New Laws Strangle War on Red Tape; 315 EXTRA MEASURES IN THREE YEARS PILE PRESSURE ON FIRMS,I Wouldn't Be a GP Again, Say One in Four Doctors

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Byline: SONIA PURNELL

MR MAJOR'S campaign to slash red tape has failed, with a deluge of new regulations swamping businesses, Ministers have admitted.

Even the Government department directly responsible for easing the bureaucratic burden on industry introduced three times as many rules as it abolished over the past three years.

Small Business Minister Richard Page conceded to Labour MPs that the Department of Trade and Industry had imposed 315 laws on firms since the deregulation initiative was launched in 1994. Over the same period, it repealed only 93.

The campaign's failure has panicked Tory backbenchers, who fear the party will lose the crucial business vote at the election.

Nineteen MPs - including former Industry Minister Neil Hamilton - have signed a Parliamentary motion condemning the Premier's deregulation initiative as `laconic' and in desperate need of `reinvigoration'.

They claim that across Whitehall more than 8,100 new statutory instruments have been introduced since 1994, while only 640 rules have been scrapped.

Deregulation savings to business had been less than one per cent of the [pounds sterling]8.5billion cost of the extra regulations, they say.

The 108 civil servants working directly on slashing red tape were `barely giving good value for the [pounds sterling]2.75million they cost the public purse'.

Labour industry spokesman Barbara Roche is to demand records from all Ministries `so we can see whether Ministers' rhetoric about abolishing burdens has been matched by action'.

She said yesterday: `When the deregulation campaign began John Major invited Michael Heseltine to `swing like Tarzan' through the jungle of red tape engulfing British industry. The evidence we have so far seems to show that Tarzan has failed and the jungle has won.'

The DTI's admission that red tape is still tying up industry came days after Tory businessman Mike Fisher threatened to quit Mr Major's deregulation unit after `two utterly frustrating years'. …