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Report questions anti-red tape drive

Attempts by the Government to reduce the levels of red tape affecting businesses have been called into doubt by a new independent analysis.

According to the Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC), a third of the regulations put forward by the Government in the first six months of the year were not “fit for purpose”.

The RPC analysed some 278 proposals from Government departments between January and June and decided that 31 per cent of them were poorly conceived.

Set up by the previous administration, the RPC also suggested that many Whitehall departments were struggling with the ‘one-in, one-out’ policy established by the Government.

Under the system, ministries that wish to introduce new business regulations must first pinpoint existing rules, that are of equal cost, which can be dropped.

The RPC report indicated that departments were inflating the cost of measures that could be scrapped while undervaluing the cost of new policies so that regulations could be implemented.

Despite the failings, the report did praise Government departments for showing an improvement in their efforts to curtail the costs to business of new rules.

Chairman of the RPC, Michael Gibbons said: “High quality evidence and analysis used as an integral part of the policymaking process is essential to deliver effective outcomes. Around a third of the impact assessments we assessed were deemed ‘Not fit for Purpose’, a figure that is too high but does show a significant improvement since December last year.

Mr Gibbons continued: “This Government has made clear that it is a priority to reduce unnecessary regulation. I urge Ministers to stand firm as the new system begins to bite and encourage departments to welcome the opportunity this presents to provide a robust case for the proposals they make.”

Commenting on the report, Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy and external affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Business values the RPC’s efforts to change the culture in Whitehall. Ultimately, however, it’s up to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ensure that their cabinet colleagues are not creating new barriers to business growth through the regulatory system.

“If a proposal fails the RPC’s assessment, it should never find its way onto the statute book. So it is unacceptable that nearly a third of all regulatory proposals are not fit for purpose, and outrageous that government departments are inflating the supposed benefits of their plans so that they can regulate more in future.”