make the rest of the Red Tape Challenge a success and free businesses to compete, create jobs and unleash a private sector-led recovery.”

The Red Tape Challenge was a key action from the Government’s Plan for Growth, which is focusing on creating the right conditions for businesses to start up, invest, grow and create jobs. Over the lifetime of the Challenge, Government will examine all of the existing regulations on the statute book, with a view to breaking down the barriers and promoting opportunities for business, freeing them of unnecessary red tape.

Minister for Business and Enterprise Mark Prisk said:

“As a result of the thousands of comments we received, and a robust challenge process inside Whitehall, we are now proposing to simplify, improve or abolish two-thirds of the retail regulations that we asked the public to comment on, cutting back the bureaucracy that our retailers face. These moves will help reduce costs especially for small retailers by cutting down the number of forms they have to fill in and overlapping and confusing laws they have to get to grips with.

“We’ve listened to what people have said about the confusing and overlapping rules with the aim to get rid of the ones we don’t need and making the ones we do simpler to understand and put into practice. At the same time though we are preserving good regulation, such as the hallmarking regime, for which there was strong support.”

Dr Kevin Hawkins, sector champion for the retail theme said:

“The results from the retail theme of the Red Tape Challenge mark a real change in attitude to cutting red tape. Not only does the Government seem to be getting over its addiction to regulation by taking dramatic steps to cut the burden that retailers face and simplify the trading environment, but retailers really took the Challenge to heart and made good, well thought out suggestions.

“I hope this is a sign of things to come with Government freeing other businesses of red tape, and that those sectors will grasp the opportunity with both hands in the same way the retail industry have done.

"We need to remember, however, that reducing our stock of regulation is one thing - cutting the inflow of new laws is quite another."

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