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David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): I am tempted to suggest that we follow the American example and have a "Warren" commission to investigate the matter. On a serious point, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is being a little unfair to local government, which often responds to the pressures and constraints of its insurers. It is not necessarily the local authorities that pursue such issues to the point of lunacy.
Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes) (Con): Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Health and Safety Executive now has some 9,000 officials? They have recommended that the hairbrushes should be withdrawn from the Members' Cloakroom on the basis that we may catch nits or AIDS. They are also of the view that Members should not use kettles in case we burn ourselves, so we all now have hot-water systems. Is my right hon. Friend aware of these ridiculous attitudes, which mean that the HSE affects us even here?
Mr. Redwood: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for a powerful intervention. However, if I were to assert that there were nits in the House, it might be deemed unparliamentary language, so I shall not go any further down that route.
Nine different forms have to be filled in before a teacher can take children on a school trip, and if a swimming pool visit is involved, another two are added. I shall not read the forms out, but they are bizarre in their detail and complexity. Of course, teachers should need permission and should behave reasonablyI am sure that they dobut they should not need to fill in nine forms. The regulations are becoming an impediment to organising trips and it is easier not to bother.
Then there are regulations that achieve the opposite of what was intended. The common fisheries policy is perhaps the best and biggest example of that. In the name of conservation, fishermen are told that they have to hurl dead fish back into the sea if they catch the wrong kind of fish. That means that they have to go and catch more of the right kind of fish for people to eat, instead of being able to sell the dead fish and avoid having to rape the seabed further. That is madness. The Government must recognise that and either use some of their influence in Brussels to achieve a fundamental revision of the CFP or repatriate the policy, as the Conservatives wish to do.
Then there are regulations that miss the target. The Government's policy for tackling road accidents and deathsan important issuehas been based almost entirely on the control of speed. They have not been deterred by the fact that less than one in 10 of all accidents on the road has speed as a prime or important cause and they have ignored all the evidence that shows that many dangerous accidents occur well below the maximum speed limit at junctions with a conflict of traffic and different types of users on the same road space. Because the policy rested on speed cameras, we had a reversal in the trend for several years and road deaths started going up again. I am pleased that figures for the most recent year show an overall fall, but in the area most dependent on speed camerasnorth Walesthe trend in deaths and serious accidents has continued to rise. The Government should consider that and accept that their single over-regulated policy is not working, because it does not tackle the causes of the problem.
Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con):
Does my right hon. Friend agree that we have a complete imbalance in
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regulation? On the one hand we have some 5,000 deaths a year on the roads[Hon. Members: "Three and a half thousand."] I meant approximately. On the other hand, the use of certain mineral and vitamin supplements will be banned even though there are few, if any, recorded cases of anybody dying from their use.
Then there are the regulations that seek to make people's lives difficult by being unnecessarily complicated. For example, there are the regulations for people seeking to obtain new pub licences to sell alcohol. The paperwork is enormous. I do not have time to read out any highlights, but there are pages and pages of information. I have identified 24 forms and guidance notes that people will have to wade through to see which is appropriate for their case; everything from feedback forms to premises licences, variation licences, personal licences, club premises certificates, provisional statements and so forth. Anyone trying to run a pub or club now has to wade through 24 itemsprobably with a lawyer helping themsimply to stay in business. The Government must be extremely worried that so many pubs, clubs and other businesses have not yet applied for premises licences, and that so many people in the trade have not yet applied for personal licences. The deadline is close and there could be chaos in due course, because the Government have made people's lives impossible and caused them so much difficulty.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: Does my right hon. Friend recall that nine months ago the Department for Trade and Industry, the arch-regulator of Departments, had to pulp, at a cost to the taxpayer of about £203,000, the dispute resolution procedure for employers and employees? The procedure made things even more complicated by pretending that it was a one, two or three-step process; in fact there were 13 steps. Even the TUC criticised the regulations, saying that they were too complicated and more likely to cause confusion than to solve workplace problems, and the Federation of Small Businesses condemned them as a potential minefield for small firms. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is another example of over-complication, missing the target and Government irresponsibility?
Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend join me in asking Ministers to tell us whether they have made a survey of the working men's and other voluntary clubs and sports clubs that have been caught up in the drink licensing regime? Amateurs who run such clubs often have to hire the skills of professionals and pay for them, as well as paying more in fees.
Much of the regulation of the public sector distorts professional judgments and does damage to the public services that people are trying to run. The education and
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health targets substitute political priorities for the things that teachers and doctors would do based on their professional judgment. In hospitals, we need to trust the professionals to assess clinical risks and to make their own decisions within the resources available. In the education sector, we need to trust teachers rather more. Instead, a whole army of targets pours forth from Whitehall; there are endless advice notes and guidance notes making it extremely difficult for people to do the job on the ground.
Local government is tied up in knots by the Government. They sometimes say that they like the idea of more devolved local decision making but in practice they take power to the centre. We would like to see the end of the best value and comprehensive performance regimes, which would save £1,000 million in unnecessary overheads and free our councils to get on with the job and answer more directly to their electors. That should be an important part of any deregulation Bill that comes before the House, and if by any chance it has escaped the Government's attention, I trust that we shall be able to move an amendment to give them the chance to include such provisions, which would be much welcomed by Labour as well as by Conservative and Lib Dem councillors.
In the case of village halls, many people who would like to work for community purposes find it too daunting owing to the 18 health and safety regulations and the new difficulties over drinks licences. One modest proposal from the village hall movement is to double the number of temporary entertainment events notices that they can hold, to allow alcohol to be used on village hall premises. Without some flexibility and common sense from the Government, village halls face a bleak future. Surely, the Government can give us some hope tonight about some sensible deregulation to help important community facilities run by volunteers.
Finally in my deregulation list, we come to the Financial Services Authority and City regulation. We learn that the Prime Minister seems to be in disagreement with the Treasurynothing surprising there, thenon the question of how good the FSA is and whether it is too intrusive. Recently, I saw the City of London corporation's interesting piece of research on the implementation of the money-laundering regulations in the UK, which we had to implement in line with other European partners. Overseas territories outside the EU implemented something similar based on the original G7 agreement. The independent judgment commissioned by the corporation found that it cost twice as much in relation to gross domestic product to implement the regulations in Britain as in Germany. That is a huge over-reaction by Britain. The report goes on to say that the regulations do not make the UK safer from money-laundering than Germany; they are just a costly way of doing it. So, we have a paper chase where people have to take gas bills, electricity bills and passports to their building society just to pay in £100, even though they may have been banking there for many years. Surely something can be done to relieve all that.
I hope that when the Minister responds he will propose some virile, strong and sensible deregulation. I hope that he will tell us what the Government plan to do during their EU presidency. I hope that he will put reform of the CAP and the common fisheries policy at the top of his list. I hope that he will have something to
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say about vitamins and food supplements, to bring relief to those who value those products and want to carry on buying them. I hope that he will tell us that there is to be real deregulation in his deregulation Bill and not just a lot of mumbo-jumbo and promises to do better in the future, and I hope that he will announce tonight that the Government have seen enough of the public reaction to ID cards and that they will not go ahead with that massive, expensive and over-the-top regulation in search of a problem.
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