|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) rose--
Mr. Clifton-Brown: I shall give way first to my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham, and then to my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire.
Mr. Bercow: For the avoidance of doubt, will my hon. Friend confirm that one of the main merits of the periodic review, which will occur at five-year intervals, is not only that we can reconsider the policy content of the measure in question, but that we will have the opportunity, to paraphrase the late, great Sir Winston Churchill, to delete language up with which we should not be obliged to put?
Mr. Clifton-Brown: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I think that it was George Bernard Shaw who said that genius is simplicity and that any fool can make things complicated. If we, as legislators, bore that maxim in mind more often, we might produce better legislation. For example, as the tax rewrite Committee parallels the Select Committee on Deregulation, could not that principle be applied more broadly to regulations? One of the factors that should be borne in mind in respect of the quinquennial report is whether the regulation is effective in terms of being regularly understood and sensibly drafted. If we can ensure such effectiveness, we will all be doing a better job.
Mr. Gray: I have been following my hon. Friend's comments with great care. He makes a strong point, but I fear that he cited a poor example by speaking about BSE and the CJD deaths. If the new clause were implemented, the regulation in question would be subject to five-year review. However, many of the tens of thousands of regulations that are in place today, many "up with which we shall not put", affect only minute areas of life and could be left out of the statute book altogether. Should it not be those regulations that fall at the end of the five-year review, rather than those that affect catastrophically important matters?
Mr. Clifton-Brown: If I may say so, my hon. Friend makes a different point. My first point was that scientific evidence and technology move on. We live in a world in which change is occurring at an increasing pace. I intervened on my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield to speak about e-commerce--a theme that I want to develop in a moment. My hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) makes a different point. The fact that we seem to make regulations that affect every aspect of people's lives is important. People's morals, attitudes and life styles can change enormously in five years. Thus what is appropriate now might not be seen to be appropriate in five years' time. That is an especially good reason for introducing the new clause.
Finally, I should like to speak about technological change. I intervened on my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield to speak about e-commerce. I believe that, in respect of a raft of financial and trade legislation, e-commerce will rapidly change the way in which we do business. The movement around the world of electronic information and hundreds of millions--or even billions--of pounds at the touch of a button will produce a need for regulatory authorities to be very much quicker on their feet.
A culture of blame and litigation is growing in this country; that unfortunate trend stems from the United States of America. We should resist it. The Bill goes a long way, but not all the way, towards that. It would be greatly improved by new clause 1, and I hope that the Minister will provide a cogent and detailed response.
Mr. Bercow: It is a delight even at this late stage to contribute to the debate. I shall begin by placing my remarks in context. My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) opened the debate with skill and reason. He was followed in characteristically thoughtful fashion by my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson), who is sadly no longer in his place. He was a distinguished member of the previous Government, and he reminded us of their approach to such matters. His speech was followed by a powerful oration from my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant), who was duly succeeded by my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton).
I shall not indulge in any personal asides that would cause your brow to furrow, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Suffice it to say that, passionate opponent of regulation though I am, I do not object to being frequently regulated--the regulation is periodically reviewed--by my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton. She made the case in a formidable fashion, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown).
I regret the tone of Labour Members' speeches. The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Stewart) knows that I hold him in considerable affection and esteem, but there was much belated and retrospective special pleading from Labour Members. They did not focus on the justice of the case and the sequence of historical events that led to the growing clamour for a review mechanism as proposed in new clause 1. They appeared to wish to dam it simply by referring to the work of the Deregulation Committee. However, that Committee's perceived feebleness, inadequacy and comatose deliberations partly led to the current troubling position. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire proposed new clause 1, about which I have much to say. Before I do that, I give way to my senior colleague.
Mr. Steen: As a member of the comatose Deregulation Committee, I agree with my hon. Friend's epithets whole-heartedly. I am sure that he realises that the reason for our new clauses is well illustrated by the Committee's behaviour. Only one regulation has been repealed this year, and only one last year. Yet more than 2,500 new regulations were introduced by statutory instrument this year. Our case is made.
Mr. Bercow: My hon. Friend makes a pertinent point with which I agree. I am getting old and my memory is not what it was, but I cannot recall whether he was present for Scottish questions earlier this week.
Mr. Bercow: I am sure that my hon. Friend had pressing business elsewhere. However, had he been present, he would have heard a brief exchange between the Secretary of State for Scotland and me. That exchange was not carried on all the news bulletins, but it was significant because I argued that the massive increase in regulation justified a review mechanism and a reconsideration of the wholly inadequate approach that the Government have adopted thus far. By contrast, the right hon. Lady, who oozed smug complacency--I apologise for the serious understatement of which I am guilty--believed that the Government's record was fine, that we had nothing of which to complain, and that business was queueing up to congratulate the Government on the merits of their policies. That is not the case, as my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen), who has a long-standing background in small business, knows well.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. May I ask the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow), who has not been in the House as long as the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen), not to be lured by his wiles into moving away from new clause 1, which is the focus of the debate and specifically relates to the regulations in clause 1?
Mr. Bercow: I shall not be lured by the wiles of any hon. Member, with the possible exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton. However, for the avoidance of doubt, I stress that I am always and unfailingly constrained and guided by the wisdom that you generously volunteer in a paternal fashion towards me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I worry about your furrowed brow, so I shall not test your patience with a lengthy dilation on the philosophical background to the case for new clause 1.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire, brilliant though he is, is known for a certain restraint, self-effacement and reluctance loudly to speak up for his point of view or his record. I therefore hope that he will not mind if I do it for him. He has a strong background in such matters, not least through his experiences as deputy director general of the British Chambers of Commerce. He was a distinguished occupant of that post. He knows that the authentic voices of British business genuinely desire deregulation and review of the existing encumbrance of regulation, which damages our companies. I shall consider that important subject later, but my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield referred, not entirely accurately, to the stance of my noble Friend Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, and I wish to explain briefly that the Opposition have three guiding lights or mentors on new clause 1.
No debate on regulation, deregulation, enterprise or the development of entrepreneurial potential would be complete without reference to Dr. Ludwig Erhard, the post-war Chancellor of Germany. He first devised the idea of a deregulatory mechanism and the need to apply it across the board to administrative imposts and burdens,