It is being suggested that Whitehall departments will be legally obliged to scrap red tape and that ministers would be required to scrap twice as many existing rules for any new rule they wished to introduce.
Of course, there have been more announcements about ‘crusades against red tape’ than Frank Sinatra had final tours. And, it is absolutely correct that, where rules or regulations are unnecessary or counter-productive, we should do away with them. For that, we need to be ever vigilant.
Last November, the Government claimed that an initial “one in, one out” rule for new Whitehall regulation introduced in January 2011 had reduced the costs on businesses by almost £1 billion. It wasn’t true. David Cameron followed that by claiming that red tape should be attacked with the same vigour as “beating Hitler”. He hasn’t.
Enshrining it in law will test the Government’s rhetoric on reducing the regulatory burden to the limit. As one insider put it “The key question is what is regarded as a regulation. The Treasury likes to pretend that changes to the tax code are not red tape although they provoke the most complaints.”
Similarly, some of those who continually demand cuts in laws and regulations – are regularly calling for new laws and regulations to tackle new sorts of crimes. Just think of the last few weeks with the demands for action on internet harassment and trolling.
But the real difficulty is that the vast majority of rules and regulations were introduced to provide protection – for individuals, but also for businesses. When some business organisations (like the Institute of Directors) and some politicians (like UKIP) talk about ‘doing away with red tape to save billions’, what they actually mean is doing away with the minimum wage, minimum protections on sickness and holiday pay, health and safety laws etc.
Their red tape is your wage and rights.