LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron promised on Monday to slash legal and regulatory obstacles to economic growth, seeking to ward off criticism that the government is doing too little to help companies and revive an ailing economy.
Cameron said he was determined to cut through officialdom and change a risk-averse government culture of consultation, review and audit that hindered enterprise.
“When this country was at war in the 1940s, Whitehall underwent a revolution,” he said, referring to the British government. “Normal rules were circumvented. Convention was thrown out,” Cameron said in advance extracts of a speech to business leaders.
“As one historian put it, everything was thrown at ‘the overriding purpose’ of beating Hitler. Well, this country is in the economic equivalent of war today - and we need the same spirit,” he added.
Cameron’s Conservative-led government has pledged to tackle its budget deficit and has little room to boost Britain’s stagnant growth with extra state spending.
It has instead been seeking to promote a private-sector-led recovery, identifying a series of job-creating infrastructure projects, but has since been frustrated by the slow pace of progress.
Cameron said the government would impose restrictions on the use of a legal process known as judicial review, used increasingly by opponents to delay big infrastructure schemes.
A planned high-speed rail line from London to Birmingham faces five such reviews in court hearings next month from residents and others affected by its construction.
In addition, officials would be barred from introducing costly business regulations unless they withdrew two other bureaucratic rules at the same time, in a doubling of an existing “one-in, one-out” procedure.
Cameron was due to make the remarks to the country’s main business lobby group, the Confederation of British Industry, which has demanded more action to boost the economy.
CBI head John Cridland called on Sunday for finance minister George Osborne to inject a further 1.5 billion pounds ($2.38 billion) into the economy to stimulate growth when he makes a budget statement in December.
Cridland said London’s successful 2012 Olympics were a model for an infrastructure-led recovery.
“I’d like to see the government bottle what worked with the Olympics, which is we did something on time, on spec - a fabulous construction project,” he told Sky News.
“And do that with a motorway, a big power station, a big offshore wind farm, maybe a tunnel under the Thames (River) for our waste sewerage. Let’s get these things happening,” Cridland added.
($1 = 0.6311 British pounds)
Reporting by Tim Castle, editing by Gary Crosse