Hundreds of thousands of businesses are to be exempted from health and safety inspections under moves announced by the Government.
Legislation will be introduced which ministers say will protect business from "compensation culture" claims. More than 3,000 regulations will be scrapped or overhauled, so that shops, offices, pubs and clubs will no longer face "burdensome" health and safety inspections.
Officials described it as a "radical" plan to curb red tape. From next April, the Government intends to introduce binding new rules on both the Health & Safety Executive and local authorities that will exempt hundreds of thousands of businesses from regular inspections.
Firms will only face health and safety inspections if they are operating in higher-risk areas such as construction or if they have an incident or track record of poor performance. And businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "In these tough times, businesses need to focus all their energies on creating jobs and growth, not being tied up in unnecessary red tape. I've listened to those concerns and we're determined to put common sense back into areas like health and safety, which will reduce costs and fear of burdensome inspections."
Business Minister Michael Fallon said: "Today's announcement injects fresh impetus into our drive to cut red tape. We have identified the red tape and now we are going to cut it. We're getting out of the way by bringing common sense back to health and safety. We will now be holding departments' feet to the fire to ensure all unnecessary red tape is cut."
Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory policy at the Institute of Directors, said: "The Government's efforts on deregulation are welcome. Today's announcements are good news if they are the beginning, not the end, of the deregulation story. Excessive regulation costs time and money, both of which businesses would rather spend on developing new products, hiring staff and building up British business both here and abroad."
MPs from all three major parties called on the Goverment for a cross-departmental industrial policy and the appointment of a dedicated minister for manufacturing to spark long-term growth and help rebalance the UK economy.
In a strategy paper, the Associate Parliamentary Manufacturing Group (APMG) said the Government should commit itself to an annual industrial policy statement to Parliament, setting out plans to support manufacturing over the next 10 years, including clear targets, objectives and measures of success. The first industrial policy statement should be made alongside Chancellor George Osborne's 2013 Budget in the spring, they said.
Conservative MP for Warwick and Leamington Chris White, co-chairman of the APMG, said: "UK manufacturing growth is not a party political issue. Nor is it a challenge we can tackle in a fragmented, piecemeal manner. Other economies have benefited enormously from government leadership on industrial growth - so can the UK.