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Mr. Lansley: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. I thought that I had no prospect of interrupting his flow, because he was being so eloquent. I want to make it perfectly clear that the British Chambers of Commerce burdens barometer includes in its gross estimate of £10 billion both a figure for one-off administrative costs for the introduction of the national minimum wage and recurring administrative costs at an average of the various compliance cost assessment figures that have been produced. The organisation expressly states that the total of £674 million for the cost of the national minimum wage does not include the £2.4 billion estimate for additional wage costs and the maintenance of wage differentials consequent on the policy itself, as distinct from its implementation and administration.

Mr. Fabricant: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. I refer him and, more importantly, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, to www.britishchambers.org.uk/ cutredtape/burdensbarometer.htm, where the right hon. Lady can read those facts for herself. Her Department is trying very hard, but largely failing, to achieve the good aim of introducing the internet to Departments. Assuming that she is on the internet, she might care to look at the site and read for herself the point that my hon. Friend has made.

Mr. Ian Stewart: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fabricant: I am only too happy to give way to my old sparring partner. I owe him that, as he voted for me to be joint chairman of the all-party internet group.

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Mr. Stewart: I was frightened lest I referred to the hon. Gentleman as my hon. Friend. He has gone on at length about the British Chambers of Commerce and the so-called burdens imposed by the minimum wage regulations. How does he reconcile that view with the statement made by the Institute of Directors earlier this month? It said:


Mr. Fabricant: I shall not refer to the hon. Gentleman as my hon. Friend, but I thank him for his intervention. The Institute of Directors was concerned about what might be in the Bill, but if he wants to trade reactions to the Bill, I am only too happy to do so. I can tell him that the CBI is not so confident about the Bill. Its president, Digby Jones--a name to conjure with--said that


The British Chambers of Commerce said that it is


That regulation has created 300,000 job losses when, as I said, other countries, including the United States and Germany, are doing so well.

Mr. Bercow: I hope that my hon. Friend agrees that it was singularly inept of the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Stewart) to intervene to invoke the alleged support of the Institute of Directors, in view of the fact, of which I hope my hon. Friend is aware, that its head of policy, Ruth Lea, is on record as saying:


Is that not game, set and match?

Mr. Fabricant: Game, set and match indeed. My hon. Friend is right; were he playing at Wimbledon, he would be holding the silver chalice high.

Mr. Ian Stewart rose--

Mr. Fabricant: I give way to the hon. Gentleman once more, although I want to move on. I do not want to monopolise the debate.

Mr. Stewart: The right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) talked about balance. Let me bring Conservative Members up to date with the CBI view. Mr. Digby Jones said:


It would have been illogical of Mr. Jones to make such a statement before making the one referred to by the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant).

Mr. Fabricant: We could spend all evening trading remarks about the Bill made by various people. The Conservative party does not oppose the principle of

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deregulation. Indeed, although I cannot possibly tell, I imagine that we shall not vote against Second Reading. However, I make it clear to the hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig), the Government Whip, who is reaching for his pager to send a message to the Government Chief Whip, that I am merely speculating. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Hertfordshire (Mr. Page) reminds me from the Front Bench that we have a three-line Whip for 10 o'clock. We shall certainly vote for our reasoned amendment: although the principle of the Bill and any reduction in regulation where that is not dangerous to employees and where it does not create an uncontrolled free-for-all are to be welcomed, we are not sure that the measure will improve legislation considered by the House or reduce the burden of legislation.

In an intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire, I pointed out that the Bill contains considerable weaknesses. One is that it will reduce the scrutiny of legislation by the House. I asked my hon. Friend whether it would have done anything to prevent £628 million of taxpayers' money from being spent on the Prime Minister's folly--the millennium dome. The answer is no. Will it do anything to reduce the £4 billion a year that is lost in benefit fraud? The answer is no. Will it do anything to reduce Government administration costs, which have gone up to £15.3 billion? That is £1.8 billion more than in the last year of Conservative government. Once again, the answer is no. The real fear is that it will further enable the Government to rubber-stamp legislation and whip through the House of Commons measures that would otherwise be scrutinised.

Mr. White: The hon. Gentleman suggests that the Government will be able to whip legislation through the House. How will they be able to do that, given that consultation will be built into Deregulation Committee procedures? He also suggests that everything can be covered by the Bill. Surely that is not the case, as some matters are outside its remit. I would be interested in his comments on both issues.

Mr. Fabricant: The whole point is that everything cannot go into the Bill; I wish it could. Those matters that involve burdens as defined by the Bill can be dealt with, though I do not think that it will be enacted, as this cut-and-run Government will clearly announce a general election in the middle of a national crisis. The definition of burden is another loose provision. The Bill is subjunctive--it is all ought and might, not will and shall be.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay): I appreciate that my hon. Friend has read the legislation in great detail, so I put to him an example from Italy. To relieve burdens, industrial concerns employing fewer than 15 people and agricultural concerns employing fewer than five are automatically exempt from much of the onerous employment legislation that causes them great difficulty there. Does he agree that the Government would emulate the Italians if they were serious about helping small firms?

Mr. Fabricant: My hon. Friend is right. There are exemptions in the Bill, but only some, and they are for small businesses employing fewer than 20 people. However, in this day and age a firm employing 20 is not necessarily small.

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I am one of the few Members of the House who did a real job before being elected.

Mrs. Gorman: Me, too.

Mr. Fabricant: My hon. Friend is another, as is my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson), who is on the Front Bench.

In 1979, I set up a broadcast electronics and radio station financing company with a partner. The company was small for some time, but in 1991 we were fortunate enough to sell to an American corporation, which gave me the ability to be a Member of Parliament without outside interests. The company had grown and it employed more than 600, but there were fewer than 10 for a long time, let alone fewer than 20. I shall tell you something, Mr. Deputy Speaker: had I started my company after the election of the Labour Government in 1997, it would not have employed five people, because it would have gone bust because of the regulatory burden that we now face.

Sadly, the Bill will not be able to stop the Government accepting and gold-plating European Union regulations. I shall give an example of a measure that destroyed a business in my constituency, and I ask hon. Members on both sides of the House not to break into grins when I mention the company's name. Every time I refer to it in the House, which is not often, Members start laughing--even though this is a serious matter and several hundred jobs were lost. The village of Armitage, which is in my constituency, is famous because Mr. Shanks was based there. [Interruption.] It has started already--my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) is smiling.

Armitage Shanks is one of the largest manufacturers of toiletware in the world, or it was. For many, many years, the Conservative Government resisted a European directive that changed the definition of the mechanics by which toilets are flushed. Until recently, this country used a siphonic system. When the chain is pulled or the lever is pushed, a vacuum is created and the toilet cannot leak. However, every year in France, leaky toilets lead to the waste of 500 million gallons of water, as they use a flat-valve system which corrodes after a while. As we see in France, Germany and elsewhere, water trickles out of toilets constantly, but that system was illegal in the United Kingdom because it wastes water.

Here is the irony that should have been addressed by the Bill, but which will not be because of its drafting. In 1997, the first year under Labour, the Government went on the attack, telling the private water companies, "Every year, 100 million gallons of water are wasted through leaky pipes." They were right, although similar amounts are wasted in other countries, and it seemed like fair play to attack privatised companies such as Severn Trent Water and Thames Water.

What did the Government do at the same time? They introduced legislation that put several hundred people at Armitage Shanks out of work. Cheaper toilets from Italy and France will be allowed into this country. When they are introduced, they will leak, which will result in 500 million gallons of water being wasted every year--that is a French Government figure. Where is the logic in that process?

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One of my criticisms is that the Bill will do nothing about gold-plating and over-regulating legislation. Indeed, it will do nothing whatever to control the Government's obsession with appeasing Brussels and accepting any measure that emerges from there.


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