Britain should rip up EU data protection laws and the system for clinical trials for drugs and give pension funds greater freedom to invest in fast-growing tech companies, according to the task force set up by Downing Street to free businesses from Brussels red tape following Brexit.
The group, led by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, described Brexit as a “one-off opportunity” to set out a new regulatory framework to encourage innovation, growth and inward investment.
The report by the task force for innovation, growth and regulatory reform, published on Tuesday night, contained 100 recommendations, including allowing pension schemes greater freedom to invest in innovative start-up businesses while maintaining “prudent protections”.
It identified the calculation method for the 0.75 per cent charge cap on fees and administrative expenses as the largest obstacle to defined contribution pension funds backing private equity and venture capital funds.
This low-cost fees approach has pushed pension funds to invest in cheaper fund management options, such as passive investing in the stock market, rather than high-performing ‘illiquid’ assets that require more costly, active management, the report argued.
The report suggested that changes be made to the calculation to help pension funds to invest in funds that back fast-growing companies. Earlier this year, the industry warned against government plans to loosen the charge cap to allow these kind of investments.
On financial services, the report proposed an “overhaul” of the “tangled web of EU-derived regulation”. The authors described Solvency II as “probably one of the world’s most restrictive” insurance regimes, acting as a block to investment and competitiveness.
It suggested reducing the risk margin — the additional buffer that insurers are required to hold on top of their liabilities to pay claims — to release more money. It said that reporting under Solvency II should also be simplified and streamlined.
The report also recommended streamlining Mifid II, which governs the activities of many financial sectors, to boost the commodity derivatives market.
The EU’s data protection law, known as GDPR, should be replaced to make the rules “more proportionate” for charities and smaller companies. It said that GDPR was designed to protect people’s data privacy but “in practice it overwhelms people with consent requests and complexity”.
The EU rules governing clinical trials for new drugs should also be superseded by a new approach, the report said, citing the success of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. It said that changes to the architecture of clinical trial regulation could help make Britain a “world leader”.
Britain’s exit from the EU raised hopes among some rightwing MPs of a “bonfire of Brussels red tape”, including environmental and employment legislation. But in January ministers dropped a review of workplace rules such as the 48-hour working week after a backlash by trade unions.
The task force was set up soon afterwards to find more politically palatable ideas for moving away from EU rules. The report by Duncan Smith, along with fellow Tory MPs George Freeman and Theresa Villiers, noted that adding more regulation is “easily done”, while removing it is harder.
New domestic regulation should always be designed to boost productivity, encourage competition and stimulate innovation, the trio argued. That should be applied under a sweeping new “proportionality principle” rather than the existing, more cautious “precautionary approach”.
The report called for regulators to be given a new duty to promote innovation and competition.
The proposals will be examined by a deregulation committee, which includes Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the exchequer, and Kwasi Kwarteng, business secretary.