Clegg Takes Swipe at Regulatory Bodies

Small firms should be subjected to no more than two inspections a year by regulatory bodies in order to cut red tape, deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced.

Unveiling his proposals to small-business leaders, Clegg said he wanted to see a culture change at bodies such as the Health & Safety Executive and HM Revenue & Customs to ensure regulators only intervened in the workplace when necessary and to prevent them “breathing down the neck of small firms”.

“[Regulators] need to understand that their job is to make life easier, not harder. Why, for example, should they be able to turn up at your door whenever they want, and as often as they want?” Clegg said. 

The deputy PM also announced an end to on-the-spot inspections and urged firms to identify specific areas of legislation they would like to see scrapped as part of the Government’s ongoing Red Tape Challenge indicating that some regulators may even be scrapped.

“If they become irrelevant, or their functions are replicated elsewhere, they’ll go,” he said.

Small-business groups largely welcomed Clegg’s announcements, with the British Chambers of Commerce director of policy Dr Adam Marshall calling his speech “encouraging” for small firms.

“Businesses up and down the country say that there needs to be a clear culture change, making local regulators into allies for business and growth rather than just enforcers,”

he said, pointing out that more detail was needed if proposals were to deliver real change.

“It’s important to encourage joint working between local regulators and local businesses, so that officials go after real risks rather than just tick boxes.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said it also supported the “more joined-up approach” outlined by Clegg.

The business group also said it wanted to see advance booking of inspections, which would allow small firms “to make sure they had the right people on site and get the most out of the inspection”, said FSB national chairman John Walker.

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