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Redwood: Action on regulation

Speech to Conservative Party Conference 2004

"Blair is bad for business.

As soon as this government sees a profitable company, they want to tax it.

Then they want to regulate it.

Then they want to tell it what to do.

Above all they want to tell it what it mustn't do.

If press releases made us rich we would now be the richest country in the world.

If bossy ministers made you top the economic league tables we would be world leaders already. If higher taxes bought you happiness this country would be smiling all the way to the Treasury.

The trouble with Labour is they are all talk and no action.

Or, sometimes, when it comes to business, fine words and foul deeds.

Do you remember the promise not to increase taxes?

Sixty six tax increases later that's worn a bit thin.

Or do you remember the promise that the EU is coming our way?

That the EU would switch from bossing us to death to getting out of the way and stimulating enterprise?

Unfortunately, Labour forgot to tell the Commission.

Do you remember when they said they wanted to deregulate?

How that became the wish to regulate better whilst in practice all they did was regulate more and more?

This government's record.

Trying to run Network Rail, re-branding the Post Office as Consignia and organising the Dome has led to one thing in each case -disastrous results.

It was our money they threw away on bankrupting Railtrack. Our money they used to run up huge losses on the postal monopoly.

Our money they threw down the drain on an empty Dome.

Letting Labour run business is as successful as putting Tony Blair into Wimbledon or asking me to sing at Covent Garden.

It's because they don't have any feel for business that they want to regulate it to death. Many of their regulations are well intentioned yet they add up to a swingeing £30,000 million a year. But all so often they turn out to be the sledgehammer that misses the nut or the sledgehammer that smashes the nut completely.

Let's look at a few examples.

In the last seven years there has been a huge increase in pensions regulation.

The aim is a good one - to give people more security in their old age based on their own savings.

What has happened?

The last five years have been the worst five years for pension funds on record.

Many funds have closed down altogether.

Most funds have big deficits.

Many funds have closed themselves to new members.

Far from strengthening pensions, Government regulation has failed to prevent a collapse.

Why has this happened?

Because the Regulators could not stand up to the source of the damage.

The decline was triggered by the Chancellor himself taking £5 billion every year out of the hands of pensioners and other scheme members. It is typical of this rip off government.

What's the point of massive expensive regulation to stop robbery from funds

when they can't stop the real robber - the Government itself?

In the past seven years, there has been a further run down in our fishing industry. Instead of draconian regulation, protecting our fish and rebuilding our fisheries, we are told there has been further pillaging of our seas.

The EU and the Government together insist that small fish and the wrong kinds of fish caught in a net have to thrown back dead into the sea in the name of conservation! You couldn't make up anything so daft even if you were writing a parody.

No wonder we are short of fish in the fishmongers and in the sea when the regulators encourage fish mortality but discourage landing them to eat.

Or consider the plight of the poor motorist.

Now I have a confession to make. I am a motorist. I know the government would like us off the road. I know they think I and many like me are the real criminals. But I have a simple message for the Government.

Most of us need a car to do our jobs, to help our families to get around. Most of us try to obey the rules. We are fed up with speed cameras that are there to make money.

Once again, the Government's regulators have achieved the opposite of what was intended. They set out with the noble plan to cut accidents. Instead, five years in to the camera madness, deaths are up on our roads and the Government has had to admit that speed is not the prime cause of accidents.

Indeed, they have had to admit it is only a cause in a small minority of cases.

The government should have targeted those who steal cars, drive without insurance or road tax and flout the safety rules of the road with impunity.

You know all this.

Our thoughts are the same as most people in Britain.

Regulation is over the top and often self defeating.

I have more government than I want.

More government than I need.

More government than I can afford.

So what can the Conservatives do about it?

A Conservative government, would, from its first day in office, set about removing the worst regulations. The ones that make life difficult without making it better. The ones that miss the nut or smash it altogether.

In the first hour, Ministers in the new government will explain to officials that we are not in the business of passing four thousand new laws a year.

If a department wants a new law, it will have to explain why. It will have to tell us how much it costs and it will have to say what it could repeal or remove at the same time.

From the first day, we have to stop the flow, change the automatic assumption that there is a legislative answer to every risk and that every front page story can launch a new Statutory Instrument.

In the first week, departments will be asked to bring forward their contribution to the great deregulation bill. My colleagues and I have already sunk a few bottles of wine in the cause of constructing a programme.

In the first four weeks, we will draw up our first list of unwanted EU regulations ready to take to Brussels as part of our renegotiation. We cannot live with their draft Constitution nor with many of the expensive rules they impose on us.

In the first year we will put a major deregulation bill through Parliament.

That's where I need your help today.

In the next few weeks, I am compiling a list of items for repeal and amendment to go in that legislation.

I am spoilt for choice.

Not all bad regulations have been invented in the last seven years. The previous Conservative government was not blameless in all this. But you and I know that if we had a Snowdon of regulation in 1997, we now have an Everest.

It's the cumulative impact. The piling of control on control that eventually overwhelms all but the hardiest of entrepreneurs.

This government decided to regulate window installers. They introduced a scheme called FENSA which meant much more paperwork and expense for anyone wanting to keep warm in winter.

They joined with Brussels to regulate herbal medicines and food supplements off our shelves when many of these products are popular. And they now make everyone with a horse buy a horse passport even though we don't usually eat horsemeat in Britain.

These are the kind of things we need to put right.

Tony Blair promised to run a business friendly government. He and his friends murdered a good shoal of crustaceans on his famous prawn cocktail offensive to win business over.

Today I doubt they would be allowed to do that as the fat controllers move into what we eat and tell us to survive on lettuce leaves.

Blair has let us down.

We want to set people free.

Conservatives understand that Government does not always know best.

Conservatives want you to be governed less and governed better.

Conservatives have a timetable for action."

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