By Claire West

Business Minister Mark Prisk today welcomed the European Commission’s latest plans to reduce the regulatory burden on business, but signalled that he expected smarter European regulation in the future.

While recognising the encouraging progress in the European Commission’s Smart Regulation in the European Union Mr Prisk emphasised that he will continue to keep up the pressure on the EU and its institutions. He is clear that they should focus closely on the need to reduce the red-tape that hampers business growth all over Europe.

Mark Prisk said:

"Private sector growth is key to bringing us out of the recession, but it’s impossible to concentrate on creating that growth if you’re constantly worrying about red tape.

“With many business regulations originating in Brussels, I am pleased to see the Commission explaining how it plans to work towards smart regulation, but promises must be kept.

“The Commission also needs to have the courage to go further where necessary to cut bureaucracy and make a real difference to the bottom line of businesses across Europe.

“The Government is working to break the habit of regulation in the UK, freeing businesses to realise their potential for growth. In the coming years I’d like to see the Commission try to do the same, bringing in smarter regulation, and wherever possible alternatives to regulation.”

The Commission plan promises to:

extend the minimum consultation period for its proposals to 12 weeks;

review its consultation process to make sure all those who will be affected by EU action are able to influence its development;

adjust laws after evaluating how they are working in practice to test whether regulations remain necessary and are workable. Four pilot reviews are to conclude in 2012 covering environment, transport, employment and industrial policy;

trengthen further the impact assessment process that allows new proposals to be checked for effectiveness and need and tries to reduce the negative side-effects of any new laws, looking to minimise impact on small businesses and to support innovation; and

give its internal watchdog, the Impact Assessment Board, more power to challenge bad ideas and inadequate analysis by Commission departments.

It also reminds Member States that they may use existing possibilities in EU legislation to waive obligations for small businesses.

The Commission report promises improvements to consultations that the UK Government has strongly encouraged. Extending the minimum consultation period to 12 weeks will make sure that all groups are able to feed into policy-making rather than just the best-resourced ones.

The report also argues that the European Parliament and Council must support evidence-based policy-making and resist the temptation to amend proposals without first assessing the consequences. Only then will businesses really benefit from recent progress by the Commission.