Tuesday, March 22, 2011

They may be bored by the questions but we are getting very bored by the replies

One is constantly hearing complaints from civil servants about the number of questions and letters they have to reply to that politicians send them. Apart from the obvious point that it is part of their job to reply to those missives and enquiries, one cannot help thinking that if only they would reply, they would save quite a number of follow-up and repeat questions.

Here we have Lord Stoddart of Swindon asking a Written Question or two. First off:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what proportion of United Kingdom business regulation derives from European Union legislation; what steps they plan to take to reduce future European Union business legislation; and whether they plan to try to repeal any European Union business legislation.
The civil servants via Lord Howell replied:
The proportion of planned regulation stemming from the EU between April 2010 and March 2011 accounted for approximately one third of the total volume of regulation. The proportion varies each year.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister recently announced three new major policy goals to reduce the regulatory burden originating in Brussels. These are to bring in a one-in, one-out rule for new EU regulations; set a new and tougher target to actually reduce the total regulatory burden over the life of the Commission; and give small businesses-engines of job creation-an exemption from big new regulations.
What on earth does that mean? Planned regulation? What about unplanned regulation? What proportion of that comes from the EU? Then again, is this regulation that is directly applicable or requires UK legislation?

Then there are those major policy goals. The Boy-King intends to have a one-in, one-out rule for EU regulations. Of course. And he is going to ensure that this somehow, no-one knows how, becomes part of the system of EU legislation. Of course, the Boy-King has absolutely no idea how that system functions and, therefore, can say such silly things.

The same applies for that new and tougher target. As a minimum, does he envisage controlling completely new regulations or those that are simply amendments of and additions to others? Does he mean directly applicable regulations or those that have to be legislated on? Commission or Council regulations?

There are several other questions from Lord Stoddart and each gets a silly answer. Apparently foreign policy, despite our assurances to the colleagues, is decided on the basis of our national interest, but, as ever, we do not know what that is. After all, we still don't know what our national interest is in the Libyan imbroglio.

Finally, Lord Stoddart asked:
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 8 February (WA 46-7, what would be the cost of carrying out a cost-benefit analysis of the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union.
They weren't buying that either:
Since there is no intention to carry out a cost-benefit analysis of EU membership, the cost of such an analysis is not known.
Oh goody. Well, these people had better prepare themselves for some more questions.


  1. The "one in, one out" proposal for business regs has been around since at least 2009, when Ken Clarke - as shadow to Mandelson at BIS - promised it at the Tory party conference. It was more BS than BIS then and he must have known it was. I wonder if he told Dave. Presumably not because it was in last year's colaition agreement. (From p305 here, a 4MB pdf: http://tinyurl.com/figg387 )

    It's disappointing - and Pythonesque - to hear that we in effect need a cost-benefit analysis of a cost-benefit analysis before HMG can conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the UK's EU membership.

  2. Of course no government will produce a cost/benefit analysis because, I suspect, they are only too aware of what it would show. The last one done, I believe, was that by Gerard Batten for the Bruges Group in 2008.

    As for the one-in-one-out 'soundbite', as with most of what Cameron says, it was never queried hence he gets away, once again, with what amounted to another brick in his house of meaningless policies. His problem is that he hasn't realized that his bricks are about to begin crumbling and as a result his 'house' is about to come crashing down.

  3. Well, I hope they get through the one policy I agree with: changing the early May Bank Holiday to an autumn one, preferably Trafalgar Day. Of course, I'd like to celebrate Waterloo as well but I do see that it would be nice to have a holiday in the autumn. And we do not need to celebrate International Workers' Day, thank you very much.