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Mr. Stewart: If boredom is the criterion to which we pay attention, I fear that many Labour Members would leave every time that the right hon. Gentleman stood up to speak. However, on a serious note, if a Commons Committee has concerns and wishes to share them with a Committee in the other place, it would be appropriate for the right hon. Gentleman's team to be in Committee to add its voice. Conservative Members were not in Committee and they did nothing; the country knows that.
Mr. Redwood: For four years, the Conservative team has put across strenuously and consistently the message that the Government are over-regulating, not deregulating. My right hon. and hon. Friends on, and beyond, the Committee would willingly give of their time to work on serious deregulation. The truth is the Government have no interest in that and have no proposals.
Today, we heard the Chairman of the Deregulation Committee make one serious proposal to the House: the Committee should be renamed--and, no doubt, rebranded with a new logo at considerable expense to the taxpayer--thus letting the secret out to the world at large that it cannot deregulate, does not want to deregulate, does not know how to deregulate and has no idea why it should deregulate. Instead, it would like to join in the game of more regulation, more cost, more burdens, more trouble, always putting more impositions on the private sector in the naive belief that there will never be another bust when all around is plenty of evidence of plenty of busts in plenty of sectors.
Mr. Cotter: Does the right hon. Gentleman genuinely think that rhetoric is a replacement for action? We have heard a lot of rhetoric from Conservative Members. When the Tory Government were in power they introduced as much legislation as the present Government--indeed, possibly more. May I emphasis the point that Conservative Members did not attend the Committee at the very point when they could have influenced the Bill? They had an opportunity to discuss it. They are wasting time talking about getting deregulation when they had a chance to influence things. To stand here talking is rhetoric, not action.
Mr. Redwood: I thought that speaking in the House of Commons was a great privilege, and that speaking in the House about policies might persuade the Government to do something sensible. Earlier, I heard my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley), the shadow Cabinet Office Minister, make three proposals about a process for deregulation rather more sensible than the mean and difficult proposals in the Bill, which will undoubtedly backfire.
Much of that overregulation has taken place under the present Government--[Interruption.] The Liberals, in the form of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Cotter), are leaving the Chamber because they know that they are partly guilty, as the junior coalition partners. The regulations have built up massively under the Government. The business community does not like that. The famous peace or truce--
Mr. Redwood: I shall give way in a moment. I should like to finish the point, then I shall be happy for the hon. Gentleman to have another shy. It will not work either, but we are always willing to encourage talent, if only we could find some on the Government Benches.
Too much regulation is being built up by this Administration. The business community no longer thinks that the Government are friendly to business, so they are in pre-election panic mode. The Cabinet Office has been asked to produce something that the Government can spin to persuade business that after four years of getting it wrong, they will get it right. The Government want the British people and the British business community to sign a blank cheque. The Government say, "Trust us. We now understand that deregulation is important."
Mr. Stewart: I thank the right hon. Gentleman again for his courtesy in giving way. It may surprise him to hear that I understand and accept his protestations on behalf of private industry. However, it would be good to hear from him and other Opposition Members some protestation about sensible, appropriate and relevant regulation and how it protects workers.
Mr. Redwood: I hope to give examples of measures that the Government have imposed that I should like removed, as they are totally unnecessary burdens. The Conservative party has always supported sensible regulation for employee conditions, and we are not proposing to scrap worthwhile protections for employees. It is a matter of balance and degree. An avalanche of regulation and taxation has been thrust at businesses. A £10 billion regulatory burden and a taxation burden of more than twice that sum have been added by this Administration. That is becoming the straw that breaks many camels' backs throughout British business.
No wonder the Government want a general election on 3 May. It will not be long before all that comes home to people. Businesses will go bankrupt, businesses will shed labour, entire industries will get into worse trouble, and much of it will be the direct responsibility of Ministers and Labour Members, who willingly imposed tax after tax and regulation after regulation, to cause those troubles.
Mr. Redwood: If the hon. Gentleman looks at the record, he will see that I produced a number of alternative proposals for less tax and less government. I have gone on to support an Opposition who clearly want to lower the tax burden, compared with the Government's very high one. That, surely, is the position of a sensible person who wants to make the case for a more prosperous country.
Mr. Fabricant: My right hon. Friend speculated on why the Government are so keen to have the general election on 3 May. I suggest that it is because they know that the Bill is unenforceable. He referred to clause 9(1)(b). Does he realise that any clause that provides that a standard "ought to be" enforced is unenforceable in practice?
Mr. Redwood: That may be the case, but my criticism of the Government is that they try to introduce so much legislation that is half-baked, ill-thought-out and inconsistent, and that lacks transparency. Furthermore, they keep changing their minds.
One of the farmers in my constituency, Mr. Russell Butler, has a large number of sheep in fields that range over a 70-mile area. Last week, he needed to move the animals, but he came up against bad Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food regulation. Presumably, it was exactly the sort of regulation that clause 9 is supposed to tackle, but we cannot wait for that measure to take effect. The Minister of Agriculture should deal with the problem today. Mr. Butler asked for permission to move his sheep, which, I am pleased to say, are nowhere near a confirmed outbreak of foot and mouth disease. He was told that he could not move them more than 5 km because of the regulations that were extant last week. He needed to move them over a greater distance, because his fields are spread out over a large area. The sheep on his grass were getting into considerable trouble. It is lambing season and he wanted to return them to the farm for the lambing to occur properly. Even if he had to leave them
Mr. Redwood: I am trying to illustrate the problem with clause 9 by citing a clear example of legislation that is muddled and lacks transparency. Perhaps a stronger measure than a code of practice is needed, but we cannot afford to wait for primary legislation, and my constituent, Mr. Butler, would obviously like to know that the matter is being taken seriously by Ministers and the House.
Mr. Butler applied for information on whether there was anything else he could do. He was then told that the regulation would be changed during the week and that he could obtain a movement order because the restricted distance was to be changed to 15 km. He was told that the change would occur on Tuesday. I then intervened personally, as he wanted to move the sheep 15 miles and not 15 km. Subsequently, however, he was telephoned and told that he could kill all the sheep, even though they were perfectly healthy. He was assured that a licence would be granted for that purpose. Of course, that worried him considerably and caused me enormous concern. Before I had to intervene again, however, I was telephoned with an entirely different story. I was told that some time during the week, on an unspecified date, MAFF would lift any limit on the distance of movement for farmers in unaffected areas. In effect, I was told that my constituent could hang on in the hope that the regulation would be changed, although his sheep would probably starve to death on muddy fields in the meantime.
I hope that you can see, Madam Deputy Speaker, that that example deals with a point that is central to the Bill, as it demonstrates muddle, incompetence and lack of transparency. It also shows the lack of decent feeling for animals that could die because Ministers do not see--