N.B. This post is written by my Parliamentary Intern, Ralph Buckle.

The Government’s Red Tape Challenge has been progressing well and more details have emerged about the 600 regulations that are already due to be scrapped or improved.

They make for some interesting reading and range from the completely redundant to regulations that strike at the heart of common sense. The former category includes rules regarding the Restrictive Practices Court that are still on the statute book despite the Act under which they apply being abolished in 1998; while ‘Trading with the Enemy’ regulations apply to countries that are either now our allies or no longer exist.

In the common sense category, the Government is seeking to include exceptions to the seat belt law to cover health professionals treating patients in the rear of ambulances, something I can’t quite believe doesn’t already exist.

However as well as getting rid of the redundant and the bizarre there have been numerous attempts to withdraw from people’s lives where regulation is overly complicated or simply unnecessary – three examples of this stand.

The first of these regards age restricted products. Here the aim has been to help retailers get on with running their business without finding themselves unwittingly on the wrong side of the law. As a result the government is going to:

  • Consolidate the procedures for age verification for all age restricted products into one piece of legislation. Currently there are multiple varying regulations that are mismatched and often overlap;
  • Reduce the age restriction for harmless Christmas crackers to 12 (the lowest allowed by EU law); and
  • Scrapping the regulations regarding liqueur chocolates (which currently require the customer to be 16 and the retailer to have an alcohol license).

The second area in which improvements are being made regards helping pubs and small venues. This has long been the promise of governments but is rarely delivered. However, this time there are some real improvements being made including:

  • Redesigning the alcohol licensing forms so typical applicants only complete the absolute minimum;
  • Scrapping redundant regulations on beer and wine glasses;
  • Deregulation of entertainment licensing to make it easier and cheaper for community groups to put on simple amateur productions and fund-raising events;
  • Scrapping regulations that dictate the location and design of no smoking signs;
  • Consulting to give local areas more flexibility over late-night refreshment licensing and the process for obtaining a Temporary Event Notice; and
  • Consulting to reducing administrative burdens on premises with minimal alcohol sales, such as B&Bs.

The third (and perhaps most popular) area of deregulation concerns Health and Safety. In this area the Government is planning to:

  • Exempt those self-employed whose work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others (which will benefit 1 million self-employed people when implemented);
  • Review all the Health & Safety Executive’s Approved Codes of Practice;
  • Mandate the HSE to undertake a programme of sector-specific consolidations to minimise confusion and overlap;
  • Change regulatory provisions that impose strict liability, to ensure that employers are not held responsible for damages when they have done all they can to manage risks; and
  • Work with the EU Commission and others to ensure that both new and existing EU health and safety legislation is risk-based and evidence-based in order to avoid unnecessary interference.

You can keep track and get involved with the Red Tape Challenge on the website.

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