Independent regulators to fall under Red Tape Challenge remit, Javid vows

New business secretary promises expansion of anti-regulation scheme in new enterprise bill

By Matt Foster

19 May 2015

The remit of the government’s flagship anti-regulation drive will be expanded beyond Whitehall, the business secretary has announced, as he promised a new enterprise bill in next week's Queen's Speech.

Sajid Javid — the former culture secretary appointed to the BIS brief in last week’s reshuffle — today commited to extending the "Red Tape Challenge" introduced by the last government to independent regulators for the first time.

“This will be the first time in modern history that government has successively reduced red tape costs for business over successive parliamentary terms,” Javid told an audience in Bristol. “And business will be our partner giving us the evidence we need to roll back the state.”

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At the time of its launch, ministers heralded the Red Tape Challenge as representing “a dramatic shift in the culture of Whitehall”. 

Under the programme, departments are expected to gather public feedback on areas of potential regulatory reform before submitting them to a ministerial “star chamber” of Cabinet Office and BIS ministers, which works with "the presumption that burdensome regulations will go unless they can be strongly justified" by departments.

Javid today committed to making £10bn-worth of regulatory savings for business over the parliament, although some doubt has been cast on the progress made under the challenge so far.

Last year, then-enterprise minister Matt Hancock claimed that the programme had saved businesses £10bn during the course of the parliament, but those figures were disputed by the Reform think tank, whose own analysis suggested the overall cost of regulation had in fact increased by more than £3bn. 

The anti-regulatory push also sparked the ire of trade unions, with the TUC branding it “a futile political exercise” that had been used to weaken workplace protections. 

Meanwhile, business minister Anna Soubry has pledged to create a new small business conciliation service, which will aim to settle disputes between small and large firms with a particular focus on resolving late payments to small businesses.

The enterprise bill is set to feature in next week’s Queen’s Speech, which is also expected to include a bill to implement the Smith Commission recommendations on devolution to Scotland, a schools bill to bolster the academies programme, and a so-called “British bill of rights” to fulfil the Tory manifesto pledge to scrap the human rights act.

The Guardian reported this morning that the parliamentary bill paving the way for an in/out referendum on membership of the European Union would also be published a day after the Queen’s speech.

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