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A very large number of jobs, especially in the public sector, have been created, but the right hon. Gentleman is wrong to ignore the 1 million manufacturing jobs that have gone. That is very serious. We have had several manufacturing recessionsnot overall recessionsduring the Government's term of office, and Treasury Ministers are quite wrong to ignore the stresses and strains in manufacturing, as they have for so long in government. It is particularly rich for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who spent so many days and hours in opposition over the long years, to make claims about the statistics. Figures from the Library
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show that, from time to time, manufacturing jobs were lost under the last Conservative Government, and the Chancellor always led the public to believe that it would be very different under Labour. What he did not explain was that, in respect of job losses, the difference would be consistent and on a huge scale.
Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Only last week, a manufacturing firm, Pennine Fibres, in Denholmea village that is certainly not in the most affluent part of the areaclosed down, costing another 80 jobs in my constituency. Part of the reason why that happens is that there is so little expertise among Government Front Benchers at running a business. They simply do not understand the problems they are causing.
Mr. Redwood: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I hope that he will convey the Opposition's sadness about those job losses to those who have suffered them. It is a very good example of a more general problem. As businesses have made the Opposition aware, such problems are the result of Government actions. Today, for example
Andrew Miller: Before the right hon. Gentleman moves on from manufacturing jobs, may I tell him that, unlike him, I represent a manufacturing constituency? It currently has 1.4 per cent. unemployment. I accept that many manufacturing jobs have been lost, but that has been the pattern throughout the western world. What regulationsnot European regulations, but regulations specific to the Governmentwould he scrap to make us more competitive with countries such as China and India, where many of the jobs have gone? What changes would he make?
Mr. Redwood: The hon. Gentleman wrongly claims from a sedentary position that I am frightened. I am not at all frightened, as I am sure the House knows, and I am about to come on to the regulations that we believe should be repealed in forthcoming Government legislation to make us considerably more competitive.
Before I finish this general point, it is worth reminding the House that we read from an extensive brief in one of the leading newspapers today that the Government now believe that the total cost of regulation each year is £150 billion. Indeed, the very arresting headline said that regulation now costs everyone more than the Inland Revenue charged us all in income tax. It is a terrifying figure. Those who saw the article will know
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that it continued by pointing out that a team of about 80 officials are working away over a nine-month period to try to come up with an entirely accurate costing. [Interruption.] I am asked whether the figure is true. I cannot verify it completely tonight, having only seen it this morning, but it seems a pretty good ball park figure and it feels plausible, given that we know that the cumulative total of extra regulation under the Government is £40 billion. They inherited some of that, but made it worse through over-implementation.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): Perhaps I can throw a little light on just a fraction of that burden. Is my right hon. Friend aware that Hampshire county council, which has consistently been rated excellent without the necessity for all these targets, has supplied me with a list of more than 22 A4 pages listing 400 indices, targets and standards of performance on which it is obliged to report. It uses up resources equivalent to the employment of between six and eight teachers in simply reporting back to the Government on the extent to which it has managed to meet the overwhelming burden of targets imposed on it.
Mr. Redwood: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. It is one of many examples that Members could provide, and some will, about the huge impact of such regulation and how it diverts people and money from things that are worth doingin my hon. Friend's case, the good example of providing more teachersto things that are not worth doing, which amounts to bossiness gone mad.
The Government churn out more than 4,100 new regulations a year, or 16 for every working day. Our position in the world competitiveness league, as measured by the World Economic Forum, has fallen from fourth when the Government took office, to 11th today. They should be extremely worried by that.
What could we do? Several straightforward steps could be taken, by a deregulation Bill, which we have been promised, and through the mechanism of the EU presidency, with the UK guiding the agenda with our partners in Europe on the regulations that fall from the Brussels printing presses. After all, the Government are undoubtedly good at one or two things[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] Well, Labour Members will love this. One of those things is making ever more rules and regulations that become the bane of our lives. Some of those regulations miss their target, some hit the wrong targets and some, such as ID cards, are regulations in search of a target, as the Government try to find something that the cards could achieve, having decided that they must tie us up in knots with that legislation.
There are the regulations that try to protect us when we do not need protecting. The vitamin supplements and food additive regulations are the combined effort of Brussels and this Government. As always under this Government, we have gold-plated those regulations and steamed ahead to implement them this summer. They were of course too sensible to implement them just before the general election. Even this Government realise that the regulations are mightily unpopular, but they will be implemented this summer. That will mean price increases and bans for popular products, affecting millions of people who would like to continue to be able to buy them.
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We read, in briefings from mysterious sources, that the Prime Minister himself is aware of how foolish and unpopular the regulations will be. I praise Carole Caplin, because I understand that she is a sage adviser on that issue and I wish her every success in strengthening the Prime Minister's arm against those regulations. Will the Government promise tonight that they will take counter-proposals to Brussels on that issue? Will they try to sort it out before it grinds its way through the courts? Will they accept tonight that the regulation is unnecessary and that they should use some political capital to get it rescinded in Brussels?
Then there are those regulations that seem to have no purpose at all. Identity cards started life as a means of stopping illegal immigrants entering the country. When we pointed out that people need a passport to enter the country and that there was no need to require a different document that was available only to those established as British citizens anyway, the Government backed away from that proposal and said that ID cards could be used for crime busting. The quality of criminals is probably higher than the Government reckon, so I suspect that few burglars will take their ID cards with them and drop them on the doormat before they leave the house with the goodies. Short of that happening, it is difficult to see how ID cards would have a huge impact on catching criminals who break into our homes or do damage to our cars. Now, we are told that ID cards will combat identity theft. Apparently, that is a growing and serious crime and the Government think ID cards will combat it when national insurance numbers, passports and other means of identification, including driving licences, cannot. Next week, ID cards may be an essential aid for anyone who has to go to a computer dating agency to sort out their social life.
Then we have the regulations that are over the top and silly, out of all proportion to the possible risk. We have the risk assessments that are now demanded by some councils before people can undertake sponsored walks. I read about a case a few weeks ago when the council said that the person organising the sponsored walk had to walk the circuit three days in advance and ensure that there were no dangerous rabbit holes. If there were, the organiser had to ensure that everybody on the walk was fully briefed about them before going on the walk. However, nobody told the rabbits, any of which could have dug a dangerous hole between the reconnaissance and the briefing. I wondered whether the briefing would cover that crucial point. Can the Government not see that that is ridiculous and put something in the Bill about proportionality to try to calm down such activity?
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