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16 May 2006 : Column 961

Hilary Armstrong: Not tonight. We have plenty of time, and I want to allow others to contribute to this debate.

I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman was not present earlier, but as was said a number of times today, the Bill does not stand in isolation, nor can we allow ourselves to consider it in a narrow way. It is part of a much wider Government agenda for cutting red tape in the public sector, businesses, charities and the voluntary sector. As part of that wide agenda, the Government are measuring the cost of all administrative burdens. The outcome of that work, and the concerted push across Departments for better regulation, will be reflected in concrete simplification plans from each Department which will be published this year. Attentive Members will be aware that that was announced in the Budget.

The challenge for the United Kingdom and all western countries is to drive up productivity and maintain competitiveness in the face of rising global competition. Essential to meeting that challenge is a regulatory regime that satisfies the needs of the public while imposing the smallest possible extra burden on businesses.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): This rhetoric is music to my ears, but may we hear just one example from the right hon. Lady—whom I greatly admire—of what the country will be rid of as a result of the Bill?

Hilary Armstrong: One idea that I have spent some time on, and which I will look at again in much more detail when I do not have to spend so much time on complex legislation such as this, is bringing inspectorates together. That will ease the burden on a range of public sector organisations and enhance the impact of these measures on the citizen.

Essential to meeting the challenge to which I referred earlier is a regulatory regime that meets the needs of the public, while adding the lowest possible burden to businesses. Let us think for a moment about that challenge. Today, Asia’s manufacturing output is greater than Europe’s. Its share of world consumption has risen from some 10 per cent. to nearly 30 per cent. in the past 20 years. In the next five years, China’s economy will overtake Germany’s, which is now the EU’s largest economy. China’s exports to the EU have grown by 100 per cent. in just the past three years. China and India are now turning out more engineers, computer scientists and university graduates—4 million a year—than the EU and the USA combined. As we all know, the gap in productivity and competitiveness between the USA and the EU is widening, not narrowing in the way that it should.

Mr. Chope: Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Hilary Armstrong: The hon. Gentleman will understand that there are many potential gains that we can deliver if we maintain this agenda. Regulatory costs are estimated to be between 10 and 12 per cent. of gross domestic product, and the administrative and paperwork costs make up perhaps a third of that figure. As for measuring the administrative costs of
16 May 2006 : Column 962
regulation, as we are now doing on an even more ambitious scale, the Dutch Government discovered that they were 3.6 per cent. of GDP.

Mr. Chope rose—

Hilary Armstrong: Reducing those costs by a quarter over five years, as the Dutch are doing, could save us up to 1 per cent. of GDP. That is exactly the sort of approach that we should seek to adopt.

Mr. Speaker: I call Mr. Heald.

Mr. Heald This Bill—

Mr. Chope: I am very grateful to the right hon. Lady for giving way to me, Mr. Speaker. You were obviously surprised by her generosity, but I am not. How is what she just said consistent with the concession that the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. McFadden) made earlier today? He said that new clause 19 would enable overall burdens to be increased.

Hilary Armstrong: As the hon. Gentleman knows, we believe that, used properly, these provisions will reduce burdens. But as my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East said, different sorts of burdens might arise.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con): Bigger ones.

Hilary Armstrong: If the hon. Gentleman is patient, I will explain. Regulation itself is not a bad thing; it is the manner in which it is imposed that is the problem. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman will have a little patience, I will deal with that point now.

The Government’s better regulation agenda is designed to reduce burdens without reducing the effectiveness of regulation or its outcomes, so we are not going to stop introducing new regulations when they are needed. The Government make no apologies for continuing to regulate to improve standards in public services, to promote competition, to ensure fairness at work, to help industry and to provide protection for consumers and the environment. Indeed, one of my right hon. Friends said to me earlier, “I hope that we’re not so against regulation that we’re going to send children back to work up chimneys again.” Of course we are not.

The order-making powers in part 1 are intended to take their place among the number of mechanisms designed to turn the aims of better regulation into reality for the end user on the ground—for those in business who create wealth and jobs in our economy, and those in our public services, voluntary and charitable organisations who improve the lives of our citizens.

The World Bank survey published in September 2005 rated the UK second in the EU and ninth in the world for best business conditions. That and other independent reports show that the UK is doing well,
16 May 2006 : Column 963
but as I have said, the challenge from global economic development is huge. We must ensure that the UK remains competitive.

The order-making powers in part 1 will not be the appropriate or even the necessary mechanism for every better regulation initiative. In many instances, however, they will provide real tools, where appropriate, for Departments to pursue their ambitious plans for removing unnecessary regulatory burdens without having to fight for precious time on the Floor of this House.

The order-making powers as defined by the amended Bill are more fit for purpose than the powers in the Regulatory Reform Act 2001 have proved to be.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): Will the Minister give way?

Hilary Armstrong: If the hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me, I must make progress, as we are nearly out of time.

In broad terms, that is because the rationale for using the better regulation powers will be outcome-focused on reducing costs or on removing obstacles to productivity, profitability or efficiency. They will not be limited by a very tight definition of legal “burdens”—a matter that I know that the House has explored in some depth.

The better regulation initiatives that this order-making power will allow us to deliver include the consolidation of legislation to make it easier to understand and work with, and the reduction or removal of administrative burdens such as form filling or requirements to give information. I am anxious to make progress, so I shall not list the initiatives’ effect on many other matters covered in the debate over the past two days.

Mr. Garnier: Will the Minister give way?

Hilary Armstrong: No. Other hon. Members who have been here all day want me to get on with my remarks so that they can make a contribution.

We also need to enshrine it in statute that regulators, as defined and specified by order, must have regard to the statutory code of practice issued under this Bill. The concordat will be based on the Better Regulation Commission’s five principles of good regulation. In the round, such initiatives should allow us to remove what business and others tell us time and again are unnecessary obstacles to their efficiency.

I had intended to say quite a lot about parliamentary procedure, but again, I shall cut that down. We have had a good and full debate on that, and the Government have made it clear that although we want to find an approach that does not place too much emphasis on our perception of how Parliament should act, we do not want to avoid the responsibility that Ministers must face in terms of how they behave. We have sought to get the balance right. We have listened carefully to what the House has said, and I have no doubt that we shall return to the matter.

16 May 2006 : Column 964

Sir Robert Smith: Will the Minister give way?

Hilary Armstrong: I am sorry, but I must get on.

I want hon. Members to bear in mind the fact that the Government have a responsibility to ensure that the UK stands its ground in an increasingly dynamic and competitive global economy, and that regulation does not prevent our public servants and voluntary workers from serving our citizens. This Bill will allow Government to do that by providing mechanisms to deliver real and meaningful cuts in red tape on business, charities and voluntary organisations.

I want to leave hon. Members in no doubt that this Bill is needed. Business needs it, and is telling us so very loudly. Our dedicated public servants need it too, as do our hard-working voluntary and charity workers. It is an essential tool to maintain our competitiveness, safeguard our economic prosperity, reduce burdens on public services and improve the lives of all our citizens.

I commend the Bill to the House.

9.54 pm

Mr. Heald: I welcome the Minister to her new responsibilities. It is good to see her escape at last from the confines of the Whips Office, and we look forward to hearing her speak regularly. I join her in her thanks to the Select Committee Chairmen and all who have taken part in the discussions.

The Bill was a mess at the beginning. It was not even the Bill on which the Government consulted. The proposals on which they consulted were very different. There has been a constant battle to try to get a Bill that really tackles deregulation, because we certainly need one—my goodness, we do. With a Government who are passing 15 regulations a day and increasing the burdens on business, whose extra costs are £50 billion since 1997, we need a Bill—but not a bad one.

We struggled in Committee. I tabled all the amendments suggested by the Regulatory Reform Committee and many suggested by other Committees of the House. All were rejected; the then Minister used to described them as debating points. Recently, however, common sense has been brought to bear on the problems and there has been a climbdown. I welcome new clauses 19 and 20, but they came so late in the day that we have not been able to tackle all the problems with the provisions. We still have issues about how to tackle the problems of small business and how to filter Law Commission Bills so that the most controversial are properly debated. We still have issues about the procedures to be adopted to give the House a veto.

There are great time pressures tonight, so I cannot explain all the reasons why the Bill is not yet ready to become law, but I cannot stomach the idea that it should go to the other place with the approval of the Opposition.

Mr. Gummer: In the short time that my hon. Friend has been given, will he kindly tell the House what part of the Minister’s speech had any relevance or reference to the Bill? Most of us were unable to link the speech to the Bill.

16 May 2006 : Column 965

Mr. Heald: Like many Members on the Opposition Benches, my right hon. Friend has a proud record on deregulation. The Minister was talking about deregulation, but just as there can be no good regulation without the right culture, there can be no deregulation without the right sort of legislation, and the Bill has a long way to go.

Mr. Redwood: Did my hon. Friend find it as surprising as I did that after all those long debates, the Minister could not name one item that she would deregulate under the Bill? She said something about sorting out licensing that was not deregulatory, but she did not even seem to know about the Parliamentary Secretary’s pledge to get rid of game licences. Does that mean that since yesterday, they have decided that they will no longer even get rid of game licences?

Mr. Heald: I will make one final point to show that the Bill is not good enough. The Department of Trade and Industry website shows new legislation proposed for the coming year. There are 40 pages of proposals. Nowhere in Government is there a similar website showing which measures will be deregulated. Until that happens, the Government will not solve the problems of their culture of regulation and burdens on business.

9.58 pm

Andrew Miller: I should like to spend just one minute thanking hon. Members, including the members of Select Committees, for taking the work that we have done on the Regulatory Reform Committee so seriously. In particular, I thank the Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform, my hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr. Murphy), for the work that he did when he was the Minister with responsibility for the Bill, and I thank the new Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. McFadden) for the sympathetic way in which he has dealt with his new responsibility. We have made progress, but more steps are still necessary, and I urge Ministers to think carefully about the commitments that they have given during our proceedings over the past two days. I am certain that we will have a Bill that enables us to proceed productively, by deregulating in the way that all parties in the House want.

9.59 pm

Mr. Heath: This started off as a Bill with a benign intent, but it was nonsense, preposterous and deeply dangerous. It been marginally improved over the past two days, but there are still deep concerns about the way in which it will operate, deep concerns about its scope and deep concerns about the Government’s inability to provide a proper veto. There is scarcely more than a caveat—

It being Ten o’clock Mr. Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [15 May].

The House divided: Ayes 259, Noes 213.
Division No. 241]
[10.00 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Begg, Miss Anne
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Chapman, Ben
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Cousins, Jim
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hanson, Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Healey, John
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, Jim
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian

Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDougall, Mr. John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh Mr. John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Olner, Mr. Bill
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Timms, Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, Keith
Waltho, Lynda
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Michael Foster and
Liz Blackman

Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John

Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clegg, Mr. Nick
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, David T.C
Davies, Philip
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hermon, Lady
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holmes, Paul
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, David
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kennedy, rh Mr. Charles
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Leech, Mr. John
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Lidington, Mr. David
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McCrea, Dr. William
McDonnell, John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Mr. George
Ottaway, Richard
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pugh, John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John

Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Robinson, Mrs. Iris
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Salmond, Mr. Alex
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, David
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Matthew
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Peter
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Wishart, Pete
Wright, Jeremy
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. David Evennett and
Mr. Henry Bellingham
Question accordingly agreed to.
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