Tape measure

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AMONG all the well-worn pledges trotted out by British politicians in the week before a budget, few are more common than the pledge to cut red-tape.

With a faltering economy, an overwheening EU and fierce competition from the emerging markets, there has been rarely been a greater need for Ministers of this generation to deliver on years of promises.

From taking on staff to complying with health and safety legislation, the cost of doing business in this country has risen and risen. The banking crisis shows us that there is often a need a for tough intervention, but there is a difference between real regulation and the pointless box-ticking exercises to which firms have become sadly accustomed.

The review of nearly 22,000 rules announced by Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, must take particular notice of the environment for small businesses, whose growth is often choked by the number of rules. This is particularly important at a time of spending cuts.

Given the coalition’s vision of a private sector-led economic recovery, it must finally lift the red-tape burden.

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