Letwin reveals details of Brexit-focused initiative to cut red tape

Former Cabinet Office minister details plan of action for newly-launched drive to free industry from unnecessary EU bureaucracy

By Jim Dunton

24 Apr 2017

Oliver Letwin has set out further details of his cross-party drive to identify EU-related regulatory activity that can be lifted from UK businesses as part of the Brexit process.

The former Cabinet Office minister told Civil Service World that the Red Tape Initiative would take a sector-by-sector approach, launching around 10 inquiries to seek views on what EU constraints could be jettisoned in the interests of boosting productivity.

Letwin said the project would fulfil a separate but important role between the Great Repeal Bill that will “repatriate” EU law to this country, and the negotiations required to create new trading terms with the remaining 27 member states. 

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In particular, he said the drive would have a core interest in “quick win” burden removals that had a domestic impact but which were unlikely to be affected by trade negotiations

Letwin said the drive would start by focusing on three key industrial areas: housebuilding; infrastructure construction; and training and apprenticeships.

“There’s no point in looking at sectors other than those about which there is a bit of concern, and there is no political party that disagrees with the idea that we need more housing, better infrastructure and more training,” he said.

“We’re going to start in June on the housing one, with an industry-sector panel with input from various groups including the TUC, CBI and the Home Builders Federation. We’ll be talking to people at the front end.”

Letwin said he expected the inquiry into housing construction to conclude early in 2018, by which time other programme streams would have opened up. He said all work was expected to be complete during 2019.

“The aim is to get things prepared, perhaps in time for the commencement of the Brexit negotiations, and the introduction of the Great Reform Bill,” he said.

“This will be about things that could be changed quite quickly after that. 

“We’re trying to get an idea of particular areas where business are impacted by regulatory activity which we might want to look at. Then we’ll try and identify select bits of EU legislation that may be non-controversial to remove or amend, and to take those forward.” 

Letwin said it would be up to the government to decide how it proceeded with reform options that the initiative threw up, but suggested that secondary legislation may be an option in some cases.

He added that business secretary Greg Clark had written to the initiative, offering the cooperation of staff at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The RTI’s advisory board includes former cabinet secretary Lord Butler, David Laws – Letwin’s Lib Dem counterpart in the Cabinet Office during the coalition government, former Labour minister Liam Byrne, former Bank of England deputy governor Paul Tucker, and former Conservative MP Archie Norman, who is also lead non-executive director at BEIS.

The organisation, which was registered as a company in December last year, also claims the support of the Confederation of British Industry, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Institute of Directors, the Trades Union Congress and the Federation of Small Business.

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