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Retailers to be freed from burdensome red tape

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The Government is to scrap or amend some 160 regulations that currently apply to retailers as part of its campaign to reduce red tape.

This means that almost two-thirds of the regulations governing retailers are to be dropped or reformed.

The changes are the initial results of the Government’s red tape challenge, a process that invited businesses form across a number of industry sectors to identify those rules that burden firms with unnecessary administration.

Of the 257 retail regulations, some 130 are to be dropped completely while 30 more will be simplified.

Under the proposals, more than 12 pieces of overlapping consumer rights law will be consolidated with a single new piece of legislation.

Regulations, such as the age verification on some restricted goods, and licensing for low-risk products like fly spray and toilet cleaner, are to simplified.

Symbolic cases of heavy-handed intervention, such as shops needing an alcohol licence to sell chocolate liqeurs, are to be abolished.

And antiquated legislation – the war-time Trading With The Enemy Act and its 98 linked regulations – and the rules around the safety of pencils and prams are also to go.

But the Government has decided not to change legislation covering Sunday trading and to keep in place other rules covering areas such as hallmarking of goods.

Announcing the results of the retail red tape challenge, Business Secretary, Vince Cable insisted that the measures were more than simply superficial.

Mr Cable said:  “We have to roll back the number of rules and regulations that our businesses have to deal with if we are to create the right conditions for sustainable economic growth.

“We have heard these promises by successive Governments before but these first proposals from the Red Tape Challenge show that we’re serious about doing that and we are making real progress.

“But this is just the start. We still need the help of business and the public to make the rest of the Red Tape Challenge a success and free businesses to compete, create jobs and unleash a private sector-led recovery.”

More details of the regulatory changes can be found at

Business groups welcomed the moves.

Dr Neil Bentley, the CBI’s deputy director-general, said: “We welcome the rigour with which the Government is tackling burdensome regulation which prevents businesses from focusing on growth.

“It is crucial that the process of repealing and streamlining regulations happens as soon as possible so that retailers can keep down costs and pass on savings to hard-pressed consumers.”

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), also applauded the Government’s action.

Mr Frost said that regulation is too often hamstringing SMEs and that scrapping some of these specific regulations will have a positive effect on some firms in the retail sector.

However, he added a caveat: “Through the Red Tape Challenge, Ministers have acknowledged that reducing the burden of regulation on business is essential to supporting economic growth.

“But we question how these incremental changes will deliver real change on the ground at a time when the government is introducing more big ticket regulation, for example around parental leave and flexible working. If we’re to see real economic growth in the UK, deregulation can’t be derailed by new and costly laws.”