To celebrate what has been a productive year for regulators, The Daily Telegraph is launching the Regulatory Creep of the Year award.
On reading this, we immediately thought of Boris Johnson. But them we saw that the paper was asking for nominations "for the central or local government agency associated with the most mind-bogglingly frustrating piece of red tape during 2004."
The worst offenders, it says, will then be named and shamed in the newspaper next Monday, with the biggest loser receiving the first ever red tape award.
Perhaps, the Telegraph adds, it could be Gordon Brown or Patricia Hewitt's Department of Trade and Industry. Not content with introducing 21 major new pieces of employment law since 1997, the DTI issued new disciplinary and dismissal regulations in October. They were meant to make it easier for an employer to safely sack a member of staff while at the same time clearly stating the employee's right to be treated fairly.
The supposedly three-stage process turned into a 13-stage minefield for employers during the drafting. It was so complicated that the DTI wasted more than £200,000 sending out a million leaflets that aimed to explain the rules but gave the wrong information.
It continues: "But many other government departments and agencies are likely to challenge the DTI to this year's top spot. The Environment Agency's decision in July to reclassify everyday items like computers and fluorescent lights as hazardous, but slash the number of sites licensed to deal with such waste from 182 to 14, was a corker. Then to cap it all, the agency then attacked business for fly tipping."
"The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is responsible for the EA, has also been busy. New regulations affecting farmers - the so-called cross compliance rules - were only sent out on December 6 but from January 1 will determine whether farmers can apply for subsidies or not."
"According to the National Farmers Union, the regulations now give Secretary of State Margaret Beckett the right to tell farmers whether they can harvest their crops or not. This performance meets two important Regulatory Creep award criteria: being ill conceived and poorly timed."
We are told that the trophy, 20 cm high (8 inches in real money), has been created by Glasgow Arts School sculptor Andy Knowles, using EU-approved resin and UK standard red electrical tape. It complies with all known health and safety, employment and environmental regulations. We must point out, says the Telegraph, that, if dropped, it could hurt someone's foot.
All jolly good fun, but it misses the point - the "elephant in the room strikes again". Much of the legislation to which the paper refers is produced by our government over the water, in Brussels. The British departments are only implementing it – albeit with the occasional bit of gold plating. Award nominations, therefore, should include departments of our true central government – the EU commission.
For the sheer scale of stupidity of its imposts, we nominate DG Environment. It, not the Environment Agency, was responsible for reclassifying everyday items like computers and fluorescent lights as hazardous, and it produced the legislation that required the number of sites licensed to deal with such waste to be slashed from 182 to 14.
Nominations should be sent to [email protected] We invite you to join us in nominating DG Environment, Brussels.