Defra cuts red tape by reducing regulation

In an attempt to show it has taken on board criticisms of excessive Whitehall bureaucracy the Government is planning to simplify regulations affecting the environmental sector.

While the Treasury may have been left with egg on its face after an attempt to woo business by lifting the burden of environmental regulation spectacularly backfired this week, Defra is hoping its plan will be less controversial.

The plans published this week are designed to make life easier, and cheaper, for business by streamlining existing regulations but there are echoes of Gordon Brown s gold plating speech to the CBI which went so horribly wrong on Monday (see related story).

Lifting the Burden - Defra's Initial Simplification Plan identifies ways of cutting bureaucracy and invites suggestions to streamline the Department s regulations.

Defra s Better Regulation Minister, Lord Bach, said: The Initial Simplification Plan I ve launched today identifies 64 initiatives which are underway to simplify Defra regulations and reduce business burdens.

I expect these measures to save business more than £86m each year. And that s just the start.

Regulation affects us all whether as individuals, customers or as businesses. What we do at Defra also affects the environment and, often, animal health.

Therefore, we need to strike the right balance between imposing safeguards and minimising demands on business. Lifting the Burden achieves that.

But it is just the beginning. Many new initiatives to simplify existing laws will be added to the plan over the coming months.

The plan s suggestions for simplifying regulations include:

  • Reducing red tape for the water industry by working with the Environment Agency, Ofwat, the Drinking Water Inspectorate and water companies to identify and take action on areas with high administrative burdens.
  • A review of domestic and EU commercial fishing legislation aimed at reducing administrative and policy burdens on industry.
  • Integration of the permitting regimes for Waste and Pollution and Prevention Control to reduce burdens on industry.

    The initial plan was welcomed by industry, the Better Regulation Executive and the Cabinet Office.

    John Cridland, chief executive of the Confederation of Business and Industry (CBI) said: The indirect costs to business of understanding and complying with environmental regulations are significant and we welcome DEFRA's commitment to reducing the regulatory burden.

    This will allow companies to focus on addressing their environmental concerns as part of their overall business model.

    The Executive Chair of the Cabinet Office Better Regulation Executive, William Sargent said: This, along with the work to measure the cost of doing business with government which Defra have taken a lead on will make a real difference to most businesses in the UK."

    Cabinet Office Minister Jim Murphy said: "The Government has embarked on a radical programme of reform to remove unnecessary bureaucracy right across Whitehall.

    I am pleased that Defra has published its initial Regulatory Simplification Plan, Lifting the Burden, which supports this drive for better regulation.

    It is important to work with industry on these measures to decrease administrative burdens, simplify regulation and rationalise inspection to deliver real and meaningful reductions in the legislative burden across the range of Defra stakeholders.

    By Sam Bond

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