RED TAPE GONE MAD
Boris Johnson, in his Daily Telegraph column out today, cries out that:
Too much regulation is being foisted on people, with all its fiscal consequences.
See here or below for the text.
It’s enough to make me blow a fuse
I have a distinguished female constituent who can take it no more. She must have heard me speak 50 times, such is her loyalty and dedication to the great cause we both serve. And when I come to the juddering climax of my speeches she knows, with a sinking dread, what I am about to say. I meet her eye. She rolls her eyes. “No, no,” she mouths. Yes! Yes! I say, because of the two golden rules of politics: the first is repetition and the second is repetition.
Ladies and gentlemen, I say, have I told you about the Windows and Doors Regulation of April 2002? “Yeees,” she wails. Never mind, I say, no one is going to leave this room until they have heard it again, and for the next five minutes (if she is lucky; sometimes I spin it out for 15) I tell her about that infamous legal text, and the insane requirements it places on all of us who break our own windows, in our own homes, in the course of a loving affray, and how we are compelled, if we wish to replace that window, to become members of the Society of Window Replacers, called FENSA, provided we can stump up the fee and pass the exam; and if we cannot pass the FENSA exam, how we must go to the council and deposit a plan showing how we propose to replace our own windows, in OUR OWN HOMES, in line with Britain’s commitments under the Kyoto protocol on climate change, and having replaced the window how we must then go back to the council and get a COUNCIL APPOINTED WINDOW INSPECTOR to come out and verify that whatever we have done is in line with those international commitments. And is that not mad, ladies and gentlemen, I demand. Is that not the height of insanity?
And I use the Windows and Doors Regulation as an example of the kind of pointless law – intended to perfect human existence – which ends up being a burden not just on the householder but the taxpayer, because in the end we all have to pay not just to replace our windows, but that we may have the privilege of having them inspected by a taxpayer-funded window inspector, whose petrol, NI, mileage and other perks are covered by the general purse. That is the reason, ladies and gentlemen, I say, going into auto-rant, why there has been a 530,000 increase (some say more) in the number of public sector officials since 1997, because we have such a foaming torrent of new regs issuing from Brussels and Westminster, all of which must be accompanied by inspectors and compliance officers and clipboard-toters, and that is why taxes have gone up so much over the past six years, and the pension funds have been raided, and yet we have not seen a commensurate improvement in public services.
Normally at this stage, while my friend is whimpering for me to stop, I demand again to know whether anyone has heard anything so preposterous as this windows and doors regulation, and it is fair to say that I generally have the audience on my side as I move to a crescendo of abuse of the Labour government…
So you can imagine my astonishment, the other day, when some woman piped up. “That’s nothing!” she said. “You should see what they are proposing to do with these new building regulations.” Eh? I said. “Yeah,” she said, “they are going to make it virtually impossible for you to do any electrical work IN YOUR OWN HOME without notifying the authorities, let alone install Roof safety systems yourself. ”
Really? I said, feeling trumped, and also wondering whether this would give me some new material with which to make my economic arguments; so I have gone and looked it up, and in the words of the Prince of Wales, it really is appalling. From January 1 you will not even be able to add a new lighting point IN YOUR OWN KITCHEN unless you are a member of the guild with a local electrician, called NICEIC/ECA/NAPIT, in which case you can issue a certificate to yourself, for presentation to the Building Control Body (BCB) showing that whatever you have done is in accord with the guidelines.
Or else you can submit a “building notice” to the local authority, saying how you propose to fiddle with the electrics in your kitchen. Now I can see how this is all good news for the electricians and the housebuilders’ federation, and all those with letters after their names. But what drives me nuts is the thought that there must be someone in the council who will be reading all these pathetic applications to change a switch or a fuse, someone who tabulates data about these applications, and has meetings to discuss the implications of this data – someone, in other words, who is a fully fledged bureaucrat, and whose new existence, necessitated by regulation, helps to explain why council tax has gone up by 70 per cent since Labour came in.
Of course a Keynesian would say that it is all economic activity; and all this red tape is generating income and expenditure, and therefore putting bread on the table of that window inspector and that official charged with reading the applications to add a new light in the bathroom, and that is the guiding principle by which Gordon Brown has been running the economy.
The people of Britain have endured it because the economy has not been too bad, because the value of their houses has roughly doubled since 1997. But when it hits people that tax will have to rise under another Labour government, to pay for Labour’s profligacy and waste, and when they see that if we get another Labour government it will probably be led not by Blair but by Brown himself, since Tony will go in the wake of a referendum defeat on the Euro constitution, then I hope people will realise that we need a new approach to government, which doesn’t foist this kind of regulation on people, with all its fiscal consequences.
And if people don’t get the point, then I will simply repeat my windows story, now embellished by light switches, until they do.