Monday, 3 February 2014

Don’t just nod, ask

The House of Commons is about to consider the Government’s third Deregulation Bill in three years.  

Of course, if you don’t have a strategy to address cost of living issues or to implement a proper industrial strategy, a de-regulation policy is a very poor substitute, but it might give you some populist media headlines.

Of course, it is absolutely right to remove unnecessary regulatory and legislative burdens from individuals, civil society, businesses and public bodies. But deregulating knitting yarn and the erection of public statues will not help create one new business or good job. In fact, the government’s own assessment of the impact of this Bill estimates that it would only save British businesses and civil society £10m over ten years - hardly a salvation for the UK economy.

Regulation and de-regulation has to be a continuing, dynamic process. We no longer need laws that specify a minimum chimney size to ensure that a small child can fit inside, but my constituents are desperate for new regulations that would ensure that they are not persistently called when they’ve registered on the Telephone Preference Scheme to say they don’t want those sales calls.

Whenever you hear someone calling for less red tape, I’d advise that you don’t just nod your head and agree. Ask them to be very specific about what it is that they’re proposing.

I’ve been keeping a little list of the things that some politicians and business organisations actually mean when they talk about ‘needing deregulation and cutting red tape’. It includes doing away with:

• the minimum wage
• statutory maternity pay
• the requirement to pay agency workers the same terms as employees
• guaranteed minimum holiday terms
• all health and safety legislation
and so on.

So, if you nod your head and think these people have splendid proposals, you might just want to think again very quickly.