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Last Updated: Monday, 13 August 2007, 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK
Tory plan for red tape 'tax cut'
John Redwood
John Redwood wants to scrap "unnecessary regulation

Tory leader David Cameron is looking at plans to cut 14bn in red tape and regulation for UK businesses.

The plans have been put forward by John Redwood - one of the most senior figures on the Tory right - who called them "a tax cut by any other name".

The focus is on easing regulation such as data protection laws, rules on hours, and health and safety regimes.

Labour claims the proposals show the party is lurching back to the right in the face of disappointing polls.

'Creative and enterprising'

Mr Redwood told the BBC that the proposals were aimed at improving Britain's "ability to compete".

He said there had been previous successes in deregulation, such as opening up the telecommunications market.

"We need to extend that experience much more widely across the economy and show that getting rid of unnecessary rules and regulations is creative, is enterprising and extremely helpful to those who need some help in life."

I'm absolutely sure the Conservative government wants an enterprising Britain
John Redwood MP

He said businesses which did not have to spend money on such regulations could instead invest the cash.

The report will call for the repeal of working time regulations and many rules affecting the financial services industry.

Other proposed measures include scrapping controversial Home Information Packs (Hips) and relaxing the regulations on herbal remedies, charity bingo and raffles.

The policy package has been drawn up by a policy review group, set up by Mr Cameron and headed by Mr Redwood.

Mr Cameron, who has refused to bow to internal pressure to promise upfront tax cuts, was reported to be fully backing the plans.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne worked on the proposals with Mr Redwood, but a party spokesman said he was only advising him on how to write and present the report.

Laura Kuenssberg
The proposals give Labour plenty of ammunition for an attack
BBC political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg

The spokesman also told the BBC the proposals were not party policy and they would need to pass through "many hoops" before being adopted.

Mr Redwood told the BBC: "I'm absolutely sure the Conservative government wants an enterprising Britain, and will recognise that means fewer rules and regulations - and fewer rules and regulations that achieve the opposite of what they set out to achieve."

Labour poll lead

Labour has seized on the proposals as evidence the right wing of the Tory "old guard" is confidently pushing its agenda again.

Cabinet minister Andy Burnham said it was a sure sign of Mr Cameron's "loss of grip and authority".

"And to shore up his position with the right wing, Cameron is letting the old guard sing the old tunes again," he said.

"But this directly undermines the spending pledges Cameron has been making. He is losing control and all his PR stunts to suggest change are being exposed as nothing more than that, empty stunts."

If these reports are true the Conservative Party will put itself on the side of bad employers and undercut the good who are happy to obey these legal minimum standards

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable claimed the Conservatives' figures did not add up.

"The Tories once again claim to be able to cut taxes while pretending that no-one will have to pay, showing that these plans are as spurious as the last," he said.

The Confederation of British Industry cautiously welcomed Mr Redwood's proposal.

"We welcome any ideas that could reduce the intolerable burden on business from red tape," a spokesman said.

"Each proposal is bound to bring hard choices and we'll need to examine them further. What we need to do is make sure that it is the red tape we are getting rid of and that is not a lowering of standards."

A spokesman for the TUC said: "If these reports are true the Conservative Party will put themselves on the side of bad employers and undercut the good who are happy to obey these legal minimum standards."

The Tory proposal comes amid a poll suggesting Labour has moved to 10 points ahead of the Conservatives since Gordon Brown took over as prime minister.

The poll for YouGov put Labour on 42% - two points ahead of a month ago - with the Conservatives down one on 32% and the Liberal Democrats on 14%.

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