|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Lansley: On the possible weakness of the new clause, the other place discussed an amendment moved by our noble Friends to disapply regulatory reform orders if, in the course of a review, they were found to impose much
I have to confess that we did not think it right to do that because of the inherent complexity and difficulty associated with trying to measure and quantify costs and benefits to the extent of creating an automatic disapplication.
Mr. Fabricant: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that explanation. When I did an economics degree all too long ago, we examined cost-benefit analyses and it is difficult to make them accurate. There is no question but that if there is "x" number of economists, there will be "x" number of results on virtually everything in a cost-benefit analysis. Perhaps that is why the Government are so keen not to accept my Bill, the Analysis of Costs and Benefits (European Union) Bill.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: My hon. Friend mentions the need for regulation to change in the light of new technology. He is an expert on e-commerce. Does he agree that e-commerce and, in particular, the rolling out of the broad band, will change radically the way in which many businesses operate? It will be necessary to review a range of trade and financial regulations. Hence the need for new clause 1 to keep regulations under constant review.
Mr. Fabricant: My hon. Friend makes a salient point. There are many examples of the problem, but I shall give just one. Telephony companies know that simple narrow band technology enables people to make telephone calls all around the world using internet systems for the price of a local call. They do not need broad band technology to do that. Telephony companies anywhere in the world, such as AT&T Communications and British Telecom, know that their days are numbered for charging premium rates for long-distance and international calls.
New clause 1 would enable us to review the regulations that established Oftel when British Telecom was privatised and the telephony companies were freed up. However, as my hon. Friend says, circumstances have changed and they will change again in five years. You can bet your bottom dollar--or, regrettably in 10 years' time, your bottom euro--that circumstances will continue to change. It is not simply the rate of technological change that is relevant; the way in which companies undertake business will also change.
I shall confess to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I am a great admirer of Margaret Thatcher and was a Thatcherite in the 1980s, but what was right then is not right now. Economies move on and circumstances change. I have no doubt that I would have been a member of the Labour party--old Labour--had I been in politics in 1900, but things change. As economic circumstances change--often driven by technological changes--so the
Mr. Bercow: I understand my hon. Friend's revisionism, and far be it from me to chide him for it. However, does he agree that it is important not to misrepresent--even if only inadvertently--the stance of one of our most distinguished noble Friends? To avoid doubt, does he agree that our right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven is an enthusiast for new clause 1?
I have probably spoken for long enough. The Bill is excellent, but toothless. The new clause would give it some teeth. If the Government oppose it, that will demonstrate that they merely have good intentions--as did the previous Government--to control the amount of regulation. It will show yet again that they are all about spin with no delivery.
Mrs. Ann Winterton: I want to make a brief contribution to this excellent debate. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson), I, too, did not have the benefit of serving on the Committee and it has been interesting to listen to the arguments made by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
I want to respond to the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Stewart). I like him enormously; he is a good guy--no doubt I have now blighted his career. However, he chided the Opposition for concentrating too much on the business aspects of regulation. In an intervention I tried to point out that regulation affects every aspect of our lives, and I gave one or two examples. However, I hope that the hon. Gentleman and others will forgive me if I concentrate my remarks on the business aspect of regulation and the part that new clause 1 can play in ensuring that regulation is reviewed and, if possible, removed to assist business.
My whole background is in small business. My father worked down the pits in County Durham, came south during the depression and worked in Birmingham. Eventually, after the war, he founded his own very small company at spaghetti junction with two partners. My young life, at weekends anyway, was spent going into "the works", as we said. It is perhaps that background that leads me to reflect on the fact that my constituents and organisations that represent businesses tell me that they are overburdened with regulation of one sort or another. I know that the point has been made several times during the debate, but I am reflecting it from my own particular experience.
The previous Government and this Government have made efforts to restrict the amount of regulation. I admit that the previous Government's attempts were not overly successful, if they were successful at all. I have no doubt that Members in this place and the other place work extremely hard on the Deregulation Committee. However,
Mr. Lansley: My hon. Friend is kind to the members of the Deregulation Committee when she points out how hard they work, and I have no doubt that they do their job most conscientiously. However, she will no doubt want to know that whereas before the last general election, the Committee received a substantial number of deregulation and contracting-out orders, that number has since dwindled away to virtually nothing. The Committee will have to gear itself up if it is to make a substantial number of regulatory reform orders in future.
Mrs. Winterton: I hope that my hon. Friend knows me well and indeed I hope that I am a kind person. I believe in saying nice things about people whenever I can find something nice to say. However, I said in my next breath that although the Committee's work was to be commended, it had not been very effective. My hon. Friend has pointed out precisely how ineffective it has become of late. I trust that the Bill, including new clause 1, which naturally I hope the Government will support, will contribute towards reducing regulation.
Mrs. Winterton: The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. I am inclined to view the Committee's work as business views it, and to ask whether business feels the good effects of its work, so I might not judge the work of that Committee, of which he is a member, from the same point of view as him.
Mr. Fabricant: The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Stewart) made an interesting and philosophical intervention, but does my hon. Friend agree that work and work load are intimately linked? If a Committee is overburdened, it might not be able to produce any good work or, for that matter, bad work simply because the system will become blocked.
Mrs. Winterton: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and he brings me neatly to my next point, which was made earlier in the debate. As he said, if a Committee is overworked, its output will be affected. The over-regulation of business takes up the time of the Executive, costs money and adversely affects companies' output, which affects their profits, which go back into investment. I believe that the hon. Member for Eccles pointed out earlier how important investment is. He will know that cash flow is equally important for small businesses.
Mr. Bercow: Like my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant), my hon. Friend has been rather kind to the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Stewart). Does she agree, however, that no man should judge in his own cause,