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Clause 9 states that enforcement should be fair, transparent and consistent. I agree with those aims, but why is such provision needed? Surely those conditions should apply now. Why should we introduce a Bill to make Ministers behave transparently and consistently, when that is how they should behave now? What is wrong with them? Why do they have to rely on the Minister for the Cabinet Office--one of the less dangerous people among them--to introduce the Bill? They are introducing legislation in the hope that, if they stay in government, they will at some stage introduce codes of conduct on regulation. However, we have seen in all too many instances that they have no idea how to regulate sensibly, how to be open and honest or how to leave people sure of what is required.
Mr. Bercow: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the explanation of the Government's appalling failure on regulation can be found in the two characteristics that the six Department of Trade and Industry Ministers and three Cabinet Office Ministers in the House have in common? First, none of them has ever run a business or worked in one, and, secondly, they are all fanatical European "federasts".
Marjorie Mowlam: Let me take the right hon. Gentleman back to the nature of the Bill. He spoke about lack of consultation, but there has been unprecedented pre-legislative scrutiny. The draft Bill was published last October and was the subject of extensive consultation. He said that it was a last-minute measure, but that is patently incorrect. He suggested that the provisions had not been costed, but they have been, in comparison with his Government's costings. The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) spoke about an independent deregulatory commission and a regulatory budget without telling us why his proposals would not create greater budgetary and administrative costs. It would be useful if the right hon. Gentleman could describe such costs in his meandering speech.
Mr. Redwood: I think that the Minister wanted to intervene on my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire, as her points relate to his speech rather than to mine. I gave way to her because I always do so if time permits, and I hoped that she would feel like defending the Government or would have something better to offer to my constituent and to the many farmers throughout the country who want proper regulation. The Bill concerns not only deregulation, but better regulation. Indeed, the main burden of the provisions is amendment of the 1994 Act to allow the Government to use similar powers to increase regulation, rather than diminish it.
Mr. Stringer: Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the clause 9 provision to which he referred is lifted word for word from the 1994 Act, which he supported when he was a Cabinet Minister? Why does he not support that measure now?
Mr. Redwood: I have made it clear that I fully support the Bill's principles in that regard, but why is the Bill needed to achieve what should be happening now? When we consider the chaos and confusion caused by lousy regulation in agriculture, we are desperate for an immediate solution. We need to know how many animals must be killed and why. If the Government have settled on such a policy, we need to know whether the killing can be carried out more quickly, so that the risk can be reduced, rather than increased.
Those are today's anxieties in respect of better regulation, but the Bill does not sort them out. I do not challenge the principles of regulatory reform. As the Parliamentary Secretary said, I supported those principles--fairness, transparency and consistency--in 1994, and I still support them today, but I want action, rather than more words on a piece of paper that is merely a pre-election stunt that demonstrates no understanding of the seriousness of what is occurring in the countryside or in businesses elsewhere.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): Does my right hon. Friend agree that, when we consider suffering farmers or business men who are burdened with over-regulation, the primary problem is not the regulation but incompetence? The countryside is especially affected by the incompetence of Ministers and managers. The Government are saying that the ship is heading towards the rocks and that we must therefore give it a complete refit and change the engines when we need to change the officers on the bridge. That is all we need to do to help farmers.
Mr. Redwood: My hon. Friend makes an important point. He represents many more farmers than me, and he speaks with feeling and understanding from experience. He could also have said that many abattoirs were killed off by regulation, much of it from the European Union. The Government did not oppose it, and they are paying a high price in agriculture, partly because the closure of many smaller abattoirs requires more movements over long distances. I do not claim that that caused the outbreak, but it has made its spread more rapid and more difficult to contain.
If we consider the number of businesses that are desperate for proper deregulation, we can understand why so many people will believe that the Bill is not man enough for the task. Let us consider fishing. Our industry is being killed off by common fisheries policy regulation, whose purpose seems to be to ensure that cuts in catch and quota are borne mainly by British fishing vessels to enable Spaniards and others to take the catch.
Why do not the Government deregulate our fishing industry and press for re-regulation of the foreign fishing industry to change the balance? That is what our fishermen want. They understand the need for some overall controls, but sensible ones, not flinging dead fish back into the sea and believing that that will transform the position. They would like a fairer system that gives them more chances and the foreign vessels commensurately fewer.
Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston): The previous Government signed the common fisheries policy, which largely led to the current position. The Government have done much to reform it. Also, the number of abattoirs more than halved in the two years before the Government came to office. The rural White Paper, which was published in November last year, pledged £8.7 million for abattoirs.
The Bill will not help. I cannot go to a fishing village on my travels and say, "Great news. I was in the House of Commons on a marvellous occasion. We had a debate during which Ministers at last realised that European regulation is smashing the fishing industry, and they have introduced a measure to get regulation right." Ministers do not care; they do not even admit that there is a problem. Government Back Benchers are prepared to make foolish points, which will read badly in dwindling fishing communities around our coast.
There is also the meltdown in telecommunications. Share prices have crashed and we have heard announcements that that glamorous and growing industry is about to suffer job losses on a big scale. That process began when the Chancellor of the Exchequer imposed a windfall tax of £22 billion on that successful industry. He perceived no irony in saying simultaneously that he would impose a massive licensing, tax and regulatory bill on the industry and that there could be a new economy with a faster growth rate. He said that there was a new paradigm, led by telecommunications and the dotcom revolution. He believed that it was a great idea to tax the industry to a dangerous extent. Now a bitter harvest is being reaped. The Germans foolishly followed that example; over- regulation took £50 billion out of a lead industry. That has led to difficult consequences in stock markets and telecommunications throughout the European Union.