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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is going way beyond the terms of new clause 1. Ritualistic reference to it every now and again is not a substitute for debating it. The points that he is making are much wider than, and not appropriate to, this debate. I say that for the last time.

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4.45 pm

Mr. Bercow: I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I shall be guided by you.

Earlier in my brief remarks, I suggested, in agreeing with my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold, that new clause 1 could and should apply to existing regulation. That is fundamental to our debate. Of course we are concerned to minimise future burdens, but we are informed in our views, guided in our assumptions and encouraged in our arguments by our assessment of what has already taken place.

I think that I remember your helpful distinction, Mr. Deputy Speaker, following a point of order from me, between dilation and animadversion. I know that animadversion is all that I shall be permitted, and that is all that I seek from you. However, it is fundamental to why I believe in the new clause and why I have told a number of constituents this week that I intended to speak in support of it. Many existing regulations, whatever their purpose, and whatever their impact--so far as their immediate beneficiaries are concerned--are implemented in such a way as to inconvenience, burden and make less competitive our companies.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. We have been over this many times, and I must remind the hon. Gentleman that the new clause relates to the regulations that may or may not be made under clause 1. I do not wish to hear him go beyond that.

Mr. Bercow: I am very grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I will be guided by that.

However, this is obviously a matter of considerable dispute. I had a discussion with my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire about it. It is his view, as shadow spokesman for Cabinet Office matters and the parent of the new clause, that if it were passed by the House, it would be capable of rolling back the frontiers of a number of existing regulations. That is all that I have in mind to say on that. I was talking about some of the regulations that have regularly been debated in the House.

Mr. Gray: You have correctly pulled my hon. Friend up once or twice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for talking about previous regulations. However, does he agree that the only way to see the true value of new clause 1, and understand why it is so essential that it should form part of the Bill, is by referring to previous regulation of one sort or another--in business, agriculture, or other areas--that would have fallen off the edge and so no longer have borne down on our people had new clause 1 existed at the time? It is only by using such regulations as an example that--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is inadvertently overruling the ruling that I have given.

Mr. Gray: No.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: In which case, he has not heard it and I will repeat it. This debate, which is a narrow debate despite its length, has to focus on the relevance of new clause 1 to clause 1. This cannot be a general debate about regulations.

Mr. Bercow: I am very grateful to you for that guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by which I stick. I simply

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make the point that one of the reasons for believing that we need to be better protected in the future than we have been in the past is that we rue that past experience. That is a point about which I have regularly expatiated, not least in your presence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in a variety of forums. I will not talk about the parental leave directive, because you will not permit it, and it seems that I am not to be permitted to talk about the merits or demerits of the Part-time Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000. Let me say again, for the avoidance of doubt, that I will not talk about them. However, they are uppermost in my mind when I say to my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire that I believe that the new clause makes good sense.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: When I was making my speech, my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) referred to clause 6, which is mentioned in new clause 1. Clause 6(2)(a) refers to

Does my hon. Friend agree that every new regulation has the incremental effect of imposing extra burdens?

Mr. Bercow: That is certainly true. I do not know whether we are about to have what is described in the parlance of basketball as a time-out, in which consideration of the position can be undertaken, but in the interim, I will continue--

Mr. Lansley: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Bercow: I will--very conveniently.

Mr. Lansley: As my hon. Friend referred to advice that I may have given him about the uses of new clause 1, let me say, for the avoidance of doubt, that its purpose is to require a review by reference to the matters set out in a statement laid under clause 6(2) of regulatory reform orders. As you have quite rightly directed us, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that does not mean that we can discuss regulation willy-nilly, but only those regulations that might be affected by regulatory reform orders made under this legislation. The Government have helpfully set out 51 possible measures, and there may be others, but we cannot discuss the merits of every regulation.

Mr. Bercow: I offer my hon. Friend the bouquet that that is helpful, although I couple it with the brickbat that it is only partly helpful. I will not talk about previous regulations because that, apparently, is not in order. However, subject to your guidance and authority, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think that I am entitled to say that the representatives of business have been arguing for a reduction in the regulatory burden and for a regular and consistent review of imposts ever since the Government took office. I am not making a narrow and partisan point. You know that I am neither narrow nor partisan, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wantage referred earlier to what happened under the previous Government. I intend no discourtesy to someone who is very senior, distinguished, important, respected, influential and busy, with many commitments and a very full diary--namely my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley

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(Mr. Heseltine)--but he did not come up with the review mechanism proposal that has wisely occurred to my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire. If he had done, we might not have needed to debate this today. However, I think that I am entitled to point out, as in business questions earlier today I had occasion to, that representative groups for British business want such policies to be introduced. Whatever they think about the Government's attitude on other matters, whatever their view about the European single currency or late payment of commercial debt and interest charged thereon, they are of one mind about the need to tackle the burgeoning and damaging phenomenon of over-regulation. The British Chambers of Commerce has called for the introduction of a review mechanism. That is what the new clause would do.

We should not overstate the case. We in politics are given to exaggerated ambition and no little rhetorical hyperbole. I do not indulge in it myself, but I am conscious that others do. It is not that I think that as a result of the introduction of the review mechanism proposed in new clause 1 the situation would be perfect. The new clause is not a panacea. It is an incremental measure; indeed, the president of the Adam Smith Institute, Dr. Madsen Pirie, would describe it as a micro-incrementalist measure. It does not take a holistic view and it certainly does not take a wildly radical view. It is rather piecemeal; it is not a provision for sunset clauses, which I originally commended to the House in my ten-minute Bill on 27 April 1999.

I do not want to open up a division with my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire on this subject, because we are both on the Conservative Front Bench. I am a very junior spoke--a minor cog in the wheel--whereas he is a senior and celebrated member of the shadow Cabinet. However, we both sing from the same hymn sheet. I think that he believes that it is better to have half a cake than no cake at all. He is taking a cautious, reasonable, tactical approach to a long-standing problem.

In trying to devise solutions to the problem of the sea of regulation confronted by business, we have to run very fast to stand still. That point was made in a different context by my noble Friend Lord Biffen in relation to public expenditure. The same difficulty in bearing down on existing spending totals applies to regulations. There is a natural leviathan tendency in government. Ministerial advisers are usually keen on more regulation, direction and legislation, for it is, in a sense, their very raison d'etre--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I have been very tolerant with the hon. Gentleman. I have suggested to him on a number of occasions that he has been engaged in irrelevance. I now directly invoke Standing Order No. 42, to remind him and the House that any hon. Member who persists in irrelevance may be required to discontinue his speech. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not oblige me to go down that path.

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