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Column 61legislation. They include a list of duties for people and their employees. They include a list of about 15 to 20 activities such as twisting, turning, bending and stretching, for which there is a requirement to use goggles. It is unbelievable.
My hon. Friends the Members for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) and for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) have suggested that magistrates should consider such regula-tions, which I believe are worthy of reference to a lunatic asylum. The regulations state that staff must be trained to put on goggles and to put on a jacket. An assessment must subsequently be made of every single person in the business. Businesses are subjected to the humiliation, embarrassment, absurdity and expense of this ridiculous nonsense, which is associated with the social chapter, which Opposition Members urge us to accept in their absurd European manifesto.
The Bill goes to the heart of the changes that are necessary. It might be only one swing of the pendulum in "The Pit and the Pendulum", but the walls are closing in on the people of this country. The only way in which we can extract ourselves from this position is by reducing the duties that we continually heap on the people and substitute for them that which is reasonably practicable and can reasonably be paid for. Until we make a decision on that, we shall remain in the vortex of difficulty that we have created for ourselves.
Mr. Steen : Before I take up the points made in the tremendous oration of my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), which greatly moved the House, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes). He has shown great courage and fortitude in tabling new clause 14, and the debate has attracted an enormous number of Conservative Members who are squeezed tightly together because of the shortage of space.
We could not have expected or hoped for a more sympathetic, more tuned in or more charismatic Minister than my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs. There is perhaps little point in our making speeches because the Minister knows it all. He knows that what we are saying is right and he knows the problems that need to be dealt with. I suspect that our speeches are merely delaying the moment when he says that he will not only do what we suggest and accept the new clause but will go even further. It is unkind of us to delay his opportunity to tell us the good news--an opportunity for which he has waited for several hours--that he will not only accept the main provisions of new clause 14 but will improve them and make additional suggestions.
The House is especially bright at picking things up immediately, so I cannot believe that it has not detected the fact that the new clause is an attempt to find a way of dealing with existing rules and regulations. We are not discussing the big issues, such as reducing the number of Acts of Parliament or getting rid of primary legislation ; we are discussing how to establish a mechanism to enable people at the grass roots to obtain some justice in the interpretation of those rules and regulations.
Although we recognise that the Bill is an amazing step in the right direction and that it will cut through swathes of unnecessary administration and bureaucracy, it will take a little time to do so. It could be four to five years before its real impact is felt. One way of proceeding would be to introduce a similar Bill every year. The Minister should
Column 62take that suggestion to heart. Perhaps he could come to the House every year to respond to our debates--nothing would give us greater pleasure.
The main question covered in the new clause is how we get bevies of officials, paid for by the taxpayer, off the backs of the people when they are intent on pinning down their victims by enforcing a rule that they believe should be interpreted in a particular way. A rule will be interpreted differently in different parts of the country. We need to involve a local tribunal, panel or administrator--one already in post. The beauty of the new clause is that it would not establish another quango or any further bureaucracy, but would make use of existing machinery to which we could give added responsibility and more work. We could perhaps call on the local tax inspector who is probably under-employed. It does not have to be the magistrate. We could ask the district surveyor or valuer. What about the rates panel--what do its members do--or the education appeals committee ? I am sure that it could take on a little extra activity.
We need find only one or two such groups--there are many hundreds--and ask them to accept a bit of extra work. We should not expect to pay them for it --it is a voluntary activity although it is an important job. I do not care who takes on the work, but we need to find a way to ensure that the man in the street no longer feels victimised, persecuted, prosecuted, terrified or devastated by the little Hitler attitude of small-minded officials.
In the past few weeks, I have several times raised the matter of over- zealous--I note that that has now become the "in"
word--interpretation of regulations relating to filing cabinets by the administration of the Palace of Westminster. The administration is insisting that all filing cabinets have an anti-tilt device. Everyone in the House is familiar with that device, but it is nonsense. I have examined all the rules and regulations and there is no directive, either from Europe or from the United Kingdom, covering such matters. However, officials in the Palace of Westminster have decided that all filing cabinets that might tilt over and conk one on the head--though only if one opens all four drawers at the same time--have to be cleared out.
If a magistrates court in Westminster examined such a ridiculous interpretation by officialdom, we should not be getting rid of such filing cabinets. [Interruption.] Does my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) wish to intervene ?
Mr. Bernard Jenkin (Colchester, North) indicated dissent .
Mr. Steen : My hon. Friend is wise not to intervene while I am citing such a ridiculous example of bureaucracy and officialdom. As there is no method of appeal, officials are free to interpret as they wish. There is no way of stopping them. Even more serious, what would happen if every local authority inspector decided that every filing cabinet without an anti -tilt device had to be thrown away ? What would be the cost to the taxpayer ? [Interruption.] No, I do not have an anti-tilt device.
Filing cabinets are not the only problem. What about the height of desks ? Colleagues do not realise that all their desks are to be thrown out because they are not the right height. That is not a result of European legislation or local officials ; it is because officials in the Palace of
Column 63Westminster have decided that all desks have to be changed because one secretary has a back ache. That proves the absurdity of the rules and regulations and makes it clear why the new clause is extremely important.
Mr. Jenkin : May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 ? Has he noticed that a little tag or sticker has recently been put on the back of the electrical appliances in his office, or on their flexes, to show that a Palace official has checked them to ensure that no one could kill himself with them ? Has he asked any officials to give chapter and verse of the regulation that requires such extensive checking ? To my knowledge, no such regulation exists.
Mr. Steen : My hon. Friend's question is very timely and is evidence of his foresight because I was about to raise exactly that issue. I thought that my hon. Friend might mention it so I took the precaution of asking senior people in the Library to help me track down the relevant regulation. I received a letter which said : "I can find no regulations, or even codes of practice, which specifically mention"
such a requirement. Therefore, the House has unnecessarily spent tens of thousands of pounds on sticking little numbers on flexes and power points, not to mention the £600 German hair dryers installed in some of the cloakrooms. Little numbers have also been stuck on typewriters and computers, which is wholly unnecessary.
Mr. Duncan Smith : To extend my hon. Friend's argument, the point is not just the Palace of Westminster, but the fact that throughout the land there are businesses that are now being told by a number of sources, "This is a regulation with which you must comply" when, in reality, it is not. Does my hon. Friend accept, therefore, that the big problem is that, without a form of challenge, businesses never dream of challenging what they are told is a regulation ?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse) : Order. Before we go further, I point out that we are straying a little wide. We should be talking about business outside the Palace, and not business within the Palace. The hon. Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) has so far dwelt on business within the Palace.
Mr. Steen : I shall quickly move outside the Palace. I dwelt on what was happening within the Palace only to point out that if we cannot get it right without an appeals mechanism, how can we expect the little man to get it right ?
Mr. John Garrett (Norwich, South) : I was tempted earlier to ask the hon. Gentleman whether he tilted when his drawers were pulled open, but I decided not to. Surely he is aware that the Palace of Westminster operates under Crown immunity. All he has to do is to speak to the Leader of the House, who is a member of his own party.
Mr. Steen : I know who my right hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr. Newton) is. I am speaking to him and drawing his attention to this additional and unnecessary expenditure. I do not want to spend any more time on the matter and I must follow what Mr. Deputy Speaker has said in his important ruling.
Column 64The issue is this. If the Palace of Westminster cannot get it right, none of the small businesses and industries can get it right. I shall now give one or two examples outside the House and I shall explain to my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough why his new clause is so important. Three enormous new barns have been built in my constituency in an area of great landscape value. The view is magnificent until one sees these whacking great barns. They were built in the wrong place, at the wrong height and without planning consent. What do the planners say ?
Mr. Steen : They do not. The planners say, "Apply for retrospective planning consent." The developer has applied for retrospective planning consent and the officials will recommend that these whacking great barns, which are far larger than one would have contemplated, should stay.
Ten miles away, in the little hamlet of Aveton Gifford on the banks of the Avon, there is a little farmhouse. It has very little future because farming has declined. The farmers have converted their front parlour into a tea room and applied for planning consent. It is a beautiful little tea room in which wonderful cream teas are served. It is miles off the beaten track, so people cannot find it. The farmers have put a little cardboard sign in the grass by the side of the road which says, "Cream teas this way". They have been threatened with enforcement action by the local planners if they do not take that little cardboard sign out of the soil. The local authority is prepared for the farm to close if it goes bust. The farmers will not be able to find the money to survive, so the cream teas are important to them. Yet the whacking great barns can stay up for ever. That is an example of why new clause 14 is so important and that is why my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs needs to respond in his customarily helpful and enigmatic way. If he feels that he cannot support new clause 14, I point out that he has 11,389 officials. Surely some of them can dream up a better new clause which will provide an even better solution to the problem. I had a word with the Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Mitchell), before I spoke. He said that it might help my career if I did not speak for too long. I had to tell him that I did not have a career any longer, so it would not help me to speak for a short while. I support the new clause.
Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow) : I support new clause 14. I am sorry that I was not present to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) speak in support of the new clause. I know that he speaks with the experience of having run a private business. He has, therefore, an understanding of the way in which regulatory over-kill impacts on business. In other words, he is not discussing this, as many Opposition Members will tonight, in a vacuum. He is discussing it in the light of his experience.
It is difficult for people outside the House to understand why their problems and concerns are not more adequately and satisfactorily represented in the House. I believe that the reason is, in no small measure, that, regrettably, there are fewer and fewer hon. Members who have had the experience of running businesses and of being on the receiving end of so much mindless bureaucracy.
Column 65The Minister for Industry (Mr. Tim Sainsbury) indicated assent .
Mr. Gill : I see my right hon. Friend the Minister for Industry, who has a connection with a large business, nodding. I am not sure whether he is nodding in agreement. In a little while, I shall tell the House how seriously I regard the matter of over-regulation, not least because the burden bears down most heavily on the smaller businesses rather than on the bigger businesses.
The bigger businesses have the scope to designate a person within the business to look after this or that piece of regulation. I hope that Ministers understand that in a small business, where there may be only one owner-driver, that person has to be the salesman, the marketing director, the production director and the accountant, and he has to look after all the regulations. That is why so many of our small business men are absolutely fed up to the back teeth with so much regulation. Small business men know that when it comes to the implementation of that regulation, it is down to them.
Many hon. Members may be inclined to believe that small business men should react more strongly against the legislation that they resent and that they should be more troublesome about it. That again illustrates the lack of understanding in the House about a small business man's priority. His priority when he gets up in the morning is to go to his factory, and to produce a product that he can sell at a profit. He can then reinvest in the business to create more jobs, more products, more profit, more investment, more jobs and so on. It is a virtuous circle. What mitigates against that virtuous circle is the plethora of legislation.
I support new clause 14 because it would, for the first time, establish an appeals procedure which would involve the impartiality of the courts. From my own experience, I can tell the House without fear or favour that in all the jams I have been in when dealing with officialdom, there was no final arbiter to whom I could appeal other than the senior civil servant or local government officer. He is not, of course, exactly impartial in these matters.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) has referred to the number of small businesses that have simply closed down because of the attitude of officials. My hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen), in his invaluable contribution, mentioned how so much depends on the interpretation that officials put on a piece of legislation, which may vary from one local authority area to another.
Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) : Does my hon. Friend agree that part of the problem with Opposition Members is that they have never run a business in their lives ? If they had done so, they might be more supportive of the deregulation principle
Mr. Evans : Irrespective of what the hon. Gentleman says, at least I have had to meet a wage bill every week on behalf of eight employees. Opposition Members have never had to do that. That is the crux of the difference between us. Opposition Members have never had to meet a wage bill. Does my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) agree that it would be useful if some of our local
Column 66officers, who have to interpret some of the rules and regulations, were seconded to industry ? They would then get a better understanding of industry.
Mr. Gill : My hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) raises an interesting point. Broadly speaking, he is probably correct in saying that not too many Opposition Members have run businesses. However, I detect a dawning realisation on the Opposition Benches that it is quite important to have successful businesses, because they create the wealth of the nation and employ our constituents. The sad thing is that not all Opposition Members are prepared to go that far and, undoubtedly, many have yet to see the light. Of course, it is satisfactory from our standpoint that they continue to squabble and bicker among themselves on this and many other subjects. My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford also mentioned the question of eggs and salmonella. I am on record as saying that, when the scare blew up in 1988, we immediately seized the wrong end of the telescope through which we peered at the problem. Why were Ministers considering the problem of eggs and salmonella through the wrong end of the telescope ? It was simply because their officials handed them the wrong end of the telescope.
The knee-jerk reaction to that cry resulted in a great deal of extra, burdensome legislation being enforced in the egg and poultry industry, although some of it has been rescinded because it has been proved faulty. I do not blame Ministers nearly as much as I blame their officials for giving that advice in the first place. The only categorical statement one can make about that problem is that, if the housewives, the cooks, the chefs and anybody else involved in preparing food had cooked eggs and poultry correctly, there would have been no risk to human health whatever. In the interim, we have seen the slaughter of 3.5 million poultry at a cost of over £7 million to the taxpayer.
I want to tell the House about the case of my constituent, Mr. Shaw of Morville, who is being pilloried even now by officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food because he feels, with some justification in my opinion, that he is a victim of a vendetta simply because he stands up to the officials, says that they do not have the power to do what they want to do and tells them that, until they produce the legislation which empowers them to enforce what they say he must do, he is not letting them on to his premises. The reason why Mr. Shaw is on the hit list of officialdom is not least because he was involved in a cause celebre. He went to court in defence of the nuns at Daventry and won the case, against all the officials. That went down very badly with the officials, to the extent that, even to this day, they hound my constituent Mr. Shaw, who runs a bona fide business responsibly and who conducts an enormous amount of valuable research work for the poultry industry, quite apart from maintaining a breeding stock and a blood-line, which would otherwise disappear and be a great loss to the whole British poultry and egg industry.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) spoke about the responsibility of politicians. My goodness, we have a responsibility, because it is only as a result of our going through one Lobby or the other, night after night, that we have such an enormous weight of statute law. That situation
Mr. Gill : The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point. However, I took the trouble to go to the Library some weeks ago to see how the amount of statute law had varied from one year to another and from one Government to another. I must say to the hon. Gentleman that, while it is true that my team has not done ever so well, neither has his team. The honours are shared. The hon. Gentleman provokes me to say, while I am on my feet, that at least this Government have recognised the problem and are doing something about it. If the Minister has the good sense to adopt new clause 14, so ably proposed by my hon. Friends the Members for Scarborough and for Chingford, not only will he have done something about it, but he will have done so in a workmanlike manner.
My constituents and those of my hon. Friends want to be rid of the tyranny of officialdom. What the Government have to do and what any Government must do is hold the ring between, on the one hand, what is desirable and, on the other, what is necessary. Many Opposition Members are for ever coming to the House and saying what additional legislation they would like. I must say to them that much of that proposed legislation may be desirable, but not much of it is necessary.
Mr. Steen rose
Mr. Gill : May I finish the sentence ? I especially want to tell my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench how important it is for the Government to hold the ring between what is desirable and what is strictly necessary.
Mr. Steen rose
Mr. Steen : My hon. Friend has made an important contribution to a very important debate, but there is one issue that I should like to correct. Most officials are carrying out their duties, they are doing their best and they are terrified about losing their jobs. One of the problems is corrected by the new clause. Because they are sometimes concerned about keeping their jobs, they go too far and that is why we need an appeals mechanism. The other point is that we have too many officials. Does my hon. Friend agree that if we reduced the number of officials, it would be far better ?
Mr. Gill : My hon. Friend makes some interesting observations. Unfortunately, his intervention was not quite long enough for me to think of another peroration of the speech that I thought I had just finished. Notwithstanding that, my hon. Friend tempts me to comment on one or two things that he said.
I well remember going to a meeting organised by the tourist association of south Shropshire, where various farmers and farmers' wives came together to discuss how they could develop their properties for bed and breakfast,
Column 68overnight accommodation and so on. I had the audacity to stand up and say, in front of all the planning officers who were also present, that perhaps it would be easier for those people to provide bed and breakfast accommodation if they were allowed to convert their barns and buildings in the way they wanted. I said that I understood their problems because along comes an official, who says to them, "Not like that, not now, not in that shape and form ; re-submit an application."
Of course, the officials pointed out that it was as a result of the activities of this House that they were empowered to take such an attitude. So we cannot shuffle off blame from the House to the hundreds of thousands of officials who are empowered to enforce rules and regulations. There are too many regulations and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams that there are too many officials as well.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs (Mr. Neil Hamilton) : I am sure that I speak for the entire House when I welcome the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) to our proceedings. If ever a demonstration were needed that the inter-party truce had come to an end, that must be it. The hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett)- -nice, emollient, reasonable and moderate--has been replaced by the red rottweiler from Oldham.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West made a passionate speech in favour of new clause 4. I normally associate him with passionate speeches on old clause IV. We do not hear so much of that any longer because a new spirit stalks the land, especially in Bambi land, which is occupied by Opposition Members. They now have to pole-vault over one another in their speeches to become ever more right wing to appeal to their electorates.
We heard a vintage right-wing performance from the hon. Member for Oldham, West, which I might have been capable of making before I joined the Government. He spoke, for example, in defence of those old-fashioned Thatcherite themes of cutting government, reducing the amount of interference in people's lives, destroying quangos and reducing the size of the civil service. The hon. Gentleman may be under some misapprehension because it is in his party that there is a leadership vacancy. He is appealing to the wrong audience. The hon. Gentleman's speech seemed not to go to the heart of his new clause, if I may put it in that delicate way. He talked about quangos in general and quoted in particular a report that has appeared in the newspapers of a body called Democratic Audit, which has criticised the Government performance on quangos. He claimed that Democratic Audit was an independent body. I do not know anything about its membership but I am slightly suspicious. It may be as independent as the German Democratic Republic was democratic. The truth of the matter is otherwise to that which the hon. Gentleman asserts. Over the past 15 years, there has been a substantial reduction in the number of quangos. The hon. Gentleman can reach the figures that he has been quoting only if he includes grant-maintained schools, for example, where, for the first time, parents and others with a direct interest in the education of their children have a voice. If grant-maintained schools are counted as quangos, I shall be delighted to see more of them. Indeed, that policy could be applied to many other areas.
Column 69In the few minutes that are available to me. I shall talk about some of the serious policies that my hon. Friends endorse--some Opposition Members have professed to endorse them--and which form the basis of the arguments advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) and many other hon. Friends in a variety of philippics in the past hour and three quarters, or so.
I have no difficulty in saying to my hon. Friends that I share their analysis of the problems that beset us. I share also their objectives in trying to do something to overcome them. I wish to try especially to provide an appeals mechanism that is quick, effective and cost-effective and will not create a new bureaucracy within which people will be subsumed. That was one of the many good points made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen). I hope that, as a result of the deregulation initiative, we shall be able seriously to examine the difficulties and produce practical solutions. 6.45 pm
We are doing many things that will assist us in achieving our objective. We are trying in particular--this emerged in Committee, where there was consensus on the matter--to bring together the regulators and those who are being regulated, to ensure that there is clarity of purpose among those making the rules. We wish to ensure that there is a good dialogue on enforcement policies, that there is adequate consultation, a courteous and efficient service, the minimisation of compliance costs and, especially, well-publicised, swift and effective complaints procedures that are easily accessible to business.
We are doing all those things. That provides us with part of the answer, but I emphasise, "part". I accept that there is a need to go further.
We must ask ourselves whether the courts will provide us with the right answer. Far be it from me to speak ill of my profession--the law. I have no intention of doing that in case I might need to take it up again one day. My experience of the courts, and as a Member, in terms of the interests of businesses, does not incline me to believe that the courts offer the perfect mechanism by which we can solve all the difficulties that my hon. Friends and others have brought before us.
I can illustrate that by taking an example that is set out in the Bill--the provision of children's certificates for pubs. We have already been receiving complaints that the magistrates courts--the mechanism by which the certificates will be granted--are in some instances taking an overly restrictive attitude towards the new liberality that those who support the Bill are trying to bring about. For example, I have a letter from a firm of solicitors complaining about the licensing committees of Birmingham and Sheffield. The letter states that the committees
"have attained some notoriety within licensing circles for their lack of flexibility, and rigid adherence to their policies in the face of overwhelming evidence."
I have other letters about, for example, Carlisle where it is alleged that the statements on
"policy on the provision of family rooms under the law as it stands . . . are both unreasonable in themselves and bode ill for the future children's certificates regime."
I shall quote shortly from the policy of the Carlisle justices. The quote may illustrate to my hon. Friends why I think that the magistrates courts may not be the ideal solution and may not provide an answer to their problems. The justices state that they
Column 70"do not favour the provision in licensed premises of what are generally known as family rooms', that is to say, rooms specially provided to accommodate children."
They continue to assert that
"they would not favour the proposition of a family room in a busy city or suburban public house . . . the provision of other children's facilities (such as swings or climbing frames) in the garden or car park of such premises, would not by itself influence the justices in favour of a family room in those premises."
The justices would require
"suitable toilet accommodation to be provided for the use of children only, quite apart and separate from that provided for adults."
And so on and so forth. As I have said, it may be that the magistrates courts do not provide a forum in which businesses are likely to be given the most sympathetic hearing.
Appeals mechanisms are already provided in some instances, which would be overridden by the general provisions of new clause 14. We would have to examine carefully the way in which the clause might supersede or duplicate the existing enforcement and appeals powers. I have asked the deregulation task force to examine with care the problems that are being faced by businesses throughout the country, which I fully accept.
I have no difficulty in saying that the absurd cases that my hon. Friends have brought forward are a more than adequate demonstration of the need to find a solution to the problem. We must be certain, however, before we make any policy decision, that we shall not make the problem worse.
The essence of the deregulation initiative is that we should think extremely carefully, think even more carefully--I say this in deference to my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill)--before we legislate. We must cost what we propose to do and think through the consequences of our decisions. I hope that the deregulation task force will be able quickly to produce a proposal. I am sure that the matter will be dealt with at length in another place.
Given the opportunities that are available for the Government to take, I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough to withdraw his new clause. As I have explained, there are opportunities for the Government to take a policy decision. If my hon. Friend withdraws his clause and the matter goes to another place, the basis of the debate there will consequently be more informed. I fully support what my hon. Friend wants to achieve, but I am not certain that the mechanism that he has put forward is the one to realise his objective. Therefore, I am not able to accept his new clause.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West has gone halfway towards achieving what my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough wishes to achieve. I had half a mind to astonish him--perhaps horrify him--by accepting his new clause. I am not prepared to do that, however, for the reasons that I have set out in my response to my hon. Friend's new clause. On that basis, I hope that both the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend will not press their new clauses.
Mr. Fatchett : During the past hour and a half, facts have rarely intervened on some of the prejudices that have been peddled enjoyably by Conservative Members. It may be worth while to recall that 71 per cent. of the orders and regulations which now cover industry and which are a so- called burden on industry were introduced by this
Column 71Government. Conservative Members should ask themselves what they are doing when they go into the Division Lobby at night and slavishly follow their Whips.
It may be worth while to refer to a point made by the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill). He said that the last Labour Government's record and this Government's record were about the same with regard to regulations. He embellished the point by saying that he had visited the Library to discover the facts. His visit was not wholly fruitful.
The simple fact is that this Government have introduced almost twice as many regulations and orders as did the previous Labour Government. As the hon. Member for Ludlow played such a keen part in the opposition to the Maastricht Bill, he should know the reason for that imbalance. Much of that relates to secondary legislation from the European Union. That accounts for the substantial difference and change in the quantity of regulations.
There are many weaknesses in new clause 14 because of the procedures that are to be used. The route via the magistrates court would be a lawyer's gold mine. There would have to be case law and precedent and there would be one case after another. That is not the way to deal with the problem to which the new clause relates. There would also be a lack of uniformity. All Conservative Members have said that they are looking for uniformity and sensitivity in terms of the application of regulations. New clause 14 will not achieve those objectives. If the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) decides to press his new clause to a Division, my hon. Friends will be asked to vote against it because we believe that it is defective in terms of achieving the hon. Gentleman's objectives. I have another point for the hon. Member for Scarborough. In his opening comments, he turned on my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mrs. Jackson) and said that she was not in the Standing Committee when it debated fire safety and hotels. I remind the hon. Member for Scarborough that, at columns 774 and 775 of the report of the Committee proceedings of 24 March, he had an exchange with my hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough, which seems to suggest that they were both present then.
Mr. Sykes : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to put the record straight. If the hon. Gentleman had been listening to me, he would know that I referred to Thursday 28 April when I moved new clause 21 on the very subject that we are discussing today. That was when the hon. Member for Hillsborough was in South Africa.
Mrs. Jackson : Very briefly, the point that the hon. Member for Scarborough failed to answer related to a question about fire safety specifically. I remembered the interchange in Committee, for which we were both present. That was the intervention that I spoke about.
I must tell the hon. Member for Scarborough that we will not support new clause 14.
New clause 4, which my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) introduced some time ago, is about the burdens imposed on business by the quangos that have been set up by the Government ; the extent to which they now account for a substantial proportion of gross national product and public expenditure; and the extent to which they are bodies in respect of which it appears that the only qualification for membership is that one is a supporter of the Conservative party, a member of the Conservative party or related to someone in either of those categories. Any other attribute seems to be of no importance.
When Conservative Members who have spoken so vividly on other occasions about Maastricht and accountability are not prepared to support new clause 4, their arguments about accountability and democracy become somewhat thinner. The crucial point about new clause 4 is that it makes this place more able to make accountable money that is spent on our behalf.
We are opposing the sleaze, corruption and waste involved in the number of quangos that the Government have established. A keen and obvious theme arises from these debates : the Opposition are in favour of open and clean government ; Conservative Members are not. That is why I ask my hon. Friends to support new clause 4. Question put, That the clause be read a Second time :
The House divided : Ayes 225, Noes 284.
Division No. 252] [6.54 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bray, Dr Jeremy
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Corston, Ms Jean
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Donohoe, Brian H.
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Ms Angela
Evans, John (St Helens N)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)