The new measures are in response to an independent review carried out on statistical forms and surveys earlier this year as part of the government's deregulation initiative.
The review published today, `Statistical Surveys: Easing the Burden on Business', concludes that forms and surveys can be reduced and simplified without affecting the quality of the information needed by government.
The new measures include:
-- Wider use of the Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR). Use of the IDBR will ensure samples for surveys are constructed more accurately, reducing the number of forms issued to a particular business.
-- Wider use of information technology - the government is reviewing ways to encourage the development of accounting software packages so that information collected for company accounts can be retrieved quickly and cheaply for surveys.
-- Simplification of Intrastat forms, which record imports and exports between European Union member states. Simplification of the forms is already underway. The EC is also looking at ways of simplifying these forms as part of the Simple Legislation for the Internal Market (SLIM) initiative.
-- Produce and Publish Compliance Cost Plans - departments planning any major surveys will prepare and publish full compliance cost plans agreed by ministers. These plans will ensure that additional costs to UK industry of complying with new surveys and regulations do not outweigh the benefits of the proposed changes.
These are in addition to the commitment in the Citizen's Charter White Paper, 'The Citizen's Charter: Five Years On', to test all new forms with users to ensure they are clear and simple to complete.
Mr Freeman said:
'Statistical forms and surveys provide vital indicators of how British industry is performing, where our strengths and weaknesses are and how our experts are faring on world markets. They are necessary, but they can also be a burden on business, especially small firms.
'That is why we commissioned this review, to see where the number of forms and surveys could be reduced and where they could be simplified to ensure that the time and effort business people spend on them is kept to a minimum.
'I look forward to these new measures, which could save industry £17.5m every year, being implemented in full.'