Major shake-up of business inspection on the cards

A major overhaul of business inspection is on the cards, deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced.

Speaking to small business leaders, Clegg revealed that, in addition to the 'intelligent' reduction of red-tape and regulation, another specific area of work for the Government is ensuring that inspectors such as HMRC, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety executive understand that their job is to make businesses lives easier, not harder.

"There will be a major shake-up of business inspection - going through the regulators, asking ‘are they still necessary?'; ‘Should they still exist?'; making sure that, yes, they intervene when necessary, they offer advice and support, but otherwise they let you get on with it," Clegg said.

He continued to say that regulators must respect the Regulator's Compliance Code, which says that regulators must think about and encourage economic growth. He also suggested that regulators should not be allowed to turn up when they want and as often as they want, but should be limited to a maximum number of visits a year, perhaps two.

On top of this, Clegg revealed plans to reduce the number of bodies, "We also know that which-body-does-what can be extremely unclear. So we're minimising the number of authorities you will have to deal with in the future, introducing sunset clauses for new regulators, placing them under rolling review; if they become irrelevant, or their functions are replicated elsewhere, they'll go."

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have welcomed the speech, but said that more detail needs to be given to raise business confidence. Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy and external affairs at the BCC said:

"At the local level, the picture can be complex, so we need to see more detail on the government's proposals. Sometimes regulators and enforcement generate burdens and bureaucracy that block business growth. Yet it's also important to encourage joint working between local regulators and local businesses, so that officials go after real risks rather than tick boxes. 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."