Freeze new small business laws until election to allow for review of
THE Forum of
Private Businesses (FPB) is calling for a freeze in new business
legislation to allow the Government to re-assess the burden of red
tape. The proposed moratorium would last until the General Election,
which is expected to take place in May 2010. With the Pre-Budget
Report (PBR) less than a month away, the FPB is lobbying the
Government to ease regulation on small businesses after finding it
costs them almost £12 billion per year.
The FPB’s Policy Representative, Matt Goodman, said that a hiatus in
new small business laws during the months before the election would
be the perfect opportunity to launch the first ‘Comprehensive
Regulatory Review’ – in the spirit of the Comprehensive Spending
Review – as proposed by the FPB in its submission to the PBR.
“The Government must ensure that regulations are proportionate
to their aim. We want departments
to get to grips with all the various aspects of the regulatory
burden on businesses and a Comprehensive Regulatory Review would
provide just that sort of understanding. In order to make the
Better Regulation Executive’s hard work really count, it stands to
reason that we should have a better picture of what is on the books
at the moment, how those regulations interact and how they are being
enforced. So not just the time and effort spent by businesses on
compliance, but the time spent by government departments and local
authorities as well.
By committing to a moratorium and the first Comprehensive Regulatory
Review before the General Election, the Government can extend the
pre-election period and use that time to make ‘joined-up government’
a reality.” said Mr Goodman.
Research carried out for the FPB’s quarterly Referendum survey found
that, not only does complying with regulation costs small businesses
a staggering £12 billion per year, they also devote an average of 37
hours per month on compliance. Micro businesses (0 to 9
employees) spend an average of 33 hours per month complying with
regulations, small businesses (10 to 49 employees) 48 hours per
month and medium-sized companies (50 to 249 employers) 131 hours –
equivalent to one full-time member of staff.
Employment law is the costliest bureaucratic burden, costing small
businesses £2.4 billion per year. Health and safety administration
costs £2.1 billion and tax £1.8 billion per year, according to the
FPB's research. The average time per month spent on employment
red tape (dismissals and redundancy, discipline, absence controls
and management, parental leave, and holidays) is 10 hours. For
health and safety, it is 8 hours. Business owners spend an average
of 7 hours each month on tax administration, 4 on building and
property regulations, 4 on standards, 3 on environment and waste
regulations, and an hour per month on equality and diversity.
The FPB’s survey also identified a significant level of
disenchantment with the current regulatory framework with just 5% of
respondents believing it is beneficial to their business and only 9%
believing that the current framework is fair, robust and
proportionate. While welcoming the Government’s Better
Regulation agenda, the FPB is warning that more needs to be done to
protect small business owners from the disproportionate effect of
FPB member Jeanie Cartmell, a partner with furniture and fixtures
retailer Solihull Supplies, based in Birmingham, said she had been
forced to take on an extra employee to help her deal with the burden
of legislation. The business, based on Lodge Road, Knowle,
employs a total of 6 people. Mrs Cartmell agreed that smaller firms
like Solihull Supplies are hit particularly hard by red tape. She
told the FPB:- "It's quite ridiculous and it costs money left,
right and centre. It's really difficult to get through
everything – it's just very time consuming with all the paperwork.
It's so complicated and there's a lot of time spent as a small
business just complying to survive. I think common sense has
gone out of the window with health and safety legislation in
particular – that's an issue that takes up a lot of our time."
BOOST MEAT HYGIENE CHECKS OR RISK FOOD SAFETY
UK’s largest public sector union, called for meat hygiene
regulations to be tightened up, and for a boost to the number of
meat safety inspectors working in abattoirs. The call follows a
damning report* revealing that contaminated, or dirty meat, is
making its way into the human food chain**. The union warned
the meat industry not to wait for a food safety scare to hit the
front pages, before taking action to stamp out meat contamination.
Simon Watson, UNISON’s National officer for Meat Hygiene Inspectors,
said:- “This shocking report will alarm parents and families.
The British public need to know their Sunday roast is safe to eat.
There are a number of steps the meat industry and the Food Standards
Agency (FSA) need to take to stop these levels of meat
More safety inspectors will help, but the culture of bullying and
intimidation in abattoirs, that prevents them from doing their jobs
properly, must be stopped. Meat safety inspectors come under
huge pressure from abattoirs to keep meat production lines moving
fast. If an inspector slows the line, to determine whether a carcase
is fit to eat, the industry loses money. Inspectors need support to
blow the whistle on health and safety violations, without fear of
Allowing abattoirs to police themselves on aspects of meat safety
has failed. We need to beef up powers for independent meat safety
inspectors, so the public can be sure that animals sent for
slaughter are clean and dry. The meat industry would lose
millions if they wait for a national food safety scare to hit the
headlines before taking action. This report should be the wake up
call the industry needs to get meat safety right.”
UNISON made the following recommendations following the report:-
1. A review of staffing levels – we need to more meat safety
inspectors to make sure contaminated meat does not enter the human
2. Introduce support
for front line inspectors to tackle bullying and help them raise
concerns about food safety, without fear of being intimidated.
3. Transfer the
responsibility of making sure animals taken for slaughter are clean
and dry, covered by the Clean Livestock Policy, back under the
control of official, independent inspectors.
4. Commit to the
future of a strong, independent meat inspection service. The Food
Standards Agency (FSA) are moving towards allowing the meat industry
to police itself, with independent inspectors playing an audit role.
This, UNISON believes, will severely compromise public safety and
confidence in meat.
*The report was published by the European Commission’s Food and
veterinary Office (FVO).
** Amongst the problems the FVO found:-
1. Heavily contaminated live sheep were accepted for processing, even
with the FVO inspectors present. Acceptance or rejection of
livestock used to be an official Meat Hygiene Service
responsibility, now passed to industry to self-regulate. Once dirty
live animals are accepted it’s very difficult to produce clean meat.
2. Carcasses were seen with faecal contamination in chilling rooms.
3. Contaminated meat was also seen in a cutting plant (even on vacuum
4. Contaminated meat was seen in a cold store receiving frozen meat
for storage directly from a slaughterhouse.
5. There was cross contamination of meat in abattoirs.
6. There were examples of generally poor hygiene.
7. A third of establishments inspected were not complying with