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13 Nov 2002 : Column 53—continued

Brian White (Milton Keynes, North-East): Is the right hon. Gentleman advocating that every industry should receive the same subsidy as the agricultural industry?

Mr. Redwood: I am not advocating that, although I am advocating a system that delivers health free at the point of use and therefore rightly attracts much heavier subsidies overall than the agricultural industry. The hon. Gentleman will also realise that if we broke up the CAP or distanced ourselves it, as the Government sometimes say they want to but never manage to do, we could buy our wheat on the international market at a considerably lower price with no subsidy and we would have even cheaper bread from the free enterprise bakery industry, which has delivered so well throughout my time in the House. The difference between our handling of the bread supply and the way in which we sort out our hospitals is that we allow ingenuity, innovation, choice and freedom in the one and we have centralisation, bureaucracy and control in the other.

I shall give the House another, even more relevant, analogy: I have never noticed that we have a shortage of hotel beds or holiday places. Many people want to go on holiday at the same time of year, but that does not seem to cause a peaking problem, and many want to use hotels in the same town or city at the same time, particularly when they go to party conferences or pensions conferences, but the free enterprise sector manages to take care of all that. Magically, there are places, and people are not normally turned away. We do not hear many modern versions of the Christmas story with people being turned away as a result of a shortage of hotel accommodation such as that which unfortunately occurred when taxation got in the way in the holy land some 2,000 years ago.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that in both cases there is a

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considerable surplus, which makes it possible to offer choice? He may not regular attend Prayers, but does he accept that we pray for our daily bread every day in this House?

Mr. Redwood: I do not know where the hon. Gentleman has been. I have often prayed in the House and my prayer has always been answered. That demonstrates the miracle of combining religious faith with free enterprise. At the risk of not showing due deference to one much mightier than anyone here, I have a suspicion that free enterprise has rather more to do with that particular prayer being answered, but that is all part of the greater scheme. All this will come to pass, even to the hon. Gentleman in due course when he seeks a place far higher than he has already achieved in this mortal life. [Interruption.] I would not be so cruel as to suggest that he wishes to go to the other place, and I do not believe that the Government would allow him to do so.

If the Government really meant what the Prime Minister told the Labour party conference, they would break up the monoliths of state provision. The Prime Minister certainly talks the talk but on this occasion he is unable to walk the walk because he is supported, or undermined, by Ministers and Members of Parliament who simply do not have their heart in public service reform. That is why it is the duty of the Conservative party, the Loyal Opposition, to set out how we can give people choice and freedom and how we can achieve the necessary expansion in the capacity of public services.

The hon. Gentleman, who said that the problem is one of shortage, is quite right. Is not it interesting that on transport the Government have such different policies and achieve such different results? I would be happy to support much of the Government's aviation policy because it promotes free enterprise, choice and competition. As a result of pursuing that policy, we have a surplus of airplane seats. We could leave the Chamber and book a flight to almost anywhere, and providers would be scrambling to offer us seats at ever lower prices to try to fill capacity. That is the joy of freedom and free enterprise delivering the goods. If, however, we want to drive a car we are handicapped by having to use a public monopoly road, so we are short of road space. If we want to hire a private sector train seat, we are hamstrung by the insufficient capacity of track and signals in the right areas at the right time of day, so again supply is short thanks to a public monopoly or an over-regulated business.

This Government have over-centralised and over-regulated, and wherever they have intervened most, the catastrophic effects have been greatest. Let us consider recent examples. The Government decided that they knew better than the marketplace how to run a railway, and they intervened very badly in Railtrack. Instead of doing a deal and breaking the monopoly, which would have produced better results, they decided to bankrupt the company and set up Network Rail, an operation financed according to the so-called third way. That has created a massive delay in new projects, a huge overspend and a bonanza for consultants. We are now two or three years away from making any progress in increasing railway capacity, which we need. Where are the new signals, the new lines and the dealing with bottlenecks that are clearly required before we can hope

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to divert more people and freight from road to rail? The Government's intervention has caused delay and damage.

Next, let us take the Government's ham-fisted intervention in this country's examinations system. Many young people have been bitterly disappointed—they were misled about their grades, then led to believe that they would be revised; the grades of some were revised, but others were let down again by being told that their grades were not to be revised after all. Unfortunately, confidence in the system has been damaged by the clumsy intervention of the Government and their quangos. There was a huge row between the quango chief and the Minister responsible: the Minister made sure the quango chief left, then decided that she had to go as well. At least it was an honest resignation. That affair underlines the fact that all too often the Government intervene and make things worse, and that centralisation and bureaucracy do not work.

Precisely the same theme is seen in the Government's law and order policy. In the Gracious Speech, the Government propose a large number of legislative measures, but most people looking at our criminal justice system would say that what is needed is the Government to get out of the way of the police and let them get on with their proper job of trying to apprehend offenders. It is difficult to prosecute people successfully through the courts and produce the right sort of sentences when the rate of detection is so low, so the Government should ask why the rate of detection remains so low.

There are two obvious reasons for that. The first has been set out by my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary—there are not enough policemen. We look forward to the Government spending some of those huge extra sums on recruiting more police, rather than on recruiting more bureaucrats. The other, even more important reason is the use we currently make of our policemen. Any Member of Parliament who goes out in the evenings or at the weekend with the local police force hears the same story—that police are snowed under with paperwork, deluged with circulars, advice notes, requirements and forms. They spend far too much time in the police station handling the paperwork because that is the requirement imposed by the Government and the Home Office.

If the Government got out of the way, if they understood that they could purge the system of a great deal of the paperwork and did so, a lot more policemen would suddenly be able to do what they need to do—walking around, being a visible presence, picking up intelligence from their contacts on the streets, and, immediately after burglaries, thefts and crimes of vandalism and damage, pursuing the people who are likely to have committed the offences, or witnesses who might be able to help. All too often, my constituents tell me that the police were unable to attend within a reasonable period after an offence was committed, so the trail went cold; and the reason that the police were unable to attend was that too many of them were bogged down in paperwork back at headquarters.

We are told that the Government are now on the case and we have been given some fascinating paperwork. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition

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referred to it in his excellent speech, but I think that the House should be given more information. The Government have homed in on the problem of excess paperwork in the education service. To illustrate that, I shall read the project summary from XGood Practice in Cutting Bureaucracy Volume 2"—a real must for any insomniac seeking bedtime reading. The fact that in all there are three volumes of this great tome is itself a delicious irony or a paradox. I cannot detain the House by reading all of it, but it might be helpful if I give a little flavour. The project summary states:

which reminds us that since then the Department has been though changes of name, logo and literature; a worthy expense, I am sure—

very logical—

and so it continues, for several pages. You will have noticed, Madam Deputy Speaker, given your great attention to such matters, that the project summary tries to streamline schools' response to the massive amount of paperwork emanating from the Department for Education and Skills. There is nothing in phase 2 about the Government requiring schools to do less, although their wanting all those things caused the massive workload in the first place.

XGood Practice in Cutting Bureaucracy", which is not necessarily a beginners' guide, as a scholarship in gobbledegook is still required to understand the finer points, expects each school to begin by drawing up a plan—a suitably bureaucratic response—and undertake a thorough review of all the paperwork foisted on it by Her Majesty's Government; it is not allowed to cast that paperwork in the wastepaper bin. The simplest way to get schools moving again is to tell them, XDump everything from the Department in the bin and get on with teaching children."

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