Rules for business 'being scrapped'
The Government is "systematically" working through red tape to scrap regulations harming economic growth, a minister told business leaders after being urged to take radical action to help firms grow.
Business Secretary Vince Cable told the British Chambers of Commerce that the aim was to get rid of "outlandish" regulations, in small steps, to reduce the burden he said had built up in recent years.
Of 1,200 rules examined so far, well over half are being scrapped, consolidated or simplified, said Mr Cable, complaining that rushing to regulate had been the "default" position in Whitehall for too long.
The minister also told the BCC's national conference that the one-in one-out rule on business-related regulations has "turned back the tide" over the past year and was proving to be an "absolute pain" for most Government ministers.
John Longworth, director-general of the BCC, urged ministers to take "radical action" to tackle barriers to economic growth, saying firms needed support to make Britain "great". He attacked the country's "impossible" planning regime and "terrible" infrastructure, as well as a shortage of skilled workers.
He told delegates at the London conference: "We live in trying times and these dictate innovative and radical solutions. So, my message to the Government is simple: set business free, let business help, stimulate private investment, create access to capital, incentivise the productive sector and stop pussy-footing around."
Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways parent company International Airlines Group, launched a strong attack on the Government's handling of aviation. The UK was "flying blind on aviation", had "no aviation policy to speak of" and was confronting the prospect of losing out on direct air links to world growth countries "without boldness, courage or clarity", he said.
Mr Walsh said while there might be no planes in the sky, there was "plenty of pie in the sky". He said the possible solving of the problem of no expansion at Heathrow Airport by having a so-called "Heathwick" train link between Heathrow and Gatwick was "as absurd as its name".
Stephen Hester, the boss of taxpayer-backed Royal Bank of Scotland, later defended its lending record and insisted the bank was "open for business". He admitted that RBS does "make mistakes" with lending but added that the bank cannot force customers to borrow when many are choosing to pay off debts. He also said he was "confident" about RBS and the UK recovery.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls told the conference: "I have been dismayed over the past year by the way in which government policy and its attitude towards business has at times seemed driven more by newspaper headlines and change for change's sake than what makes for good business policy."