Press release

Business and government join forces to cut red tape

Matthew Hancock praises the work 3 business groups have done to make sure regulations work better for businesses.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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Business Minister Matthew Hancock today (23 March 2015) praised the work 3 business groups have done to make sure regulations work better for businesses.

In a significant shift, the Fresh Produce Consortium, National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and techUK have been collecting evidence on the way regulations are enforced in their sector and presenting their findings directly to ministers and regulators.

Today the results of their work have been published alongside responses from the relevant regulator.

Business Minister Matthew Hancock said:

Our ambition is to make Britain the best place in the world to start and grow a business – we won’t let red tape get in the way.

We’ve scrapped a record amount of red tape since 2010 which has saved businesses more than £10 billion. Industry groups are now taking this a step further. Businesses up and down the country will benefit from the work they have done to reform counterproductive, time-consuming or bureaucratic enforcement of rules.

The Fresh Produce Consortium scrutinised imports of fresh produce into the UK. After carefully considering their findings, the Food Standards Agency will be taking a number of steps including reviewing official control turnaround times at airports and investigating disparities in the costs that are charged by Port Health Authorities for their inspections.

techUK have reviewed the export licensing of electronic products. The government’s Export Control Organisation (ECO) will explore options to re-introduce their control list classification advice service to make it easier for businesses to know whether a product requires an export licence. They will also continue to pursue export licensing reforms aimed at providing businesses with more flexible licensing solutions which minimise the impact on the exporter and the regulator. This review was explicitly not permitted to make any recommendations on the UK’s strict vetting and licensing system for military or dual-use products.

The National Farmers’ Union examined livestock inspections and found issues with duplication of visits from different regulators and inconsistencies across the country in terms of the number of inspections. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have welcomed this important work and are considering what action to take.

The Business Focus on Enforcement reviews and responses can be viewed at Focus on Enforcement . The government has now received over 20 proposals from industry groups to run similar reviews in different areas of the economy in future.

Paul Hide, techUK Director of Operations, said:

techUK welcome the positive engagement and agreement on improvement measures as a result of the report that we have produced with input from our electronics network partners. The acceptance by senior ministers of the need for change and the support of key stakeholders within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and ECO can lead to a more efficient export controls process. We look forward to working with ECO and BIS to ensure that businesses can benefit from the improvement actions, as outlined in ECO’s interim report, at the earliest opportunity

Nigel Jenney, Chief Executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium, said:

We were delighted to have the opportunity to present evidence of enforcement issues for official controls under EC Regulation 669’/2009 that are costing our sector time and money. It is vital that the UK government and its agencies continue to take action now to address the issues raised in our report.

NFU better regulation adviser Lee Osborne said:

We will use the evidence gathered during this initiative to continue to share our concerns regarding inspections with the new government. While we realise that time left during this parliament doesn’t allow for any radical change, given the effort and time put into this work the NFU and its members expect to see a full response from Defra post-election.

Notes to editors

  1. The Business Focus on Enforcement reviews have been part funded through the Ministerial Contestable Policy Fund, set up to inject greater ambition, expertise, or a more creative range of options into the policy development process than would otherwise be available to ministers.
  2. In March 2014, industry groups such as trade associations were invited to bid to lead one of 3 ‘pathfinder’ reviews, allowing them to collect evidence of the impact on industry of current enforcement practices and challenge problems like duplicated paperwork, inconsistent advice or unhelpful guidance. The successful organisations each received a grant of up to £4,000 to contribute towards the costs of their projects. As a minimum, the review teams were required to match the funding from their own resources.
  3. The Fresh Produce Consortium is the UK trade association for the fresh produce and cut flower industry. Extensive membership covers the whole spectrum of the industry, including growers, importers, wholesalers, retailers, distributors, processors, packers, food service companies and other allied organisations.
  4. The NFU champions British farming and provides professional representation and services to its farmer and grower members and has a membership of 55,000 members across England and Wales.
  5. techUK represents the companies and technologies that are defining today the world that we will live in tomorrow. With a reach that extends into over 6,000 companies from across the ICT and electronics sector, which collectively employ more than 500,000 people, about half of all tech sector jobs in the UK. These companies range from leading FTSE 100 companies to new innovative start-ups. The majority of its members are small and medium-sized businesses.
  6. Focus on Enforcement reviews examine how regulation is delivered – whether through inspections, advice, or enforcement – rather than focusing on the design of the regulations themselves.
  7. For more information about the project, visit the Business Focus on Enforcement website
  8. The government has made a £10 billion cumulative net saving to business over this Parliament. This has been calculated by multiplying the net annual cost of each regulation by the number of years it has been in effect, and doing the same for the savings from each deregulation.
  9. Over 30,000 comments were crowdsourced online from individuals and businesses via the Red Tape Challenge website, harnessing the knowledge of those people faced with understanding and complying with these regulations.
  10. Under the one-in, two-out rule, government departments must find savings worth double the cost of any new regulations on business.
  11. The government is working with partners across Europe to reduce the burden of EU legislation on business. Priorities for making the EU more business-friendly include persuading the Commission to publish an annual statement of the net cost of EU legislation, to help business see what burden of regulation stems from the EU; and making sure that business have an opportunity to influence EU proposals at an earlier stage. Tough new rules to stop ‘gold-plating’ of EU legislation have prevented Whitehall departments from adding additional red tape to EU legislation that is incorporated into UK law, unless this is clearly in the UK interest. The business-led Taskforce on EU Regulation, appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron, published its report Cut EU Red Tape in December 2013, and an update on progress was published in November 2014.
Published 23 March 2015