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Mr. Redwood: I did not recommend that policy. I made a speech in the House explaining the difficulty. The Conservative party would not have modelled it as mathematically brilliantly as did the Government, who optimised the take and ensured that businesses were left short of cash and unable to make the investment in the next generation of technology as quickly as they should. I pay full tribute to the Chancellor's ability to take the right advice from a mathematical professor, and to ensure that he took most of the money and left nothing for new investment and new ideas. However, that is not a success but a great failure.

Mr. Hendrick: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Redwood: Willingly--perhaps the hon. Gentleman can do better than his previous intervention.

Mr. Hendrick: Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that the halving of the value on the Nasdaq exchange in New York has much to do with profit

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warnings by major American multinationals and little to do with the Government's sale of the spectrum, which brought so much money to the Exchequer?

Mr. Redwood: I am talking about the United Kingdom. That is our country, where I have a constituency and represent people. The combined impact of the British and German auction is a major factor in the collapse of telecommunications share prices in Britain. As I explained, the German auction was modelled on the British version. Cannot the hon. Gentleman understand that if a Government suddenly take £5 billion from the main participants in a successful growing industry that leads an economy, its growth will be damaged? The crucial companies in Britain were affected by that.

John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland): As I worked in telecommunications for 30 years, I know a wee bit about it. BT has made exorbitant profits and given them to shareholders for many years. It has not invested them properly, and that has now come home to roost. The telecommunications industry--or the communications industry, as it likes to call itself nowadays--has been affected by the global market. That has nothing to do with Britain and the Government. More people are employed in telecommunications than before. Would you not agree--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): Order. First, the hon. Gentleman's intervention is too long. Secondly, he is not using the correct parliamentary language. He has had long enough for his intervention.

Mr. Redwood: My case stands. The British Government, followed by the German Government, took huge sums from the leading telecommunications companies in this country. Massive over-regulation and the sale of licences when the public sector had a monopoly stranglehold on marginal spectrum is the important issue. That has done enormous damage. The hon. Gentleman can argue until he is blue in the face, but he should watch what happens next. More redundancies will occur--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The right hon. Gentleman is going rather wide of the mark. We are getting into a general history of financial affairs in recent years. Will he please return to the Bill?

Mr. Redwood: I am happy to do that.

The Bill does not offer the sort of deregulation that industry desperately needs. Over-licensing and over- expensive regulation of the telecommunications industry is an example that the Government will not tackle.

Mr. Lansley: Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the consequences of the Government's policy on the telecommunications industry is that it has left them unable to pursue the extent of deregulation required by the introduction of full competitive pressures, especially on local loop unbundling, that would appeal to a broader business interest in stimulating broad-band access? The Government's desire for additional revenue and their propensity for regulation are intimately connected.

Mr. Redwood: I quite agree, and I notice that there is nothing to tackle that problem on the list of 51 varieties of possible deregulation. There is a case for the right

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kind of additional deregulation in telecommunications. Although that would not offset the massive tax burden, it would at least send a signal that the Government have not lost all interest in and enthusiasm for such a leading sector. However, I see from the rather blank looks on ministerial faces that we are not going to get that.

Another area in which I would like further deregulation--which I am pleased to see that the Conservative party has pledged to achieve as soon as it has regained power--is IR35 regulation of the computer industry. That is another important lead industry alongside telecommunications. If the new revolution was about anything, it was about the application of telecoms, dotcoms and computing to create exciting new economic developments. What did the Government do? They smashed not only the telecoms industry with their taxes but a lot of the entrepreneurship in the smaller computing businesses by imposing IR35.

Will the Minister use the so-called Henry VIII powers in the Bill to get rid of IR35? I checked with the Clerks, and was told that the proposal can cover any tax matter. If I give way now, will the Minister say that the Government will get rid of IR35? The computing industry would love to get that provision off the statute books. I see from the Minister's staying in a sedentary position that we have drawn a blank.

Mr. Ian Stewart rose--

Mr. Redwood: I should be happy to give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I am sure that he cannot make such a pledge.

Mr. Stewart: I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman had finished his speech. I was rising to speak on my own behalf.

Mr. Redwood: I do not think that the hon. Gentleman thought that at all, but there we are. I shall proceed.

There are terrible problems in a raft of rural businesses that are being worried to death by too much regulation. The Government have heaped general regulation, employee regulation and other forms of regulation on them. They are required to have much more sophisticated payroll activities to handle the working families tax credit and other measures that have been introduced--and, of course, the rates keep going up. My right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) has said that, at this time of crisis in rural businesses, the Government should at least get rid of the business rate for a few months. Will the Minister use the powers in the Bill, or elsewhere, to do that? That would be a sensible gesture at a time when those businesses are being grossly damaged by over-regulation.

The Government started their response to the agriculture crisis by saying that people should not go walking in the countryside. That obviously flattened a lot of the hotel and leisure businesses that were making a reasonable living and whose big season was coming up at Easter. We now hear that the Government might relax those instructions. Will Ministers take the opportunity of this debate on regulation to tell those businesses what they are going to do for them? This is an immediate problem:

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the Easter holiday bookings are being cancelled now. Will the Government deregulate some of those movements, or is it unsafe to do so? If it is unsafe--as it may be--will the Government offer rate relief or some other compensation? This is a serious point.

I was contacted by constituents today, who pointed out how silly some of this regulation has become. My constituents, who, like me, would like any sensible action to be taken to clear up this dreadful disease in our sheep and our cattle, went to the local park. They were banned from walking in it, but were prepared to accept that regulation. They then discovered that a football competition was going to be held in the park for teams from outside the area, and that permission had been given for the competition to go ahead. Yet my constituents did not have permission to walk on their normal route through the wooded area, which is quite ridiculous, but again shows that Ministers are not living up to expectations--even the expectations in the Bill--of transparent, fair and sensible regulations.

Mr. Fabricant: May I give another example? There is a long list of legislation that needs to be changed. Is my right hon. Friend aware that pig breeders are breaching welfare regulations? Weaners are being born and are now overcrowding their pens--thus breaking the law--yet breeders are not permitted to move the pigs away or even to slaughter them in situ? Would not this be an ideal point in the debate for the Minister for the Cabinet Office--who I see has now left her place--to make the position clear on that matter?

Mr. Redwood: My hon. Friend has come up with a powerful and worrying example of conflicting regulation, yet no Minister is prepared to speak for the Government on which part of the regulation is the more important, or to offer any hope at all to people at their wits' end trying to run their businesses against this awful background.

Mr. Leigh: I go back to a point that I made earlier. Businesses in rural areas are going out of business because regulations are driving our rural tourism industry out of business, yet we are wasting hours of House of Commons time debating a Bill that will never become law because there will be a general election. Is there anything to stop Ministers acting now? Do we need this Bill? What is going on?


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