Comment: Cutting the tangle of red tape is a good start
CRITICS of the government who claim that its struggling economic and business policy is responding to events rather than shaping them have obviously hit home.
It is perhaps no coincidence that in recent months David Cameron’s patina of competence seems to have grown scratchy, while Chancellor George Osborne’s has taken the train for the coast. Austerity as the only game in town has been disavowed by a lengthening string of business leaders and economists.
Hence the red tape bonfire of 3,000 rules and regulations (see story below), spearheaded by big cuts in health and safety checks.
Adding to the momentum will be Business Secretary Vince Cable’s expected announcement today of a new industrial strategy. His blueprint is expected to be about channelling special help to industries seen as having the most capacity for growth – such as car manufacturing, aerospace and life sciences – and will hopefully drag the wider economic recovery along in their slipstream: a sort of industrial trickle-down effect.
Ante-room horse-trading in the coalition looks afoot here, though. The deregulation default position of the Conservatives is stroked by the attack on red tape. That will see thousands of shops, offices, pubs and clubs escape health and safety checks.
Only companies in high-risk areas such as construction, or those which have a bad record, will face the inspections that take up so much management time.
The government is also to change the law so that businesses are only open to civil damages claims if they can be proved to have been negligent. Currently they are automatically responsible. In this economic climate, that change looks sensible.
In return, the Liberal Democrats – with Cable graciously accepting Nick Clegg’s leadership for the time being – get a more interventionist industrial policy of “picking winners” than many market‑forces Tories probably feel comfortable with.
The totem behind the business policy splurge is growth. The government knows now that unalloyed austerity is a busted flush, recognised in the latest initiatives, including Funding for Lending.
Admittedly, the lowering of the health and safety bar can be seen as a government cutting corners to achieve economic growth, hence the tortuous negotiations about how easy or not to make it for employers to get rid of staff.
Overall, the attack on business bureaucracy has to be right. Chancellors maintain they are doing it in every Budget, but the sheer size of the latest “bonfire” is a step-change in determination (or government desperation) on the issue.
It is a better strategy to boost the private sector than just hoping something will turn up. We know one of Cameron’s Conservative heroines, Maggie Thatcher, lauded the Victorian era. But Mr Micawber will not do in our current parlous state.
M&B hopes latest move will bring some stability
Mitchells & Butlers has got a new chief executive. It’s like Groundhog Day – they’ve had four in as many years. The group’s pubs should install revolving doors if they want to mirror boardroom shenanigans, as activist main shareholder, currency billionaire Joe Lewis, has put them through the mill of ousted directors and unwanted takeover proposals.
Alistair Darby, poached from rival pubs group Marstons for the top job, at least has the benefit of a transformation of the pub operations that is well down the road under Bob Ivell, the chairman, who now resumes non-executive duties.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west