Azara Blog: Gordon Brown tries to butter up the CBI

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Date published: 2005/11/28

The BBC says:

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".
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."

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

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.

Well once in a great while Gordon Brown actually does something sensible. If only he were a bit more consistent. (Of course if this was Tony Blair he would be telling the CBI one thing and the TUC the opposite.) Making the ONS independent of government is a major move forward, since under New Labour they have been far too influenced by the need to make the government look good. As for "corporate accountability" and "responsibility", it is rather amazing that the government has abandonned the OFR, but it is probably just as well, it would just have meant that corporations were forced to justify business decisions on politically correct rather than financial grounds.

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