The Government has invited businesses and community groups to help “rip up” some of the UK’s 21,000 rules and regulations in a fresh drive to tackle red tape and get rid of “ridiculous” burdens.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Business Secretary Vince Cable launched a “red tape website challenge”, giving firms as well as members of the public a chance to have their say on regulations affecting their business or lives.

The aim is to get rid of ones regarded as an “unnecessary burden”, and to retain those offering protection, said the Government.

Business groups welcomed the move after spending months pressing for action, but stressed that the move must lead to “significant” changes which ease burdens on companies.

The Prime Minister said: “We need to tackle regulation with vigour, both to free businesses to compete and create jobs, and give people greater freedom and personal responsibility.

“Of course we need proper standards, for example in areas like fire safety and food safety. So where regulation is well-designed and proportionate, it should stay, but it is hard to believe that we need government regulations on issues such as ice-cream van musical jingles.

“That’s why I want us to be the first government in modern history to leave office having reduced the overall burden of regulation, rather than increasing it.

“Our starting point is that a regulation should go or its aim achieved in a different, non-government way, unless there is a clear and good justification for government being involved.

“All those unnecessary rules that place ridiculous burdens on our businesses and on society must go, once and for all.”

Ministers said they wanted to tackle the stock of more than 21,000 statutory instruments they believed were putting barriers in the way of businesses, volunteers and the public.

The first area covered by the announcement will be retail, followed in the coming months by other parts of industry.

Once comments have been made, ministers will have three months to explain why a regulation is still required, or it will be scrapped.

Dr Cable said: “The retail sector is a key part of our economy and essential to driving private sector-led growth. It also has to deal with hundreds of different regulations covering everything from employment law and health and safety through to consumer protection and the sale of offensive weapons.

“Some of these regulations are there for good reasons, protecting employees, businesses or the public, but some, like the Indication of Prices (Beds) Order serve no purpose at all.

“That’s why this campaign is different to the de-regulation drives that have gone before. The onus is now on me and my fellow ministers to justify a regulation, rather than on you telling us to do something about it.”

Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell said: “This is a great opportunity for the civil service to help drive changes in the way that government delivers its policy goals, abolishing unnecessary regulations and using creative approaches to achieve the Government’s objectives in non-regulatory ways.”