Clegg vows to take on red tape

By staff

The coalition could restrict regulators to just two business inspections a year, Nick Clegg has suggested.

The deputy prime minister said in a speech to small business leaders in east London that he is prepared to enforce a "culture change" on regulating bodies like HM Revenue and Customs, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.

A "major shake-up" of business inspection will take place, Mr Clegg pledged, in which they accept that they will only intervene "when necessary".

"They will need to respect the regulator's compliance code, which says regulators must think about and encourage economic growth, and they will have to make sure they aren't breathing down your necks," he said.

"Why, for example, should regulators be able to turn up at your door whenever they want and as often as they want?

"Why can't we limit the number of inspections to, say, two a year, ensuring these bodies coordinate amongst themselves to stick within that limit?"

With Vince Cable as business secretary the Liberal Democrats have a key role in reducing red tape faced by businesses. Mr Clegg said that liberals believed in "smart regulation" rather than "rules for rules' sake".

The coalition has introduced a one-in, one-out rule for regulation and is now seeking to go further to assist economic growth.

"We're minimising the number of authorities you will have to deal with in the future," Mr Clegg added.

"Introducing sunset clauses for new regulators. Placing them under rolling review. If they become irrelevant, or their functions are replicated elsewhere, they'll go."

The deputy prime minister also highlighted the establishment of the Office of Tax Simplification, which is currently reviewing how the burden of tax compliance on smaller businesses can be eased.

"Government after government has made this worse, and I know it is a huge problem for many of you," Mr Clegg said.

"So I'm clear: the coalition won't ignore this. Tell us what's wrong with tax compliance – we'll listen and we'll help."