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Mr. Henderson : Has my hon. Friend drawn the same inference as I have on the question of air movement taxes? Were it to discourage an operator from flying less full planes, the reality would be that areas such as Lerwick, Stornoway, Inverness, St. Ives or Newquay—whatever the airport in Cornwall is called; I have been there and it is a nice airport—and others would receive a much poorer service than they do at present. Such a tax would discriminate especially against rural and sparsely populated communities—[Interruption.]

Rob Marris: I agree, but the Liberal Democrats are saying no. So what will the tax do if it will not discourage aircraft movement? They are trying to have it both ways.

The law of unintended consequences may also apply to road user charging. Supporters of a per mile or per kilometre charge need to be careful about the psychology of some people—including me. If I paid by the mile, I might think that as I was doing my bit for green taxes I might as well drive a few more miles. The unintended consequence might be that people drive more miles. If the response from the Liberal Democrats would be to jack up the price, I am sure that that would be really popular with their rural constituents.

The hon. Lady also talked about personal debt. I do not know how to say this without sounding patronising, but I was around in the early 1990s, when she was quite a lot younger. The present low interest rates and economic stability mean that the ability of people to service their debts is completely different now. One cannot simply say that the gross amount is similar and that we will therefore have a crash like we did in the early 1990s.

Chris Huhne: The hon. Gentleman does not appear to be aware that the debt service levels, including both interest payments and capital repayments, are nearly back to the same level as they were at the beginning of the 1990s. So my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Julia Goldsworthy) was correct in her point and the hon. Gentleman is misinformed.

Rob Marris: Not at all. The hon. Gentleman carefully qualifies his point with the adverb "nearly", which his hon. Friend did not do, and that makes the difference. It is necessary to be more exact when making such claims.
 
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The hon. Lady also claimed that the rising number of bankruptcies was evidence of her point. Bankruptcy is very sad in most cases, but she failed to mention that the Government have made it easier and more attractive to declare bankruptcy. I leave aside the issue of whether that was a desirable change, but it has been followed by—I posit that it is cause and effect, but I cannot demonstrate it empirically—a rise in the number of bankruptcies. That is more likely to be the driver in the rise in the number of bankruptcies than the level of personal debt.

Julia Goldsworthy: What about repossessions, which are also increasing significantly?

Rob Marris: If someone declares bankruptcy, their house will be repossessed. It is quite simple.

Mr. Heath: Not a very attractive proposition.

Rob Marris: Well, some people have been queuing up to do that.

We have heard talk of regulation and the taxation burden. I have here the "Burdens Barometer 2006" from the British Chambers of Commerce. As hon. Members will see, it is a long list of 69—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. The use of visual aids is not encouraged in the Chamber, partly because it makes it difficult for the Official Reporters to understand what the hon. Gentleman is talking about.

Rob Marris: The document is about 80 cm long and 20 cm wide, and printed with a list of 69 so-called burdens. I shall go through them, so that the Official Reporter has a chance to understand my point about the desire for simplification and reduction of the regulatory burden, which has been expressed forcefully, especially by the Conservative party.

From the titles of the regulations, hon. Members will get some idea of whether they are what many of us would see as a good thing or are a burden on business. The first is the

Could be good, or could be bad. Second are the Groundwater Regulations 1998. They are probably a good thing, because they are about the purity of water—farmers would probably like them, although they were the polluters in some cases. Next is the Employment Relations Bill. Well, that will get a thumbs up on this side of the House, but it probably gets a thumbs down from the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats are probably still deciding, even though it was introduced six years ago. Next come the working time regulations. Again, they probably get a thumbs down from the Conservatives, who do not like people having paid time off for their holidays. Fortunately the Government will, I hope, extend that right for a further eight days in the course of this Parliament, pursuant to our manifesto, so those regulations would probably get a thumbs up on this side of the House.
 
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Next we have the Fire Precautions (Workplace) (Amendment) Regulations. They sound good to me and not like too much of a burden. Next on the list is

I am not sure about that, but if anyone can tell me what it is about, I will gladly take an intervention.

Next on the list is the Tax Credits Act 1999 and "accompanying regulations (working families tax credit)". That would get the thumbs up from Labour Members. I am not sure about either of the main Opposition parties, or indeed the nationalist parties although the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Stewart Hosie) will no doubt intervene if appropriate.

Huw Irranca-Davies: One unintended consequence of the tax credits legislation is that 700,000 children have been lifted out of poverty.

Rob Marris: I am not sure that I agree; I suspect that the Chancellor intended that very good consequence.

Here is another burden:

They get a thumbs up from Labour, but not from the Conservatives. I am not sure about the Liberal Democrats. They might like to intervene to tell me, or they can write to me afterwards—answers on a postcard—[Interruption.] They have run out of ideas.

Next on the list is the Education (Student Loans) (Repayment) Regulations 2000. I suspect that it is probably a good thing to get people to repay their debts, although the Liberal Democrats may have a different view.

I would hope that the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 would receive a thumbs-up from both sides of the House, although the Stakeholder Pension Schemes Regulations 2000 might be more controversial. I am not sure whether that would get a thumbs-up from the Opposition.

No. 12 on the list are the Wireless Telegraphy (Licence Charges) (Amendment) Regulations 2000. If that is the measure whereby the Chancellor raised £23 billion through an auction, it was jolly good for our finances. Indeed, I think that my right hon. Friend is thinking of doing the same thing again, on a lesser scale. I hope that it raises half as much money.

Next comes the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill, parts 1 and 3. I do not think that is unnecessary regulation; nor are the Pesticides (Maximum Residue Levels in Crops, Food and Feeding Stuffs) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2000.

The next one is topical:

That is not a burden, nor are the Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations or the police powers to close disorderly licensed premises under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 or the Biocidal Products
 
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Regulations 2001. I am not a scientist, as I said earlier, but I suspect that those regulations are probably a good thing.

As someone who eats eggs and fish but not meat, I cannot comment on the Processed Animal Proteins (England) Regulations 2001.

Mr. Francois: We all know that the Government are short of speakers in this debate, but as the hon. Gentleman continues ad nauseam with his list, will he let the House know how many of the measures he is reading out are actually in the Bill that we are supposed to be debating?


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