Plant & Works Engineering
EEF chief executive regular news comment
Published:  22 November, 2011

I have been representing industry as the manufacturing ‘champion’ as part of the Government’s ‘Red Tape Challenge’ this autumn. The cost of regulation is a big issue for manufacturers and whilst growth is stalling, the regulations weighing down on the UK economy continue to mount up.

This role has involved promoting the Red Tape Challenge and encouraging manufacturers to get involved. It has also allowed him to participate in some of the government’s internal ‘challenge’ sessions, where senior officials have to identify which regulations they believe can be scrapped and justify all of those that they propose should be kept.  
At an organisational level, EEF has worked hard to engage with companies and get their views on red tape. We have spoken to hundreds of companies to find out what the most important issues are for them. This has yielded a wealth of information on how regulation is impacting on manufacturing companies in a wide range of areas, from environmental rules and health safety to the administration of business taxes and company reporting.
A key area of concern is employment law, where manufacturers feel that a host of domestic and European regulations create unnecessary costs and have unintended consequences which make a running a business increasingly difficult at a very challenging time.
Examples include the abolition of the Default Retirement Age which acts as a major barrier to succession planning, an employment tribunal system that promotes vexatious claims, unnecessarily burdensome collective redundancy rules and the well-intentioned ‘Fit Note’ system that too often still leaves employers in the dark as to what activities employees returning from illness are fit to undertake .  
Concerns in other areas include the export licensing process, which for too many companies takes too long and is too opaque, and waste packaging regulations that can impose an administrative burden disproportionate to the environmental gain.
EEF’s backing for the Red Tape Challenge however is not unconditional. In return for promoting and supporting the initiative, we expect manufacturers’ views to be taken seriously and for the government to deliver substantive reforms that make it measurably easier for companies to do business.
A number of important tests for Government however will shortly have to be addressed in areas such as employment law, health & safety and environmental regulation where the interpretation of EU Directives and burdensome commitments part of the Coalition Agreement will have to be meaningfully addressed if the Red Tape Challenge is to be successful.