20 November 2023
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown backs efforts to reduce the burden of red tape for businesses

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown backs a new clause in the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, which would require Ministers to implement measures to ensure that the annual net economic impact of competition and consumer regulation is zero or less each year.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con)

My hon. Friend engaged in some self-deprecation at the beginning of his speech about the scope of the new clause, which I co-signed, but I think he is underselling it. The consumer protection and economic regulation in the new clause go a long way towards reducing the burden of red tape. The second thing that is really important is that this is not about the number of regulations, but their economic value. That is what really places a burden on business in this country. Will he explain how he is going to establish a baseline through the new clause? If this thing is to be measured properly, we have to have a proper baseline.

John Penrose 

My hon. Friend is right: I may have been guilty of being too glass half empty, rather than glass half full. The new clause goes a very long way and enfranchises large chunks of the economy that perhaps have not been dealt with properly up until now; I just wanted to go even further and cover the entire economy. He is right to point out that the new clause does quite a lot, but it is half a loaf rather than the whole loaf, if I can put it that way.

My hon. Friend is also right to say that the accountancy —the measurement of the costs—is crucial. If we are trying to do one in, one out, we have to know the cost of the things coming in so that we can know what savings we have to find elsewhere. As I mentioned, the crucial thing is that we need to have an independent accounting body—an independent measurement body. That will require the Regulatory Policy Committee to be made a little more independent and to be given more arm’s length ability to set those accounting and measurement standards in a way that cannot be leant on by senior Ministers, senior mandarins or senior regulators. The committee needs to be able to look those people in the eye and say, “No, this is the way it’s got to be.” Like any good external auditor, it needs to be sufficiently at arm’s length to deal with that. If it does so properly, it will mean that any set of measurements can be relied on, both by my hon. Friend’s Committee and the rest of this Chamber. That is essential.