Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Rob Marris: In this part of my remarks, I am referring to the amendment selected for debate, which the hon. Gentleman signed. Unless he is withdrawing his name, or the amendment, I shall continue. I am speaking to the amendment, which states—to paraphrase somewhat—that the Government have over-regulated the economy and messed it all up. That will be news to the 2.4 million more people who have jobs.

Next on the list are the Disability Discrimination (Providers of Services) (Adjustment of Premises) Regulations 2001; the Proceeds of Crime Bill; the Maternity and Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2001; the Building (Amendment) Regulations 2001 and the Building (Approved Inspectors etc.) Regulations 2001; the Electricity and Gas (Energy Efficiency Obligations) Order 2001 and the Undertakings on Supermarket/Supplier Relations (Code of Practice). They all sound quite reasonable.

As someone who spent three years driving a bus, I support the Public Service Vehicles (Conditions of Fitness,   Equipment, Use and Certification) Regulations 2002, which are just over four years old. I commend them   to the House. The British Chambers of Commerce may see the Occupational Pension Schemes (Minimum Funding Requirement and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002 as a burden on business, but I think that they are a jolly good thing.

Next is the Industrial Training Levy (Construction Board) Order 2002. The Budget and the Bill refer to training, and the Government are committed to it and have done much to promote it, so the order is of considerable help.

Another topical measure in terms of green taxes is the Aggregates Levy (General) Regulations 2002.

Mr. Ken Purchase (Wolverhampton, North-East) (Lab/Co-op): Stunning.

Rob Marris: Here is another stunning one: the Employment Act 2002. That is a pretty good Act and I like it. I was a member of the Standing Committee.

The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 are next on the list. I worked for many years as a trade union solicitor and still have links to the firm—Thompsons—for which I worked. My interest is registered. Thompsons gives money to my constituency Labour party. If Members say that those regulations are an unnecessary burden on business, they are entitled to their opinion, but most people, especially those dying nasty deaths from mesothelioma, would disagree. We need to control asbestos at work.

Chris Huhne: The hon. Gentleman's list is fascinating, but does he realise that it is not enough merely to say
24 Apr 2006 : Column 417
that the objective of a piece of legislation or regulation is desirable and thus to argue that the measure is proportional to the problem? Gerrit Zalm, the Netherlands Finance Minister who, from our sister party in the Netherlands, the VVD, oversaw a major aspect of deregulation, claims that the objectives being met by regulation were retained but that there was substantial simplification of the national framework for regulations precisely because an independent body vetted whether regulations met their purpose. Reading out a list of desirable objectives is not enough to prove that the measures are sensible.

I would like to mention—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has made his point.

Rob Marris: At one level, I agree with the hon. Member for Eastleigh, but it is not sufficient for the British Chambers of Commerce simply to publish a list of figures under three columns of administrative costs in millions, recurring costs in millions and total costs by July 2006 in millions in a document, whose tenor is that those regulations are undesirable. That may not be their view, but that is the tenor of the document, which lists 69 items and is about 80 cm long. That is the other side   of the coin in respect of the point that the hon. Gentleman made.

Huw Irranca-Davies: My hon. Friend will be aware of   the report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which rates the UK as having the lowest barriers to enterprise in any major economy, low rates of business taxation, strong incentives to reward business investment and—pertinently—a good regulatory record that compares well internationally. What does he make of that?

Rob Marris: Just as the precise contents of the book to which my hon. Friend referred earlier had slipped my mind, it has slipped his mind that I included many of the points that he has just made in my speech on the Budget. I entirely agree with him about the OECD's assessment. I have had considerable affection for that body for several years because one of my cousins, Stephen Marris, was its chief economist. He was preceded by my Canadian compatriot, Sylvia Ostry.

Members will be relieved to hear that I have reached No. 32 in the list of 69 alleged burdens on business: the Flexible Working (Procedural Requirements) Regulations 2002. Procedural requirements might be over-egging things a bit, but not flexible working. Members on both sides of the House would support that. Indeed, the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet prayed it in aid for "mums at home" in respect of the home computing initiative, so I hope that we can all agree on those regulations.

The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 might be controversial but they sound good to me. The Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002 may be over-regulation; they may be a burden on business by stopping a retailer ripping us off as consumers or ripping off our constituents, but they sound pretty good to me.

Another one, which is close to my heart as a former trade union employment solicitor, is the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (Amendment)
24 Apr 2006 : Column 418
Regulations 1988—some people call it COSHH, using the capitals—which was introduced pursuant to a European Union directive. There may be an argument that the Animal By-Products Regulations 2003 represent over-regulation, because we had some previous animal regulations, to which I referred, but I cannot quite put my finger on. I concede that that is possibly over-regulation. The list then refers to regulating insurance mediation—not even regulations.

Julia Goldsworthy: If the hon. Gentleman thinks that the current system of regulation is perfect in the list that he is going through, why have the Government proposed the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill?

Rob Marris: First, I have not said that the current situation is perfect. Indeed, the hon. Lady perhaps picks a slightly unfortunate point on which to intervene, as I had just said that the Animal By-Products Regulations 2003 might possibly involve over-regulation because of the previous animal regulations, which I still cannot find on the list. No doubt, someone who has been listening attentively can point it out.

Secondly, on the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, I would refer the hon. Lady to the remarks that I made during the debate on the Second Reading of that Bill before a House that had in it about a third of the number of the hon. Members who are here now, when the hon. Member for Cambridge (David Howarth) spoke very well.

Moving along the list, it refers to regulating mortgages—again, not regulations. Regulating mortgages is a burden on business, according to the British Chambers of Commerce, but it does not sound like undue regulation to me. I suspect that the majority of hon. Members have either had a mortgage or still have one. Some hon. Members have two mortgages, and I believe that other hon. Members have six or seven, but I am not sure.

Then there is the Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) (England and Wales) Regulations 2003. Again, it is possible that that is a duplication that we did not need, given that the Groundwater Regulations 1998 came earlier. I have lost my place. [Hon. Members: "Hesitation!"] Hesitation? [Hon. Members: "Repetition!"] If there is repetition, it would certainly suggest that we do not need some of the regulations in the list, but I am not yet sure about that. The list refers to the Child Trust Fund Bill—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has been speaking for quite a long time and has been more or less in order. The items that he is referring to are not repetitive, but his argument is becoming a little repetitive.

Rob Marris: I am grateful to you for that indication, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

In round terms, there are another dozen items on the list that the British Chambers of Commerce appears to say are unnecessary and burdensome restraints on the freedom to do business in the United Kingdom, and I agree to the extent that they are restraints on the freedom of business conduct in the United Kingdom. There are also restraints in the Bill. Many of those restraints are very desirable, and we should have them in a civilised society. We can and
24 Apr 2006 : Column 419
should debate whether we have too many restraints, but the implication of that list of 69 regulations or measures—some of the items were not even regulations—is that we are all over-regulated. I am glad when I get into a motor vehicle that it has things like seat belts and airbags fitted and so on. I am glad that we have the kind of regulations that are in the Bill to stop people using tax loopholes.

The right hon. Member for Wokingham talked about the idea that we can have a high-wage economy with low taxation. He cited Ireland—I have already made my remarks on Ireland—and the United States of America. He may well be absolutely right; I do not know enough about the tax regime in America, but I do know that, contrary to what many people believe, its regulatory system is quite burdensome on business, given its 52 jurisdictions, with the District of Columbia and the Federal Government. We would find some of its regulations byzantine. However, we can also have a relatively—I stress the word "relatively"—high-tax economy with high wages. We see that most notably—

Next Section IndexHome Page