THE cost to business of major regulations introduced since 1998 has risen to more than \u00A350billion a year, industry complains. The "Burdens Barometer", the British Chambers of Commerce's independent calculation of the costs to business based on Government figures, reports that the total cost has risen from \u00A339billion in 2005 to more than \u00A350billion in 2006. John Bridge, chief executive of the Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, said: "British businesses are fed up with paying for Government regulation. Businesses must be free to compete in the global economy. "As well as the increasing cost, businesses regularly tell us they are having to divert valuable time from running their businesses to dealing with more and more paperwork. "While we recognise the need for proportionate regulation, the Government must ensure that new regulations are well targeted, and excessive existing burdens are cut back. Unnecessary burdens are not a sustainable option for our firms. "We support the Government's current agenda to cut the cost of regulation but, as our figures show, the need to get this right has never been greater. "Businesses have heard many promises in the past but 2006 must be the year of delivery. Employers need to see a real difference in the day-to-day operation of their business." Cambridgeshire North West MP Shailesh Vara last week co-sponsored a Parliamentary Ten Minute Rule Bill aimed at reducing regulation. "Small businesses are an essential part of the UK economy," said Mr Vara. "They make up over 99 per cent of all businesses, provide 47 per cent of UK employment through 10 million jobs, and 37 per cent of all business turnover. "But instead of lending their support, the Government is increasingly making life difficult and frustrating for SMEs by over-zealous and often petty regulations. "Nearly 900 regulations have been introduced since 1997, and the Government continues to produce new regulations. "There are many small and medium enterprises in my constituency. It is difficult enough for them to survive without the additional burden of over-regulation. "In the absence of many of these regulations, they would be making a far healthier contribution to the local economy as well as the national one.