Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mrs. Gorman: My hon. Friend will be aware that the flush toilet system that he is talking about was invented by one of our own early pioneers--Mr. Thomas Crapper; his invention set that industry going. Does my hon. Friend think that, in the present climate--of regulatory organisations and legislation on employment, health and safety and the rest--people such as Mr. Crapper, with his excellent invention, would ever have got off the ground?

Mr. Fabricant: My hon. Friend is right. Although I do not want to be out of order, I want to make one point about her comments before I move on, especially for our many American viewers--we are watched not only on the Parliamentary Channel but on C-Span in the United States. The first managing director of Armitage Shanks was Mr. John, who went over to New York to sell the British system. That is how they came by the slang name "john" for what we call the "loo"--it is not realised that that too came from the small town of Armitage--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Fascinating though that may be, I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman returned to the contents of the Bill.

Mr. Fabricant: I was about to do just that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I thank you for your patience while I made those points.

The problem with the Bill is that it makes no real difference to the increased burdens that have been put on businesses. There is a backdrop of anger in the business sector as a result of all the red tape that has come from the Labour Government.

In another place, Lord Falconer said that the Bill

However, that remark is as reliable as his comments about the viability of the millennium dome, or indeed as reliable as the Prime Minister's remark that the dome and its success would be the first paragraph of Labour's next general election manifesto. We look forward to reading that manifesto--especially its first paragraph.

In fact, the Bill can do nothing to reverse the heavy regulatory burden that has already been imposed by the Government. They have no plans to repeal any of the key burdens that they have introduced so far--on pay roll, the social chapter or fairness at work. Neither I nor my Front-Bench colleagues are arguing for repeal of all the burdens costing £9.62 million listed by the BCC--far from it. However, there is a point at which the straw breaks the camel's back; we reached it two or three years ago. The Bill would be more welcome if it actually achieved something--but it will not.

The Government have wasted billions. I have already mentioned the millennium dome. There are many more examples of pet projects and spin that ought to--but will not--be controlled by the measure. For example, this year alone, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions is spending £1,852,896 on opinion poll research and focus groups. Actually, I have unwittingly

19 Mar 2001 : Column 82

told the House an untruth. I said the DETR was spending that money--but it is our money. Taxpayers' money is being spent on opinion poll research and focus groups. The Government are spending our money--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is not talking about matters that come under the heading of regulation or of the Bill. I should be grateful if he did just that.

Mr. Fabricant: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall not go through the long list of issues that should be covered by the Bill, because you are right. Ironically, if the Bill were all-encompassing, I could list those issues and could congratulate the Government on the fact that they would be covered by the measure. The great flaw of the Bill is that it is one gigantic loophole. This thin Bill is inadequate; it has merely ll pages and does not encompass the issues that should be covered.

The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Stewart) mentioned the support of the CBI, yet that organisation identified the fact that since the Government were elected in 1997, they have issued 3,000 new regulations that impinge on businesses. The CBI pointed out that every day 10 new regulations affect businesses and that that has destroyed 300,000 manufacturing jobs. It stated that additional costs of £23 billion have been imposed on manufacturing by the Government since they were elected in 1997.

Mr. Ian Stewart: The hon. Gentleman clearly will not want for matters to raise in future. He recites a range of statistics on the volume of regulation since 1997. I am not sure of the exact statistics, but is he aware that the volume of regulation since 1997 is little different from the volume under the previous Government?

Mr. Fabricant: The hon. Gentleman is wrong--he is reading his Labour party brief. However, he is right to point out that the volume is similar to that introduced under the previous Conservative Government, but they were in power for 18 years. I am grateful that he makes that point, because we can be clear about the fact that the Government have had at least one achievement: in just four years, they have introduced the same amount of regulation--burdens on business--as Conservative Administrations introduced during 18 years. As I said earlier, not only do the Government constantly invent their own burdens for business, they gold-plate directives from Europe. They accede to Europe--far from being at the heart of Europe, they are the appeaser of Europe. They agree to provisions that benefit French and German businesses at the expense of British businesses.

Mr. Brady: My hon. Friend alludes to regulations from Europe. Did not the previous Conservative Administration actually make strenuous efforts to slow or stem the flow of regulation from Brussels? Indeed, through the opt-out from the social chapter, we put in place one of the most critical impediments to over-regulation. By removing that opt-out, the Labour Government have opened the floodgates and have ensured that an increasing torrent of regulation will come into the United Kingdom. We shall have no say in whether we either accept or implement it.

Mr. Fabricant: In his typically calm way, my hon. Friend hits on the heart of the matter. Not only has that

19 Mar 2001 : Column 83

surrender to Europe on social legislation meant that we have had to suffer burdens during the past three or four years, but it is a blank cheque for the future. During the next few years, a whole tranche of regulation will be directed at us; we shall have no right of veto over it. Sometimes I wonder why I stand up in this Parliament when it is becoming--at least in this area of activity--a county council to the European Parliament; indeed, not even to the European Parliament, but to the Council of Ministers, who are unelected.

Mr. Hendrick: As someone who has served in the European Parliament, I point out that it introduces legislation that wipes out thousands of regulations throughout the EU--resulting overall in a net reduction in legislation in the 15 member states. Furthermore, I note that the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) said that with regard to regulation

May I ask--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman might not ask--two bites at the cherry are enough.

Mr. Fabricant: The hon. Gentleman raises two issues. I am glad, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you did not allow him to make four or five points. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning). Some 3,000 regulations in 18 years represents far too much regulation, but we must control any regulation that hinders employment. Although we want regulations that ensure that people are cared for and protected at work, including the minimum wage, it is no good if those regulations prevent people from being employed in the first place. After all, did not a famous man once say, "You can't make a poor man rich by making a rich man poor"? Can any hon. Member tell me who said that? Abraham Lincoln said it.

Mr. Hendrick: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the previous Government introduced 3,367 regulations in 1995, 3,291 in 1996, and 3,199 in 1997?

Mr. Fabricant: The hon. Gentleman can quote as much as he likes from his Labour party brief. I agree with him that there is too much legislation that burdens business. That is why Conservative Members support the principle of the Bill. However, we oppose the Bill itself because it is a sham. The hon. Gentleman knows that we shall have a general election on 3 May, unless there is a major increase in the rate of foot and mouth infection. The Prime Minister has made it clear that the county council elections will take place then, which is simply code for there being a general election on 3 May. So let us not kid ourselves--the Bill cannot become law unless, God forbid, the rate of infection of foot and mouth disease becomes far worse, in which case even this Prime Minister would have to accept that the general election should be postponed.

I welcome any legislation that will get the balance right, but the Government have nothing of which to be proud. I make that point again because it must sink into

19 Mar 2001 : Column 84

the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hendrick), who, all the time that I am speaking, reads his Labour party brief. I remind him that the United States and Europe have enjoyed a very healthy economic climate and that the Government have enjoyed the good fortune of inheriting that legacy and also that of the previous Conservative Government. [Interruption.] The Minister for the Cabinet Office laughs, but I remind her that the rate of growth in the economy has been increasing constantly--boom and boom--since 1993. It has slowed down only since 1997, but, because of the success of the Labour party's spin, she believes her own party's lies.

It is untrue to say that economic growth and good fortune have happened only since 1997. There has been continued growth since 1993, but it has slowed down since 1997, and it has done so in manufacturing, where, uniquely among the G7 countries, we have lost 300,000 jobs through European legislation and the sheer volume of expensive legislative burdens introduced by this Government.

Next Section

IndexHome Page