Monday, March 21, 2011

When is a regulation not a regulation?

When it is an EU regulation of course.

The Government has set great stock by its red tape cutting approach. One in, One out is the cry. Here is the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills statement from last year,
a new approach that will control and reduce the burden of regulation. A “one-in, one-out” approach, designed to change the culture of government, would make sure that new regulatory burdens on business are only brought in when reductions can be made to existing regulation.
Pretty good stuff you must agree. At PMQs in February, iDave was moved to say,
One of the problems is the huge amount of regulations-particularly coming out of Europe-that we need to put a stop to before they are introduced. My right hon. Friend the Business Secretary is doing an excellent job with his one in, one out scheme, so that another regulation cannot be introduced until one has been scrapped, but I think we probably have to go further and faster and be more ambitious in scrapping the regulation that is holding back job creation in our country.
Then Priti Patel has to go and stamp her size fives over all this by this little exchange,
Priti Patel (Witham, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills whether his Department's one-in, one-out policy applies to EU regulations.
Fair Question one might have thought, what with the Government being so proud of this policy. The answer? Ah that is a little difficult,

Mark Prisk (Minister of State (Business and Enterprise), Business, Innovation and Skills; Hertford and Stortford, Conservative)
At present EU measures will not be counted as INs unless a Department exceptionally imposes a measure that goes beyond the minimum requirements (i.e. if it is gold-plated, in which case the gold-plated element will be cost as an IN). Existing EU legislation can be counted as an OUT if it is repealed or revoked, or if gold-plating is removed or if a derogation that imposed costs to business is voluntarily curtailed ahead of its maximum term expiring.
So that is a No then.

Poor Priti, there she is asking the right questions, and even getting interesting answers, but what can she do with them? If she goes public the whips will crush her kittens.

Of course what she has highlighted is that the whole One in One out exercise is pointless given the thousands of new EU regulations that arrive every year. Prisk has admitted there is nothing he can do to stop them. And nothing he or his government will do to mitigate them.

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