By Claire West

Ken Clarke has announced far-reaching and ambitious plans for reducing the regulatory burden on businesses.

The Shadow Business Secretary said the proposals would get rid of a “millstone around Britain’s neck” that is stifling our economic recovery and playing havoc with our public services.

He pledged to introduce the “right kind of regulation”, and said that the Conservatives will:

· Introduce a powerful new ‘star chamber’, chaired by Ken Clarke, which will enforce a stringent ‘one in — one out’ requirement where any new law must include cuts in old laws which, together, produce a net 5% reduction in the regulatory burden;

· Appoint Professor Richard Thaler as a senior advisor to, and member of, the star chamber committee;

· Allow the public to nominate unpopular regulations to be reviewed by Parliament;

· Add a ‘sunset clause’ to all regulators and regulatory quangos;

· Strengthen Parliamentary accountability of regulators and inspectorates;

· Publish detailed information about the expenditure and outcomes achieved by local councils, so that the public can see if their council is delivering value for money;

· Curb the powers of intrusive inspectors by allowing firms to arrange their own, externally audited inspections and, providing they pass, to refuse entry to official inspectors thereafter; and

· Consult carefully on changes that may be required to the employment and discrimination tribunals system, to ensure the system offers fast, cheap and accessible justice, and that it is fair to all sides.

Clarke said that people should be given the responsibility to make judgements and not forced to “tick boxes and fill in endless forms”, and he added:

“Under a Labour Government the regulatory burden has got out of control. It’s high time the Government got off people’s backs and started helping them instead. These new policies are the biggest and most serious attempt to lighten the load and I hope they’re the spark that lights the bonfire of red tape.”

Commenting on the proposals announced yesterday in Manchester, David Frost, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“This is a positive sign that the Conservatives are starting to focus on the real issues that restrict business and growth. Since 1998, regulation has cost companies a staggering £76 billion, which is clearly far too much. Addressing the mass of red tape handcuffing British business must be a priority. Given the current economic climate and the need to let business create jobs, there should be a moratorium on new employment laws.”