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"welcomes the steps the Government is taking to remove unnecessary regulations and rationalise inspection arrangements in both the public and private sectors; acknowledges the additional freedoms given to high performing schools, hospitals and local councils; notes the lead the Government has taken in driving forward the better regulation agenda in Europe; recognises the benefits that well-targeted and proportionate regulation can bring in driving up standards; and further notes that the UK is seen by international observers as a leader in the field of regulatory reform and that the success of the UK economy reflects the approach the Government has taken.".
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) on his speech. I enjoyed his peroration. I do not know whether he will put his hat in the ring for the soon-to-be-declared vacancy in the leadership of his party. He certainly pulled in a decent crowd tonight, so it looks as though he might be in with a shout. All the best to him, because I think it is true to say that all my right hon. and hon. Friends would welcome him as Leader of the Opposition. If he were to inherit that jewel in the British constitution, we might see a little more of him in general elections than we did in the one that just took place.
I want to say a few words by way of introduction. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the motion. For a fleeting moment, I thought that I, too, could be prepared to lend my support to it. However, I prefer my words to his and I am sure he will understand why. Although he made a good speech, and I congratulate him on that, the problem with it was that there were four fundamental flaws.
First, the right hon. Gentleman really needed to establish that the UK economy was performing badly because of the Government's approach to regulation. Sadly for him, the facts do not support his arguments. They suggest the opposite. To give him creditI always want to be fair to himhe certainly did his best; in fact, he tortured the data until they eventually confessed to him. But as we all knowand the lawyers in the House will know better than anyone elseevidence obtained under duress is never admissible to prosecute a case. He will have to find some more supportive evidence.
Does my right hon. Friend remember speeches made by Conservative Members, when they were in government, about the threat to jobs if a national minimum wage were to be introduced? Does he remember the claims that it would cost between
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1.5 million and 2 million jobs? Does not the fact that we have 2 million more jobs, not 1.5 million fewer, show that it is possible to strike a balance between reducing regulation and setting good, sound minimum standards so that people are properly protected at work?
Mr. Hutton: I agree with my hon. Friend. I understand that, only a few months ago, the right hon. Gentleman said that he thought that his observations and calculations about the minimum wage were spot on. They were notthey were completely off the target. There are 2 million new jobs in the UK economy, not 2 million fewer, as he and his hon. Friends predicted.
David Taylor: Did my right hon. Friend hear, as I thought I did, the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) cite Germany with some approval towards the end of what passed for a peroration? Research paper 05/53, produced by the economic policy and statistics section of the Library, uses three key figures to show, first, on the output per hour measure, that Germany lags behind the United Kingdom; secondly, on the labour market figure, that the level of employment in Germany is significantly less than in the UK; and, thirdly, on the tax burden, that the UK figure of 37.1 per cent. is significantly below that of Germany. How does he account for those three figures if Germany is doing so well in its deregulated idyll?
Mr. Hutton: I am not sure how the right hon. Gentleman can account for that obvious discrepancy. I want to return to the UK's relative position vis-à-vis the other member states of the European Union. The British economy is certainly outperforming on most of those comparators in the EU.
Mr. Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): Will the Minister enlighten us? We keep hearing about how many jobs have been created. I would be interested to know how many of the 1.5 million to 2 million jobs that have been created by the Government are jobs for bureaucrats, and how many of those individuals are regulators?
Mr. Hutton: I think about two thirds of those jobs are in the private sector. As for the additional jobs in the public sector, I do not know what the hon. Gentleman's definition of "bureaucrats" is, but I remember that, when I was in the Department of Health, he and his hon. Friends who sit on the Front Bench used to describe porters, cleaners and other staff who play a very important role in the national health service as "bureaucrats" and "pen-pushers". That is simply not the case. Perhaps he wants to make that point in his own speech. My job is to enlighten him, as he rightly said, and if he will bear with me, I intend to try to.
The second problem with the right hon. Gentleman's speech is that he needed to show that his own record and that of his party supported the case that he made this evening. Frankly, it does not. His own and the Conservatives' record in government fail to match the rhetoric that he deployed in his speech tonight, and I want to return to that point in a minute.
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Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con): Even the Minister would not argue that farm businesses have prospered under this Government. Farm businesses have been faced with ever-greater regulation, ranging from fallen stock to controls on livestock markets. Farm incomes have fallen consistently. The number of people in farming has also declined since 1997. What assessment has he made of the impact on farming of the Government's activities and, in particular, regulation since 1997?
Mr. Hutton: We are certainly working to support farming. As for the hon. Gentleman's point about regulation, to be fair him, too, I am sure that he would be prepared to acknowledge that many of the regulations he complains about were introduced to try to sort out the mess that the Conservative Government left on BSE and other such problems. Many of those regulations were introduced by that Government.
I want to come in a second to the wider issue about sectors, but there is a third fundamental flaw in the right hon. Gentleman's case. He needed to demonstrate that the UK's position in relation to regulatory matters was getting worse vis-à-vis our international competitors. In that respect, too, he had a major problem. There is plenty of evidence from this country and abroad that the UK is making good progress on better regulationevidence that he conveniently failed to mention. In fact, he overlooked the views of the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Heritage Foundation and the International Monetary Fundall of which he is usually keen to pray in aid. Sadly for him, no such succour or support was available to him from those sources tonightand again it showed.
Finally, the right hon. Gentleman completely failed to present a sensible analysis of European regulatory issues. He was again overcome by his visceral hatred for everything that originates from the European Union. In fact, he got his best cheers when he was ranting at his very best about the evils of the European Union. I got the sense that he wanted to rerun some of the arguments that we had during the recent general election. Of course, I am very happy for him to do so: Labour won that election. In rehearsing all the failed policies that the Conservative party put before the British people in May, he has only served to remind Labour Members why the British people chose to return Labour for a record third term in office.
Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): I think that it was in 2000 or 2001 that the EU had the Lisbon summit, at which those involved pledged to create 20 million new jobs by 2010. Will the Minister explain in his own words why it is so palpably clear to all hon. Members that we will miss that target? In fact, Europe collectively has not created one new job in that period.
I certainly want to deal with Europe in a second, if the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, but we are doing very well, thank you, in this country because of the policies that we are pursuing.
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