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Mr. Redwood: I accept your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I am trying to discuss the power by order to make provisions reforming the law, which I consider to be a wide-ranging power. My worry--subject to your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker--is that it constitutes a method of avoiding even the perfunctory debate that we are allowed under the guillotine and primary legislation procedures; and, because it is so wide ranging, I fear that it is possible to talk about more or less anything. The Government have not made it entirely clear what they will introduce.
Mr. Redwood: I accept your wise words and your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I think you would agree that the Government want to take wide-ranging powers to reform, in unspecified ways, a wide range of law--all law, indeed, that affects persons carrying on an activity or business. That is why I have confined my remarks to the subject of regulations affecting businesses. As the Clerks advise me, that clearly encompasses tax regulation, which is often the most onerous and expensive.
Mr. Pike: Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the two amendments carried in the Lords, to which I have specifically referred, ensure that a balance of deregulation must offset any new regulation?
Mr. Redwood: I am not sure that it must offset any new regulation in the way that I would like, but my point is rather different: I believe that any new regulation should have to go through normal procedures, and I see no objection to Ministers' presenting such measures in the form of primary legislation, according to their proposed truncated method of dealing with such legislation.
I defend the principle of the 1994 Act: that those who wish to strike something off the legislative list might want an expedited procedure. The principle was fairly tightly controlled, but there was some sense in it. I see no case for--effectively--allowing primary legislation to go through to re-regulate increased regulatory burdens under this kind of procedure, and I think the House would regret consenting to that.
The Bill shows that the Government are into a cut-and-run election. They know that the telecoms business, the City, the computing businesses, farms and agri-businesses, haulage businesses and manufacturing businesses are going into a bust. The Government know that many of those firms will shed labour, and that some will go bankrupt: they are suffering very badly.
In all cases, there is a common thread. Yes, there are world conditions; yes, there are currency movements. The common thread, however--the thing that makes it worse here--is the Government's attitude and their action in over-taxing and over-regulating, usually by means of very expensive licensing, artificially restricting the supply of something that a business needs, and then charging the earth to enable that business to obtain it.
It is high time that this Government were well and truly rumbled, and my feeling is that the business community is well and truly rumbling them. Far from calling an end to boom and bust, they are creating boom for some and bust for others at the same time. Far from behaving with respect to Parliament, they are introducing massive new powers to bypass, sideline and spreadeagle Parliament in the wrong direction. Far from giving us any deregulation, they are going to give us more rules, regulations and costs. Far from understanding the deep trouble in which many of our businesses find themselves, they ride on, taxing
Mr. Leigh: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am slightly concerned about the interpretation that you placed on points that may be raised on Second Reading. I genuinely seek your guidance, for future reference.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman may be seeking my guidance, but it sounds suspiciously as if he is questioning the judgment of the Chair. I can say only that I will judge each speech and each point entirely on its merits.
Mr. Leigh: Of course I am not questioning your judgment, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is a genuine request for guidance on what we should discuss on Second Reading. I was rather under the impression that, in the case of a wide-ranging Bill with a very open preamble relating to all "burdens affecting persons", Second Reading--as opposed to Report and Committee--was the one occasion when Members could range widely in discussing the principles behind the Bill. I feel that that is an important freedom, which Parliament must retain.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman is exactly right that the matter of how widely hon. Members may range in their speeches is entirely for the occupant of the Chair. I shall bring them back to order if I think that they are out of order.
Mr. Brian White (Milton Keynes, North-East): The long speech by the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) demonstrates the current state of the Conservative party. Conservative Members have raised many issues concerning regulations that they themselves introduced. Many of the issues that they have raised are not properly related to the debate. My neighbour the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) gave the game away when he said, "It is all Europe's fault." Those comments sum up today's Tory party.
Mr. Bercow: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, as it is always a pleasure to joust with one's parliamentary neighbour. There are many things that I am content to blame on the institutions of the European Union, but at no stage in any intervention did I say that it was all Europe's fault. The hon. Gentleman really should correct himself.
I welcome the Bill. The speeches of both the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) and the right hon. Member for Wokingham have highlighted the interesting paradox that, although the United Kingdom is one of the least-regulated countries, we are one of the countries that complains most about regulation. The debate has not yet dealt with that paradox. I think that we should judge the Bill on the basis of whether it addresses the issue of what constitutes appropriate regulation. I believe that the Bill does not go far enough. As I shall explain later, I believe that the Bill is not sufficiently radical and only tinkers with current processes.
There is a real problem with the regulation-deregulation debate. We seem to be saying that deregulation is good and regulation is bad. It is reminiscent of the 1980s debate in which it was maintained--depending on one's point of view; Conservative Members maintained the opposite--that the public sector was good and the private sector was bad. I believe that that is a sterile debate, as it ignores the complexity of the modern world and confuses issues of principle with specific bureaucratic policies. The confusion of principle with policy serves no one who is engaged in the regulation-deregulation debate.
Cynics may assume that, in this debate, Conservative Members are playing a game--which is either to do with a post-general election leadership bid or with preventing the Bill from being passed before the next general election. I am not a cynic and I would made no such assumptions. However, I predict that, at the first meeting of the Programming Sub-Committee, there will be a manufactured row designed to demonstrate Conservative Members' outrage about the Bill.
Mr. Redwood: Did the hon. Gentleman not listen to what I said? I gave a whole series of examples of massive costs--costs of licences and costs of taxes--that should not have been imposed. Will he now address those issues?
Mr. White: The right hon. Gentleman listed various issues and industries, but confused cost issues in those industries with the bureaucracy that deals with those matters. When some of us talk about regulation, we are talking about the costs of bureaucracy. The right hon. Gentleman was addressing issues that have nothing to do with regulation and had to be reminded of that fact on several occasions. The Bill addresses specific regulation issues, not the principle of measures such as the working families tax credit or the working time directive. The right hon. Gentleman was attempting to deal with those matters of principle. I do not think that anyone should have to apologise for saying that working people should have a right to a decent working life and support.
Mr. Hendrick: Does my hon. Friend agree that the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) failed to recognise that spectrum, for example, is a finite resource and should not be given away free, willy-nilly, to telecommunications companies? It is in the interests of the Government and the public that we maximise revenue from the sale of spectrum, and thereby help to pay for schools, hospitals and the Government's other priorities, on which they are doing so well. Does my hon. Friend also agree that it is a matter not of whether we should have more regulation or less regulation, but of how we ensure that we have good regulation rather than bad regulation? That is the issue that the Deregulation Committee has been addressing.