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Howard: Cutting back on regulation and bureaucracy

Speech at Conservative Campaign Headquarters

"Millions of families across the country strive every day to do the right thing.

They work hard to buy a home, to save for the future and to raise their children to respect others.

Their efforts deserve to be rewarded and recognised.

But Mr Blair's Government has taken them for granted and ignored their priorities - more police, cleaner hospitals, schools discipline, controlled immigration and lower taxes.

Yesterday we learnt that for the first time in over a decade, families' take home pay has been fallen thanks to Mr Blair's stealth taxes - so much for Mr Blair's talk about helping hard-working families.

They are now worse off because he has taxed so much and wasted so much.

Just imagine what five more years of Mr Blair would really mean.

Labour are borrowing, spending and wasting so much money that, as every serious independent economic commentator agrees if Mr Blair won the election taxes would go up again.

Hard working families want value for their money.

They want more police, cleaner hospitals, controlled immigration and school discipline.

To deliver them we have a strong and competitive economy.

And a strong and competitive economy is not built by government; it's built by people - the British people.

What they achieve for Britain creates the opportunity for everything that any politician may ever want to do.

It's business that generates the prosperity that enables people to look to the future with optimism.

It's business that creates the jobs we all depend on.

Without thriving business, no safety net for the least fortunate, no care for the sick, no pensions in old age.

When Labour puts up taxes on business, you can be sure that families will be next in line.

On the Government's own figures, business rates revaluation in England means a £1.5 billion tax hike for industry.

That's an ominous sign of what's in store for families from council tax revaluation if Labour were to win the election.

Business and families remember that before the last two elections, Mr Blair made promises on tax.

Then, after he won, he raised taxes.

If he won again, the question is not whether he will raise tax again, but which taxes he would raise.

Will it be basic rate income tax?

National Insurance again - his tax of choice?

VAT on food?

Or capital gains tax on homes?

In his pre-election budget, Mr Blair got business to pay for his cynical one year reduction in council tax.

Like everything else he does, it's all about votes not values.

The Britain I believe in will reward people who take risks and work hard.

The Britain I believe in will support families who build up their financial independence and save for their retirement.

The Britain I believe in will recognise the importance of profit as the driving force behind a successful economy which raises living standards for all.

Recognising and rewarding hard work - these are Conservative values. They are the values which will guide our attitude to British business.

Keeping tax on business low is important.

So is cutting back on the hidden costs government imposes on business through regulation.

According to the British Chambers of Commerce regulation imposed by Mr Blair is costing British business an extra £40 billion a year.

Mr Blair has introduced more regulations than any of his predecessors - 3,459 statutory instruments in 2004 alone.

So it's hardly surprising that Britain has fallen from 13th to 30th in the World Economic Forum's league of government regulation since 1998.

Although business and consumers pay the cost of regulation in higher prices and lower profits, there's a lot of money in regulation - but that's for the regulators themselves.

Mr Blair's Britain has created a generation of "fat regulators" - regulators paid high salaries from your taxes and the fees they levy on British business.

Just take OFCOM - the communications regulator. Last year its payroll was £13 million.

Ten per cent of this went to OFCOM's board members.

One of them a former adviser to Mr Blair, was paid over a quarter of million pounds - a potent symbol of bloated bureaucracy and regulation that Mr Blair's Government has created.

OFCOM will cost £165 million this year. The total cost of the five independent regulators which combined to create OFCOM was £115 million - up from just £73 million in 1997 when Mr Blair came to power.

The government I lead will act to keep tax low by delivering value for money and by cutting back on regulation and bureaucracy."

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