HC Deb 22 July 1996 vol 282 cc10-1
9. Mr. John Marshall

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what amount of time he spent on promoting the policy of deregulation in the last month. [36547]

The Deputy Prime Minister

Promoting the need for fewer, better and simpler regulations is a constant theme of my daily work.

Mr. Marshall

What a wonderful tune.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the threat to jobs in the United Kingdom comes from the deregulated economies of south-east Asia? Does he agree that those tiger economies have prospered while jobs have disappeared in the regulated economies of western Europe? Does not the threat to jobs come from increased regulation in the form of, for instance, the social chapter and a national minimum wage—the new dangers from new Labour?

The Deputy Prime Minister

I entirely agree. Moreover, the privatisation programme that we have introduced has undoubtedly contributed to a great surge in productivity in British industry, with all the growth implications that that has. All the steps that we have taken to make ours one of the fastest-growing economies in western Europe, with the highest proportion of the work force employed, should be seen in the context of the Labour party's opposition to all of them.

Mr. Olner

While the Deputy Prime Minister is contemplating that, will he not tell the truth—that more regulatory legislation has been introduced under the present Government than any deregulatory legislation that he has ever introduced? Surely the truth is that there is now more regulation governing small business people than there was before.

The Deputy Prime Minister

It is possible to discuss such matters in sensationalised headline terms, and to give an entirely false impression of what has happened. If people recognise that, in order to complete the single market, we have had to harmonise and regulate 400 elements of an agenda that was designed to create the greatest expansion of trade opportunities that the country has ever seen, they will realise that it is often necessary to regulate to create a freer climate and a more harmonious background. If they also take into account the fact that most regulations that pass through the House have nothing to do with small businesses, and are often nothing more than measures to update or uprate existing regulations, they will realise that newspaper headlines can be constructed based on the flimsiest straw.