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Last Updated: Monday, 28 November 2005, 16:51 GMT
Chancellor gives ONS independence
Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown was seeking to reassure business leaders
Chancellor Gordon Brown has announced that the Office for National Statistics will be made independent of government, in a speech at the CBI's conference.

The government hopes the move will restore confidence in official statistics and persuade voters that public services are improving.

The ONS would become a "wholly separate body", Mr Brown said.

The chancellor also unveiled plans to cut red tape for UK businesses while adopting a more "risk-based" approach.

This follows complaints from firms that the government has ignored their needs.

The ONS said the decision to allow it independence was "an important step forward in enhancing the integrity of official statistics".

Global forces

Unveiling his vision for Britain to business leaders, the chancellor told the conference he wanted to create a nation that was "made for globalisation".

I believe 2005 will go down in history as a year of challenge
Gordon Brown

He promised to encourage young people with ideas to become entrepreneurs and "to strive for the US levels of business creation we admire".

"I believe 2005 will go down in history as a year of challenge when the scale, scope and speed of globalisation pressed in on us as never before," he said.

Britain has been accused of overdoing things when it implements EU directives into domestic law. This accusation of "goldplating" is something Mr Brown is keen to tackle.

"I understand the concerns about the extra administrative cost of the goldplated regulatory requirement that from April next year all quoted companies must publish an operating and financial review," Mr Brown said.

"So we will abolish this requirement and reduce the burdens placed upon you."

Simplification

The chancellor also announced a shake-up in the relationship between business and the government through a "risk-based" approach to regulation.

It is about time the government stopped bowing down to CBI scaremongering
Friends of the Earth

And he said he would simplify tax forms for companies and plans to introduce a new simpler self-assessment form for small businesses.

The government hopes that reducing administrative burdens will save businesses 300m a year.

Mr Brown said the government would abandon the Operating and Financial Review (OFR) which made it compulsory for firms to submit detailed outlines of their environmental and social strategies.

The TUC said it was "deeply disappointing" that the OFR was being scrapped, while Friends of the Earth mourned the demise of the "only concrete action this government has taken" toward corporate responsibility.

"It is about time the government stopped bowing down to CBI scaremongering," said Sara Jayne Clifton, a corporate accountability campaigner.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, Charles Tilley said: "Confusing the OFR with a reduction in bureaucracy risks losing the benefits it will deliver to all stakeholders, particularly shareholders.

"That would be the wrong step and a fundamentally bad one."

'Doubtful accounting'

Last week, the CBI's director general Digby Jones said the government's relationship with industry was at a "seminal" point and called for Gordon Brown, Tony Blair's most-likely successor, to adopt a more pro-business stance.

Earlier, at the start of CBI's conference in London, Conservative Party leadership candidate David Davis launched a fierce attack on the government's economic record.

"Cost control at UK Plc has collapsed," he said, adding that "tax spending and regulatory costs are soaring, debt is ballooning despite the resort to distinctly doubtful accounting practices".


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