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Crackers: the silly trading laws about to be scrapped

The Government is to scrap a raft of "ridiculous" business regulations, including alcohol licences to sell chocolate liqueurs and age limits on buying Christmas crackers.

Redundant legislation such as the war-time Trading With The Enemy Act, and rules around the safety of pencils and prams will also be abolished.

Shops will no longer need a licence to sell chocolate liqueurs, while the age limit for buying Christmas crackers will be reduced from 16 to the European minimum of 12.

Business groups welcomed the drive to cut red tape, but called on ministers to do more to tackle "big regulatory burdens" as well as "tinkering" with smaller ones.

Business Secretary Vince Cable announced that 130 out of the 257 regulations covering retail firms will be scrapped, and a further 30 will be simplified as part of the Government's "red tape challenge" which will eventually study over 20,000 regulations across British industry.

But the Government has decided not to change legislation covering Sunday trading and to keep in place other rules covering areas such as hallmarking of goods.

Dr Cable said some of the most ridiculous regulations he discovered included the poisons licensing system, which covered the sale of low risk products such as fly spray and toilet cleaner.

The requirement on retailers to notify TV Licensing about sales of televisions will also be scrapped, while rules on the sale of car tyres will be simplified.

Business minister Mark Prisk said he hoped that by scrapping or simplifying regulations covering the retail industry, firms will start to see a difference to their bottom line. David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Vince Cable is right that regulation is too often crippling small and medium-sized businesses seeking to grow, and create jobs. There is no doubt that scrapping some of these specific regulations will have a positive effect on some firms in the retail sector.''

But John Walker, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "Businesses are losing confidence in the Government's commitment to deregulate. Some of these regulation cuts being announced will have no tangible impact on small firms at all as they are outdated and unused anyway."