Blair red tape vow to woo business
TONY Blair has ordered all government departments to draw up urgent plans to slash red tape as part of a promise to business to cut regulatory burdens by a quarter.
In his last speech as Prime Minister to a CBI conference, Mr Blair pledged to cut form-filling, inspections and record-keeping requirements by 25 per cent.
The plans follow targets to reduce bureaucracy already announced by the environment and trade and industry departments, as well as the Health and Safety Executive.
"The reason we want to set this 25 per cent target is, in a sense, to put it up to all the government departments that this is for real," the Prime Minister told business leaders. "I hope you will notice a difference."
However, his plans were described as too little, too late by some.
Gio Benedetti, who owns manufacturing firms, said his staff were grappling with regulations ranging from health and safety to employment law.
He recognised that much of the regulatory burden had been imposed by Brussels, although the UK government is often accused of "goldplating" EU directives.
Restrictions on immigrants and a toughening up on the regime by the Home Office were cited by one recruitment firm owner, George Chalmers, as major hurdles to his attempts to grow his business.
While the government promised to cut back on regulation, the Conservatives signalled that they would introduce taxes based on the level of carbon generated by businesses.
George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, proposed replacing the climate change levy, which taxes all energy use, with a green tax. "Any additional revenues it raises will be offset by reductions in other business taxes," he said.
Mr Osborne was standing in for David Cameron, the party leader, who faced criticism from business leaders for "snubbing" the conference to go on a visit to Iraq instead.
TONY Blair, the Prime Minister, added to the turbulence facing British Airways over a check-in worker when he signalled support for her right to wear a cross over her uniform.
Martin Brought, BA's chairman, asked him about the case of Nadia Eweida at the CBI conference.
Mr Blair told him: "Do you want my really frank advice on this? One of the things you learn in politics is that there are battles really worth fighting and there are battles really, really not worth fighting. All I would say is just get on the right side of the line on that one."
RULES STILL UNEXPLAINED
GEORGE Chalmers runs Hotel-Jobs-Scotland, a recruitment company.
"We were going to interview 80 Romanians this month for jobs, but because of the UK restrictions on new member states, we have had to abandon that," he said.
"The government can't seem to tell us what the regulations are and have suspended the Highly Skilled Migrant category. One of our biggest problems has been getting security clearance for foreign workers at army barracks. This has become especially difficult since it was discovered the Home Office had illegal workers cleaning its offices."
BOGGED DOWN BY BUREAUCRACY
GIO Benedetti, chairman of Benedetti International, which owns firms making clingfilm dispensers and first-aid kits, said: "The amount of red tape seems to almost double every year. I have managing directors complaining to me all the time about the amount of new employment rules and health and safety legislation, which we always abide by, of course, but it is taking an ever-increasing amount of our time. The EU is responsible for much of this. They and the government are making it difficult for UK-based manufacturers to compete."
HELP ON THE HOME FRONT
TONY Froggatt, the chief executive of Scottish & Newcastle, said: "For Scottish & Newcastle - as for all multinationals - input costs are rising, including the cost of fuel, energy and packaging. I would support anything politicians can do to cut the costs of red tape, such as form-filling and heavy regulation. We sell beer in a variety of markets, so we are used to operating in many regulatory regimes worldwide. But in Britain we are market leader, and anything the government does to reduce the cost of running a business here and helping to make S&N more efficient is to be welcomed."
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