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Mr. Fabricant: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. The whole House recognises his expertise in agriculture. I do not claim to compete with him on his knowledge of agricultural affairs, even though there are
Mr. Fabricant: I am very conscious of the fact that you think it might not be germane, Madam Deputy Speaker, but it is because new clause 1 seeks to level the playing field, as, I hope, my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire will confirm. The example of the supermarket clearly shows that France, at least, does not abide by EU regulations. Waitrose and, no doubt, other supermarkets have spent hundreds of millions of pounds in the past few years complying with British and EU regulations, whereas that is not the case at least in that large supermarket in Boulogne.
I hope that new clause 1 will consider not only whether regulations should have been introduced in the first place, but whether they are enforced more strictly in the United Kingdom than in other EU countries. That should form part of the review that is mentioned in new clause 1(1). I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire will confirm that, when European directives are enforced in the United Kingdom, they will be examined in terms of not only their content but their application. That follows on directly from the points--some of them admirable--made by the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr. White). These are the key issues.
Regulations that are not enforced will not be a burden on industry or society but, if they are concerned with the protection of the individual, they will not provide protection. Not only the content of regulations but their application need to be considered. That means considering whether they are applied not only in this country but in a similar manner in other countries.
Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston): Has the hon. Gentleman done any research or cost-benefit analysis on the speed of implementation of European Union directives in other EU member states? Would he be willing to place that burden on civil servants in the United Kingdom?
Mr. Fabricant: The hon. Gentleman raises a very interesting point, and I am grateful to him for doing so; he is right to ask that question. I have not done that analysis, but I have read analyses produced by the British Chambers of Commerce, the Engineering Employers Federation and by many other organisations. I am sure that he has read them, too.
Mr. Lansley: My hon. Friend might be interested to learn that, in a report produced for Politeia recently, Nicholas Boys Smith estimated the proportions of the regulatory burden on industry that derived from UK legislation and from EU legislation: half the total cost of £12.6 billion by May 2001 derives from EU legislation.
Mr. Fabricant: That is very revealing. It demonstrates that, if EU regulation were enforced in the same way in other countries and were enshrined in national law in the same way throughout the EU, the burden might be difficult, but it would be equal. Does that not demonstrate that the problem in this country is one of gold-plating and of enforcement?
You will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, of the businesses in the Lichfield area that have suffered as a direct consequence of EU regulation. Does the House believe that we are punching our weight in the European Union, given that we are the second largest contributor to EU funds? However, I shall rapidly move on from that point.
In answer to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire, I remind him that an Institute of Directors' press release has pointed out that, not only has Britain become less competitive, but that that has happened primarily because
Mrs. Ann Winterton: My hon. Friend raises an issue about competition, regulation and what is happening in some European countries--and he mentioned Germany. Is he aware that Germany is exporting its manufacturing industry because of the increased regulation that he has described? The European Union will have to tackle that issue head on if there is not be to a disaster for manufacturing throughout.
Mr. Bercow: My hon. Friend's speech has been characterised by the restraint and self-effacement for which he is renowned on both sides of the House. I hope very much that he will not conclude his remarks without reminding us of the scenario that he faced as a small business man in the 1980s. Will he confirm for the record and beyond peradventure that, if he were faced with the decision as to whether to start up a broadcasting business in the context of this Government's regulatory policies, he probably would not do so and he would probably not be in the favourable position in which he now is, having sold it so that he can concentrate 100 per cent. on his duties in the House?
Mr. Fabricant: Again, I see the expression on your face, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I agree with my hon. Friend. The environment now would make it quite difficult for me to start up a business. New clause 1 would ensure that businesses can start up in the future and that those that are already established survive.
The weakness of the Bill is that it is full of good intentions, just as my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) was filled with good intentions when he also tried to regulate the number of new regulations--that sounds like a contradictions in terms--being introduced in the House and imposed on business. The importance of new clause 1 is that it would lead to a review after the fifth year and, as I said in an intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire, that is important for two reasons.
The first is that it is not always easy to anticipate the effects of a regulation when it is introduced. Secondly--this is an important point--the circumstances of a regulation in a business environment can change. Businesses in 2001 might have to operate in circumstances that are very different from the prevailing conditions in 1997. We have seen that happen time and again. I shall not repeat myself, but this country's competitiveness has fallen from fourth to ninth place.
The new clause is important because it forces the Government to act. However, it has two weaknesses. First, it is not a sunset clause. I want it to be stronger. A review is helpful, but not enough. The new clause should provide for laws to be repealed if the cost-benefit analysis finds that they are an excessive burden on business. Secondly, I am not totally satisfied that the review happens only once. My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire did not manage to convince me about that. He conceded that circumstances in a business environment can change after five years, but they can change again after 10 and 15 years. All regulations need to be kept under constant review, but not by the mechanism espoused by the hon. Member for Eccles because it has clearly not worked.