£2bn cost to British businesses of European red tape

So now we have the evidence, what are our leaders going to actually do about it? Especially the bit about our own civil servants ‘gold plating’, that can be fixed immediately.

By Robert Watts – Sunday Telegraph – 21st July 2013

COMPLYING with European Union regulations is costing Britain billions of pounds a year, the first official audit of the cost of membership is to disclose.
The burden on British businesses will be laid bare in a series of reports which will be published tomorrow by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary.
The audit is made up of six reports – called “Balance of Competences” – which civil servants have spent months preparing.
Senior Conservatives hope the reports will form the bedrock of a renegotiation with Brussels, if David Cameron wins the 2015 general election.
Evidence published alongside the reports will show:
• More than 400 new laws have been passed by the European Parliament since the Coalition was formed three years ago, with legislation costing British business £676 million a year;
• Complying with the EU Agency Workers’ Directive costs British firms as much as £1.5 billion a year;
• Less than half of foreign aid money paid by EU institutions goes to help the world’s poorest people.
The initial documents will look at how the EU affects British taxation, health, overseas aid, foreign policy, animal welfare and food safety.
One of the reports will also provide an overview of how the single market affects British businesses.
A further 26 reports will be published in coming months, in a boost to the Euro-sceptic wing of the Conservatives.
However, Tory Government sources indicated that Lib Dem elements of the Government had “sexed down” some of the more critical evidence of EU waste and bureaucracy.
“These are sober documents that provide evidence and analysis about Britain’s relationship with Europe – they do not set out future Government policy,” said a senior Foreign Office source.

It is understood one of the key themes of the reports will be that civil servants in Whitehall often “goldplate” EU regulations unnecessarily to make such laws more onerous than necessary.

Open Europe, the Euro-sceptic think tank, described the reports as a “useful exercise that will inform the EU debate for years to come”. Stephen Booth, a researcher for Open Europe, added: “Unless this review is complemented by a more political strategy to set out the parameters of a future EU renegotiation to secure more flexible UK membership terms, it will not be sufficient.”
The Prime Minister ordered the series of reports on EU influence in July 2012. The documents focus on how each Whitehall department is influenced by the EU, as part of the Prime Minister’s plan to negotiate a new deal without forcing Britain to leave the EU entirely.
The Government also sent out a wider survey to all 26 member countries asking for their opinions on the balance of power between the EU and national parliaments. However, Mr Cameron’s aims received a setback when France and Germany declined to take part in the exercise.
A senior Lib Dem source confirmed that Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, and other fellow party members had been through the Balance of Competences studies. “We have fed into and amended these documents just as we would any government reports,” the source said.
“These documents are not about providing Tory Euro-sceptic headbangers with ammunition to help Britain leave the EU. This is serious, meaty work to assess the pros and cons of what the European Union does for Britain.”
A submission by the British Chambers of Commerce will argue that though its members value the single market, firms often feel stifled by regulations.
“Many of the rules governing the Internal Market are overly complex and expensive to comply with, which has resulted in burdensome and unacceptably high regulation costs for UK business,” it reads.
“The widespread feeling among chamber members is that there have been a number of instances where they were provided with insufficient warning or advice before a new rule was introduced.”
Support for Mr Cameron has rallied on the Tory’s traditionally Euro-sceptic back benches since he set out a new policy on Europe earlier this year.
The Prime Minister said that if the Conservatives won the next general election he would seek to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with Europe. Once the negotiation is complete, Mr Cameron would ask the British public whether it wants to remain part of the EU in an “in-out referendum”, to be held by 2017 at the latest.
So far, the Conservatives are the only party to commit to an EU referendum. However, a private member’s Bill tabled by the Tory backbencher James Wharton aims to introduce legislation that would oblige any party that won the next election to hold such a vote.
In an interview with The Telegraph this weekend Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee, urged Mr Cameron to set out clearly what he hoped to achieve from a renegotiation with Europe. “We should be driving for a very profound renegotiation with Europe with very little political integration,” he said.

…It’s claimed that Davey got Hayes sacked…

“Climate change sceptic Mr Hayes had asked the head of power giants E.on to warn of blackouts unless the Coalition watered down its green crusade and made a U-turn on the closure of coal-fired generators. But Mr Hayes’s boss, Energy Secretary Ed Davey, hit the roof when he found out about the ‘treachery’ – and demanded he was sacked.
Two weeks later, Mr Hayes was dismissed and given a minor backroom role in No 10, advising David Cameron on links with Tory MPs.” – Mail on Sunday

Cameron picking the wrong target in his H&S crusade

David Cameron’s comments on Health and Safety legislation must be a source of great frustration to those working to improve safety in the work place.

His confused thinking is summed up by just one sentence from his speech. “Everyday they battle against a tide of risk assessment forms and face the fear of being sued for massive sums”. He criticises the use of risk assessments and then goes on to talk of the risk of being sued when things goes wrong – does he understand just how ridiculously contradictory this sounds? On the one hand he seems to suggest that risk assessments are an unnecessary blight on businesses, yet in the same breath, he acknowledges that these same businesses are vulnerable to being sued when things go wrong!

The logical conclusion here, is that by addressing the compensation culture that has been created by the no win no fee legal system, you can also dispense with the need for risk assessments. This would be throwing the baby out with the bath water and then some.

By all means, stop the compensation culture in its tracks, by stopping the lawyers from inflating their fees, but leave the well understood and totally justified work place risk assessment requirements in place. There is a clear danger that the current pariahs of the workplace, no win no fee lawyers, will be replaced by cowboy employers, who feel they can ignore worker safety in pursuit of profit, because the Prime Minister says so.

The Health and Safety Executive should be the ones determining the level of safety monitoring and assessment needed in the work place, not the politicians.

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-24025525-health-and-safety-laws-are-holding-back-business.do

Cameron picking the wrong target in his H&S crusade

David Cameron’s comments on Health and Safety legislation must be a source of great frustration to those working to improve safety in the work place.

His confused thinking is summed up by just one sentence from his speech. “Everyday they battle against a tide of risk assessment forms and face the fear of being sued for massive sums”. He criticises the use of risk assessments and then goes on to talk of the risk of being sued when things goes wrong – does he understand just how ridiculously contradictory this sounds? On the one hand he seems to suggest that risk assessments are an unnecessary blight on businesses, yet in the same breath, he acknowledges that these same businesses are vulnerable to being sued when things go wrong!

The logical conclusion here, is that by addressing the compensation culture that has been created by the no win no fee legal system, you can also dispense with the need for risk assessments. This would be throwing the baby out with the bath water and then some.

By all means, stop the compensation culture in its tracks, by stopping the lawyers from inflating their fees, but leave the well understood and totally justified work place risk assessment requirements in place. There is a clear danger that the current pariahs of the workplace, no win no fee lawyers, will be replaced by cowboy employers, who feel they can ignore worker safety in pursuit of profit, because the Prime Minister says so.

The Health and Safety Executive should be the ones determining the level of safety monitoring and assessment needed in the work place, not the politicians.

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-24025525-health-and-safety-laws-are-holding-back-business.do

David Cameron advises us to use local policies to fill NPPF gaps

David Cameron so obviously doesn’t understand the way the planning system works and has not read the NPPF. He appears on the Andrew Marr show this morning, trotting out the propaganda fed to him by those who have been promoting wholesale changes to the planning system.

More interestingly, he suggested that, just because something isn’t ‘specified’ at the national level, such as the control of roadside advertising hoardings, this doesn’t mean it can’t done at the local level. Taken to it’s logical conclusion, this could see the thousands of pages that will been thrown on the bonfire, by the introduction of the 50 odd pages of the NPPF at the national level, replaced by thousands of pages of planning legislation being created at the local level – some improvement to an over complex system that will be!

I hope all of those involved in the producing planning policies at the local level take note of this steer from the Prime Minister. I read this as: Where the National Planning Policy Framework is, out of date, indeterminate or silent on a subject, a local policy is to be used to fill the gap.

Time for action on Big Society

As MPs went through the motions in Parliament, having been recalled, I hope at least a few of them, including those on the Tory benches, took the opportunity to ask David Cameron how, given the events of that triggered the recall, he intends to put his Big Society vision in to practice.

Surely, the recent, both horrifying and depressing, events across mainly England, are a confirmation of what David Cameron has been saying since he became Party leader. His biggest problem now, is the risk of being accused of being all talk and no action. Can he really expect all those people who turned out on the streets of London, armed with brooms and bin bags, to keep doing so from now on, without something more than words of encouragement from his government? If he does, then his vision is doomed already.

Just like a train needs tracks to run, Big Society will only work if it has the right sort of infrastructure to support it. People are demanding no more cuts in police budgets, so that more officers can be put on the streets and that is one solution. However, the heavy hand of authority is the way regimes such Syria, Lybia and Zimbabwe control their populations. I don’t think any right minded citizen would wish to see the UK go down this route, if only because it fails completely to address the underlying issues. Policing is the answer, but not neccesaraily high police numbers. Policing focussed on and based in the community, in other words, a return to a form of the good old village bobby.

If David Cameron believes that the Big Society can work, he could do worse than start by reintroducing genuine local policing. This could be in the form of a proper community based police officer, complete with office and house – sound familiar? Or, as works in other European countries such as Holland, community wardens living and working in their communities. Recent events in Japan also highlighted their system of community based officials. I also understand that it is common practice to see mini-police offices on many street corners, providing genuine community based policing.

The key to this approach is ensuring that there are enough boots on the ground, as they say in the military – over to you Dave.

Good luck Bill

Perhaps the police should take the opportunity presented by David Cameron’s invitation to Bill Bratton, to assist him in producing the evidence needed to make their case for them.

The police are telling the Prime Minister that the cuts are wrong, whilst others are saying that the police’s hands are tied by red tape and political correctness. If the politicians insist on continuing to ignore their own police officers and the public, why not allow an outsider, in the form of Bill Bratton, to come in and put the politicians straight?

I have little doubt that, after a very short time in the job, the American super-cop will be singing from the same hymn sheet as everyone but, the politicians. News reports are already highlighting the fact that much of Bill Bratton’s success in New York and LA, came from increasing significantly the numbers of cops on the ground, so this is the first issue he will be out of step with the politicans on. These increased police numbers were then used to apply a zero tolerance policy, that saw even the smallest of infringements met with the full force of the law and this is another area of potential conflict.

As long as we continue to allow the straightjacket of political correctness to paralyise the thought processes of senior police officers, any attempt at a zero tolerance approach is likely to be equally paralyised. The final reality check for super-cop will be our courts slavish adherence to the Human Rights Act, that seems to allow so many criminals off the hook in someway or another. Good luck Bill, you’ll need it!