Brown must cut red tape

UK businesses face an ever-growing mountain of legislation. Although the more ludicrous moves - such as the spy in your rubbish bin - are understandably ridiculed in the national press, much of this is well-intended.

UK businesses face an ever-growing mountain of legislation. Although the more ludicrous moves - such as the spy in your rubbish bin - are understandably ridiculed in the national press, much of this is well-intended.

However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and it is not surprising that IT directors may sometimes feel like Chris Rea as they ponder the complexities of what information they must keep, what they would like to keep but may not be legally entitled to retain, and what they can chuck away with no fear of being called to account at some future date.

In our Special Report on Storage, Arif Mohamed examines the contradictions of laws such as the Data Protection Act, Freedom of Information Act and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, together with the demands of EU regulations such as Mifid.

And on our Letters page this week, a correspondent draws attention to the contradictions of HM Revenue's requirement for firms to retain paper receipts while in other areas they are under pressure to digitise paper records.

As society changes, it is inevitable that there will be some overlaps and contradictions among various laws. But as companies strive to be more efficient to compete on the global business stage, it is inexcusable to tie them up in any more red tape than is necessary and to force them into making decisions about which law counts most in a particular situation.

With the end of the Blair era comes the opportunity for Gordon Brown and the ministers he appoints to make a clean sweep of Britain's increasingly confusing data rules. So far we have relied on ingenious technical solutions to the problem of burgeoning data storage demands. Cutting the legal complexities would be the better option long term.

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