Financial Editor Graham Searjeant, in today's Times, takes on board the appointment by Howard of John Redwood as "the Opposition’s hunter-killer of regulation".
"In principle", writes Searjeant, "everyone is against red tape. It wastes time, stifles activity and initiative, adds to costs and drives the frustrated or lazy outside the law. Even the bureaucrats who tie us up with it claim to find it tiresome. Yet most prohibitions, mandatory guidelines, licences and forms prove remarkably resistant to all attempts to abolish them".
How true. And he continues in the same vein:
Good intentions, not corruption, are to blame. Every time the Treasury decides to micromanage business in more detail, correct some market imperfection or target benefits more accurately, businesses have to fill in more forms, hire more lawyers and divert more management effort.
But then comes the punchline.
Don’t blame ministers. Every time that we or lobbyists claiming to represent us call for protection for consumers, savers or workers, every time we say something must be done, we create the rules and regulations we later loathe. Cutting red tape that has been tied by benevolent hands is hard, as the Deregulation Task Force found. Fire and food safety rules may seem officious but who would dare to risk being accused of endangering the public? The much-derided Dangerous Dogs Act may have saved many lives.
Unfortunately, as Mr Redwood knows, most damaging new regulations come from the EU, because they meet some perceived need somewhere in Europe. Those drawing up the draft EU Constitution rejected sunset clauses on the spurious ground that they would cause uncertainty. The Constitution has no provision for repealing EU laws, directives or regulations. Change can be proposed only by the body that created the regulations. That makes for good Eurosceptic propaganda but does not help to cut us free of the web.And that is going to be the test of Mr Redwood’s appointment. Is he going to be permitted to commit the Conservative Party to dealing with EU regulation – or is this indeed another bit of propaganda?