Do we expect too much of regulation?

 

In recent years a depressing cry has gone up for more regulation of anything that goes wrong. Often the things that have most let us down are already heavily regulated. Then the cry goes up for more regulation, and different regulation.

Too many people seem to believe in the perfectibiltiy of man and woman, as long as they are strictly controlled by tough regulators. If we have more regulators banks will no longer lend too much and go bust, financial service businesses will no longer offer products which lose people money, journalists will no longer get stories wrong, employers will no longer be unfair to employees, trains and cars will not crash, people will not slip up on icy pavements. The list of wrongs that can be righted and accidents that can be avoided gets longer by the day.

Every disaster understandably brings forth a “Something must be done” crusade. Ministers of all parties solemnly tell the Commons that action will be taken to make sure it will never happen again. That tendency of human nature to make mistakes, to do things too casually and come unstuck, the criminal tendency to be greedy at others expense, will be miracled away by a new and enlarged generation of regulators.

All of us have long agreed and accepted that there are some types of conduct which are unacceptable. We make these offences under the Statutory criminal law. Businesses must not kill their customers. Commerce has to use fair contracts to supply goods and services. Theft is a crime. Most of the things that go wrong and most bug us are already crimes. They are therefore already under Statutory regulation. We more often have an enforcement problem than a shortage of rules and laws. We all want to know that if a major food company supplied food that poisoned us, or if a public transport company drove us recklessly on train or bus making an accident very likely, there would b e criminal sanctions against the management and perpetrators.

The Regulators come in both to buttress the police in enforcing the criminal law, and to impose a whole series of rules or mini laws on practitioners governing matters that fall short of being crimes. Before allowing such regulators access to our wallets and free rein over competitive busiensses, we need to ask what value do they add?

It is possible that allowing regulators to ask many questions of businesses, and to demand certain practices of businesses, they might cut the incidence of crime, or turn evidence of crime over to the authorities more quickly. It is more often the caee, however, that potential crime is unearthed by customers who report it. They could equally well report it to the police as to the Regulators. Regulators in general can be an expensive and cumbersome way of strengthening the police force and the capacity of the police to tackle business crime.

The main preoccupation of Regulators becomes the encouragement or imposition of best practice on their captive industry or regulated groups. This may ensure some of the poorer performers in the profession or industry do a better job. It also may limit innovation, prevent some from experimenting with better answers. It can ensure the errors of the majority are enforced on the majority. In Statutory financial regulation we saw this in the period 2000-2007 after its introduciton in the UK. The Regulators bought the common thesis of the day that new ways of spreading risk made massive gearing safe. They not merely allowed it, but helped spread the damaging doctrine.

We do need to ask who regulates the regulators. Parliament should do this. In its current mood Parliament is not that willing to question the need for so much regulation, its wisdom, or its consequences. Not all regulaiton is good. Much of it is wasteful. Some of it is positively harmful.

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117 Comments

  1. Single Acts
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    News reports over the weekend said that more than 100,000 people had signed a petition calling for the recommendations of the Leveson report to be implemented in full. This was one of the saddest things I’ve heard in ages.

    First, given that Leveson was only published this week, how many of the signatories would have read the report? At 2,000 pages, no more than a handful. Second, I wonder how many of the signatories even knew how many recommendations there are? The executive summary tells me 92. Question the signatories again, how many could name them all, or even one?

    This is desperate stuff. These people don’t seem to notice the chains being put ever more tightly around their necks, indeed they are cheerleading the process. The ability to regulate (and therefore control) the press would be an awesome power to give to the state. It seems that the petitioners can’t see the possibility of the state misusing the power.

    Reply 100,000 seems very few given the big adverts for it on the BBC

    • Disaffected
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      I thought we were promised a bonfire of quangos. If this happened perhaps the regulators could have be streamlined and a sharp focus placed on what they were meant to achieve. It appears there are rather a lot of quangos headed by former politicians or people affiliated to politicians. Look at how Archbishop Cranmer dismantled the wretched bias behind the ASA. Regulators and/or quangos become a self fulfilling body that continuously grow and become less effective along the way not to upset those who are being inspected.

      If you wish to examine a prime example look at the amount of inquiries there has been in relation to child protection. How many children need to be abused or die before proper implementation of recommendations and radical change brought about at local authority children service departments?

      Only last week we had another example of a children service department acting inappropriately by taking children away from foster carers. The same council who presided over the grooming of young vulnerable white girls and did not want to say or admit that a specific ethnic group of men were targeting the girls. When is action going to be taken against the regulators and quangos that should have prevented this, they clearly failed in their purpose?

      The directors of children services, quangos and regulators are paid high salaries, when does the taxpayer get value for money that they ironically preach about? The government needs one minister to sort it out rather than leave it as a cross department issue. How about Mr Pickles as part of a local authority drive for value for money? Review local authority boundaries and use the opportunity to implement radical change and only appoint the best. No appointments based on race/gender quotas or political affiliation.

    • Posted December 3, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Indeed the BBC bias and Murdoch hatred on the issue is absurd as is usual. I see the
      unfairly subsidised and biased BBC as far more damaging.

    • Mark
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      The BBC seems to have been able to wage a campaign against its competitors with impunity, while consuming large amounts of airtime. They of course would be exempt from the proposed regulation.

      A radio bulletin I heard was suggesting that the petition would now have to be debated in Parliament for having reached 100,000 signatures. I can find no trace of the petition here:

      http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions?order=desc&page=1&sort=count

      because in fact the petition is run without proper control by the Hacked Off pressure group: it is easily possible to sign it multiple times. Fraser Nelson of “The Spectator” reported:

      A friend told me he put “Donald Duck” down ten times on the Hacked Off petition, and watched its system register click up ten times – so I’m not sure how real this petition is. Or how much they (or the BBC) care how real the names are.

      Time to hold the BCC to account.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      John that’s because after an e-petition gets 10,000 signatures it passes the Government’s threshold for consideration and more signatures don’t result in any additional actions.

      • Mark
        Posted December 3, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

        That doesn’t apply to voodoo petitions where anyone can vote as many times as they wish. It only applies to petitions on the No 10 website.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      Single Acts given that Ofcom already regulates broadcasters I don’t see how a regulator for the press will be an “awesome power to give to the state” especially since fewer and fewer people read newspapers.

      • Mark
        Posted December 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

        What regulation of news coverage have Ofcom ever done?

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Single Acts,
      You have to remember that you can’t get much from 2000 pages in 140 characters and that is the limit of too many people’s thinking.

      • Single Acts
        Posted December 4, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        ha ha ~ brilliant

  2. Posted December 3, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    The main preoccupation of Regulators becomes the encouragement of more regulations to increase the regulation industry and their power and wages. This is often encouraged by trade bodies who represent regulated groups as it does the same for these trade bodies too.
    It all kills competition which many welcome. Regulators are like charities often their first priority is to exaggerate the extent of the problems they rarely want to actually solve it and put themselves out of business.

    Light, minimum and sensible regulation is what is needed or non at all if possible. An improvement to the civil legal system to is needed to make run in the interests of users rather than lawyers and courts as now.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      Only in right wing delusions will this plan work. Regulations are needs to prevent employers exploiting their employees, having dangerous workplaces, and making unsafe products.

      It’s better to prevent people being injured in the first place rather than helping sue the company after they’ve been injured.

  3. ROGER THE PILOT
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    On publication of the long awaited Leveson Report, I believe we have a dilemma. On the one hand the perfect solution to the problems of the current press is unarguably that we need an independent authority to regulate it.
    Gradually, over many years now, the ‘press’ by and large, have behaved disgracefully and there is no doubt that self-regulation has not and will not work. They have had their chance, and blown it!
    But let’s not lose sight of the fact that phone hacking, fraud and bribery are all crimes; and as such should be handled by the police! After all, no one should be above the law.
    It’s true, the press desperately needs regulating, but does it need legislation to guide it? In other words, will the appointed regulators need political guidance? Do we really want politicians to hold dominion over the regulators?
    I think not, given the track record of our MPs; and I know we shouldn’t speak collectively; but you got to ask yourself, who among the 650 would you trust to appoint that authority?
    As if we need any reminding, one only needs look back at the MP’s expenses saga, to realise that civic duty has in many cases been replaced by self-interest, and many of these so-called law makers have long standing issues with the ‘free press’ that may have exposed them; consequently some may seize the opportunity to settle old scores.
    By the very nature of politics, no politician can be truely independent, so there is no way that we can place 100% of our trust in any politician. There’s also no way that we can trust any politician not to have an alternative agenda!
    In my opinion, should regulation become underpinned by law; a law that has been made and therefore quite possibly changed and amended by future politicians, we will have lost yet another bastion of freedom; that of the precious freedom of the press!
    One thing that history has taught us, is that once parliament has granted itself legislative powers; as night follows day, you can bet those powers will be expanded on, at some later date.
    So, the shouting and lobbying begins! Where it will end, no one knows, but I suspect that we will end up with an unhealthy compromise which will consist of ever more intrusive and bureaucratic regulation with pledges and assurances that the law won’t be misused. …Then, at the first hurdle, it will be.
    Then, other than football reports, racings runners and riders and other sporting events, there really would be no point reading newspapers anymore, because there will be no single truth in a world ruled by political parties.
    So, to conclude, we all agree that the press needs regulating to protect the innocent and the vulnerable, the question is, who do we trust with enough independence and integrity to appoint the regulators?
    It’s a sad world we find ourselves living in!

    • oldtimer
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      You make good points. The introduction of statutory regulation of the press would be the thin end of the wedge. It would be exploited over time by the politicians in charge and their spinners. Dr Goebbels would approve, were he alive today. Of course politicians already exploit their privileged posiition through the lobby system. This is used ruthlessly to brainwash the public and to discredit their opponents.

      The misbehaviour of the press has been, and continues to be, punished through existing law. That is how it should continue. I write as someone who was, many years ago, a victim of misreporting. My remedy was through the courts.

      • uanime5
        Posted December 4, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        Care to explain why statutory regulation of broadcasters hasn’t caused all the problems you mentioned? Thought not.

        • Mark
          Posted December 4, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

          But it seems that that is exactly what has happened.

    • Mark
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      It’s not unarguable that a regulator is needed. Many here have suggested that improved access to libel courts with an ability to demand publication of apologies and corrections with exactly the same prominence as the offending piece would do far better than a regulator would.

      • stred
        Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

        Ditto

    • uanime5
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      Ofcom already regulates broadcasters, why not have them regulate the press as well.

      • Mark
        Posted December 3, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

        If your complaint relates to matters of due impartiality, due accuracy, bias or commercial references (with the exception of the relevant product placement rules: see Section Nine of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code) in BBC programming, please make a complaint directly to the BBC.

        The BBC Trust regulates these areas rather than Ofcom.

        http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/tell-us/tv-and-radio/accuracy-or-bias-on-the-bbc/

        Perhaps we could start by having Ofcom actually regulate the BBC.

        • uanime5
          Posted December 4, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

          I notice that you didn’t answer my question regarding why Ofcom can’t regulate the press as well as broadcasters.

          • Mark
            Posted December 4, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

            I have.

  4. colliemum
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    We need to acknowledge that we now live in a society where ‘feelings’, especially those of ‘victims’, count more than the despised hard, cold facts.

    We need to acknowledge that we now live in a society where the majority is happy to be a ‘client’ of a certain political party, locally and nationally, so that they don’t have to worry about anything at all except their feelings: they are being housed, fed, taught (the pitiful bit which our failing schools teach) and looked after literally from cradle to grave.

    Their feelings are important, and their feelings have been given prominence by the MSM and certain politicians who keep on talking about ‘protecting the vulnerable’, as long as these ‘vulnerables’ fit into their political schemes.

    So your wise but factual sentence: “We more often have an enforcement problem than a shortage of rules and laws. “ simply doesn’t cut it any longer.
    As long as anybody with some problem is able to get into the MSM (many peoples aim in life!) with the phrase “I don’t want this to happen to anybody else”, there will be politicians pandering to them.

    Regulations, the more there are, are not just stifling society, they deprive people of taking responsibility for their own lives, mistakes and errors included.
    It’s not so much the Nanny State which needs to be cut back – it’s the mind set of the majority of people who have been taught that they cannot do anything at all except with the help of the government.

    • Jon
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

      True. The 300 of the great and good who gave evidence have a loud voice. The Tommy’s who went over the top to their death in their countless thousands for freedom are being forgotten.

  5. Gary
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    The one regulation that we do need : let bad banks go bust.

    But govt cannot bring itself to allow this. So we limp on like Japan, who are into their second lost decade and Japan had the largest savings in the world at the start and now have the second largest total debt . We start with the largest total debt in the g20.

    This is going to end very badly. Govts are looters of the people for the well connected.

    • Gary
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      Actually, Japan are into their third lost decade.

      • zorro
        Posted December 3, 2012 at 7:33 am | Permalink

        They also had large scale productive industry and good exports which we don’t have either……

        zorro

        • zorro
          Posted December 3, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

          and a homogenous, generally compliant and respectful population…..

          zorro

          • forthurst
            Posted December 3, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

            …and a lack of sacred places for sacred people.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      Gary–How keen would you be if it were your bank that went bust? Remember that it used to be the case that this question was less important than it is now because few people had bank accounts. Now that essentially everybody has been pretty much forced to have one the situation is different.

      • Gary
        Posted December 4, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        The banks ,with at least $600Trillion notional derivative debt(according to the BIS), have the ability to take the entire country down if we keep shovelling money into them, and that may yet happen. In other words by saving your bank deposit you risk losing your country.

        If any bailouts were to be made , what should have happened in 2008 was that the retail depositors could have been bailed out and the banks let go. It would have been cheaper and , like Iceland, growth would have been already restored. Albeit from a lower base.

        Capitalism is all about renewal and regeneration. Without clearing out bad businesses you cannot have sustainable growth.

  6. Elliot Kane
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Excellent article, John. I agree with every word.

    I think an excess of regulation can also lead to an obsession with box ticking, where practicality and common sense are ignored in favour of following an exact check list.

    There are far too many recent cases of, for example, police refusing to rescue drowning people without a health and safety check. This, I would contend, is the damaging result of too much regulation and not enough reliance on the ability of individuals to think for themselves.

    So yes, I emphatically agree with you.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 4, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      You do realise that without completing the health and safety check there’s a very high risk of the police officer drowning as well. Common sense isn’t a substitute for actual training.

      • zorro
        Posted December 5, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        Don’t be ridiculous, drowning in 3 foot of water…..a fully fit policeman…get a grip!

        zorro

  7. Mike Stallard
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Lots of the trouble is simply down to very bad policing.
    The Police must have known how deeply involved with the Press the Labour Government were, and they must have also known how deeply involved the current one was. They must – or should anyway – have known all about the phone hacking. I understand that ( ed – no-one has been prosecuted as I understand it, and all are innocent until proven guilty)some bent coppers were also involved in giving or even selling information too.
    All the illegal stuff (lots of that) was firmly under the purview of the Police.
    In our town, the centre, after dark, is now scary for women to walk in. There is a lot of quite open drunkenness even in the market place and the many side alleys are full, in the morning, of beer cans. There is also a lot of sleeping rough.
    So what is the Police reaction? Close the Police Station and sell it for flats!

    Regulation is never going to make up for boots on the ground (which is why we are, apparently, in Afghanistan).

    • Bazman
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      More cuts are needed Mike. The revenue generated from the flats will be put to good use for sure as you well know.

  8. alan jutson
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Its the blame culture John.

    There are no accidents any more, there are no acts of god, it is always someone elses fault.

    No one seems to want to accept responsibility for their own actions anymore.

    Example:
    Payment by results in the legal profession initially helped many, but due to the cost of defending small claims, many companies just paid up without question, and this has resulted in the growth of a new industry of “the claim game”

    • Bazman
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      Most accidents are caused and easily preventable in industry. Bad working conditions are not accidents and neither is the long term disease and health problems caused by them. The workforce injured are supposed to say Oh! It was just an accident. That ain’t going to pay the bills. Maybe all the Indians burned should just accept that all the fire exits were accidentally locked and the fire was just an accident. Thats where you are going.

  9. Greg Tingey
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Ever heard of “Regulatory Capture”?
    Where the regulated take over the regulation, and it all becomes a cosy little self-perpetuating club?

  10. Mike Wilson
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Surely the big news today is that the government is now about to check our credit history to see if we are allegedly spending more money than we declare as income.

    If you pay a plumber in cash he will spend that cash on things the rest of us would use credit cards for – to buy things in shops, to pay for meals etc. So, not sure how that works.

    What is more worrying though is the mindset it reveals. We have a big state conservative government that wants to take as much tax as possible off everyone and use it to prop up the big state. I simply cannot see the difference between Conservative and Labour these days.

    Where is the party of enterprise and aspiration? The party that realises that taxing people to the hilt simply destroys enterprise. We all walk around with our shoulders hunched wondering ‘what’s the point? I can never get ahead of the game, the more I earn the more I am taxed’. The goverment is spending every waking moment thinking up new ways to extract more tax from us.

    It should, instead, slash tax – and regulation – to set the economy free to grow. Low tax economices produce more growth and more tax revenues. This is a simple FACT. High tax economies stifle growth and produce a stagnant economy which cannot compete in global markets. We really are going to hell on a hand-cart, and all your government can do, Mr Redwood, is work out how to extract more tax from those of us that actually work our nuts off and pay it.

    • graham
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      It was ever thus, Mike. They have always done things like this, but usually only to the ‘little people’., who they screw and intimidate for the last penny.

      Did you know, for instance, that the revenue have a book which lists the profit margins all types of business are expected to make? Many years ago, when I was in business, I fell foul of this one. They did not believe my tax returns and I had to prove everything was above board. Their opinion in the end was that my prices were too low and I should increase them to tally with their ideas!!

      This is what makes it all the more galling that the likes of Starbucks, Google, Amazon et al (behave as) they do, but of course, they are not ‘little people’.

    • stred
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Oh dear! The tax snoopers will be suspicious of my spending. Much of my credit card expenditure goes on materials for and insurance of rental properties. This is deducted as a tax allowance, lowering tax bills but increasing credit.

      JR has summed up over regulation well. Often the demands for more regulation come because the police and councils cannot be bothered to use existing laws. For example, my excellent Polish tenants left because (neighbours) made noise all night until 5am, when as airport workers, they had to go to work. When asked to attend, the environmental health department would not call until the party was over. Regulations required that they go through the process of bringing monitoring equipment. The police, as ever, were not interested.

      (instances tenant problems)

      We now have arrived at a position in my town where the Council has made almost the whole area out to the universities a ‘problem area’ subject to licensing. There are thousands of small shared houses which have now been defined as HMOs, under the regulations determined by government lawyers. The number of unrelated persons permitted has drifted down to two. All this is despite a government survey, the ENTEC Report, which showed that small 2 storey 4 person houses were no more likely to cause fire related deaths than similar family houses. But expensive fire precautions form the main requirement of licensing.

      On top of this, landlords are expected to set up management systems to control unruly tenants. But, if they say to a tenant ” if you carry on like this, I will evict you” – this is also illegal and a criminal offence. Personally, I decided to let only to families rather than respond to the market, as before. When I spoke to a new zealot in the ‘Housing Action’ department, he told me to apply for planning permission, as they may wish to stop me doing so ( for a large fee), as there may be a shortage of shared houses. And presumably a shortage of work for the new department!

      • stred
        Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

        Surprised you moderated this, as no persons or towns have been named and it is all true.

    • Lord Blagger
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      It’s very simple.

      They up the swannee in debt

      http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171766_263808.pdf. See page 4.

      4.7 trillion hidden off the books.

      That’s why they are desperate.

      In addition they have a spending addiction

      730 bn on income (taxes) of 550 bn.

    • Jan
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      We are in the grip of a Statist consensus and elections are pointless. We are too taxed, too regulated and too tired but we plod on thinking that good times are going to come back. We go on in the deluded belief that someone sane is in charge of the rudder. But if we listen to the noises on the track we will hear the approach of reality – and she is coming.

      The good times are not coming back. We have a State that is living beyond…way beyond, the means of its taxpaying citizens. And even then reneging on its basic duties of protection and law enforcement. When the Ministry of Defence has to ask its soldiers to ‘work from home’ to save money you know reality and the settling of the account can’t be that far away.

    • Bob
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      ” I simply cannot see the difference between Conservative and Labour these days.”

      That is because there is none.
      Google the collectivist conspiracy by G Edward Griffin.

      “Where is the party of enterprise and aspiration?”
      It’s called UKIP.
      Their policies are on their website.
      They’re not racist, and they’re not anti European.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      Care to explain why Germany with its high taxes has better growth than the UK and produces more tax revenue.

      High taxes doesn’t always result in no growth or produce stagnation.

      • Mark
        Posted December 3, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

        Germany’s effective tax rates are actually lower than the UK’s. There is no equivalent of National Insurance (and indeed things like health insurance are tax deductible).

      • Richard1
        Posted December 3, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

        Germany, like Sweden, has implemented some effective supply side reforms. Germany has become exceptionally competitive at least within the euro zone. Though tax/GDP ratios are high in both Germany and Sweden, they both have far better fiscal positions than the UK. It’s all the leftist borrowing and spending – with it’s resultant need for higher future taxes – that has stuffed us here. Even so, if you really wants see examples of countries demonstrating how low taxes lead to higher growth look further afield – the US, Canada, Singapore, china, Australia etc

        • Lindsay McDougall
          Posted December 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

          The latest figure that I can find for Germany’s total tax take is 39.5%, barely higher than the UK. And the German fiscal position is better.

      • Max Dunbar
        Posted December 4, 2012 at 12:04 am | Permalink

        I bought some bottles of Becks in a pub in Germany a few days ago. Each 500ml bottle cost 1.9 euros. They sold a lot of bottles of Becks that night. Obviously, the tax take (and profit) on each bottle was low but high in aggregate, therefore vindicating the low-tax economic theory and disproving the myth that taxes are high in Germany. What would that bottle cost here?
        There is also no blanket ban on smoking in pubs. Less regulation than the UK in that respect and a feeling of freedom by comparison.
        The roads appear to be maintained to a higher standard. Stone is used in place of concrete. Shoddy bent metal railings are not in evidence anywhere. German minimum standards are considerably higher than here and public money is better spent.

        Overall, most things are cheaper and better value for money in Germany than in the UK.

        • uanime5
          Posted December 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

          One low tax does not mean that all taxes in Germany are lower.

  11. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Who regulates Parliament? Oh, I remember, it’s the EU and the ECHR isn’t it?

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted December 4, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      Why after 30 hours has my comment not been posted? Too near the mark?

  12. Amanda
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Well argued.

  13. Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    What will be achieved by more regulation of the press in the UK? What about overseas media? With a computer I can read media websites anywhere in the world the content of which would be unaffected by any Leveson inspired regulation and what is more I can do so free of charge. So why should I or anyone else spend money on regulated, i.e. censored, British newspapers?

  14. graham
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    On the wole, we have far too much law and regulation.

    Do the press need regulating at all? Are they really any more reprehensible than any other profession or industry? Take the recent cases of neglect in hospitals and old people’s homes, of the doctor Shipmans, the bankers, bent police, tax dodgers, cartels in business (the power and fuel industries most obviously). The press seem guilty mostly of hurting people’s feelings, not actually killing anyone like these others. Hard cases make bad law and the McCanns and the Dowlers of course deserve sympathy, but not a law constructed purely for them, whereas ‘celebrities’ do not – they will be seeking press coverage when they have something to promote, soon enough. To use the heavy and inept hand of parliament to try to control human behaviour is not only likely to be useless, but is dangerous. The politicians in general would love to publicise only their good deeds and hide their scams, as they have always tried to do. We must not let them.

    This whole Leveson thing was only a Cameron knee jerk reaction to a transient event anyway and now that the report has come out he wants to bin it. For once, I agree with him in this. It won’t work, it will of course be expensive and will grow like Topsy. Where the law is broken, the police must do their duty and not run away from issues because of political correctness, racial sensitivities or the position of the law breakers. Let us see whether the new PCC’s have any real effect. The London Mayor’s influence on the Met did not seem to make much difference and after the first few months of sizing them up, I expect it will be business as usual with the cost mounting and effectiveness declining.

  15. Acorn
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    There is one thing the British are very good at, summed up by phrases like “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face” and “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”. Select Committees are becoming very good at promoting de-motivation of the populace and manufacturing new villains. If you are an employee of their latest villains, tax dodging Corporates, be afraid. Do you think they understand that all Corporates are ultimately owned by Households, directly or via pension funds and the like.

    I expect, before long, the government will wake-up to the fact that allowing Opposition MPs to Chair Select Committees is becoming a problem, they are getting more media coverage than the Ministerial Departments they shadow.

    Anyway, I told you t’other day, that Corporation tax is voluntary and is the one of the few recognisable taxes that are subject to international competition. If nobody wants to pay yours, then your rates are too high. If profits margins are above international norms, (Brits will pay through the nose for everything including coffee and cars), it is worth staying in that high tax country, and use transfer pricing to shift that profit. After all, that is how the politicians made the law with the corporate lobby, full of handy little loop holes. Alas, todays frothy serving of a multi million pound blitz on tax dodgers, is yet more smoke and mirrors for public (i.e. the 99%) consumption.

    BTW. You may have come across GAAR. This is proposed nuclear weapons grade legislation. It is the sort of legislation that a country with no Supreme Court defensible written Constitution, can introduce via statute law. Accountancy Age said. “What is currently proposed is this: when the courts are asked to decide whether the GAAR catches a particular form of tax planning, they will be required to take into account both HMRC guidance and the opinions of the advisory panel. The guidance and these opinions will, therefore, have a quasi-legislative status.

    In our legal system, the government proposes legislation, parliament enacts it, and the courts, where necessary, enforce and interpret it. The distinction between these roles is at the heart of the separation of powers between judiciary, executive and legislative. It is this fundamental constitutional principle which will be violated by the proposed GAAR. It is true that parliament frequently (and often controversially) delegates limited powers to the executive [and hence its regulators – A], but this is done within clearly defined parameters that limit the discretion being given to the government. The proposed GAAR is very different. It essentially gives the government a carte blanche to legislate in vague terms and have permanent control over the meaning and application of those terms through the guidance. HMRC guidance should never be used as a method of determining, and changing, the meaning of the basic concepts of legislation. That is parliament’s job.

    [This is the bit that MUST be defended-A]. For that very reason, the courts will not allow government departments to use post-enactment guidance as a way of trying to turn what they did enact in the legislation into what they wish they had enacted.”

    Some don’t like it but Lord Justice Leveson was spot on with his thinking. I think he knows that someday, the Judges may well be the last line of defence against their own government, for the 99%.

  16. Iain Gill
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    If we didn’t have regulation we would have children chimney sweeps, we would have building sites with no hard hats, we would have hundreds of thousands of (foreign migrants coming) in to undercut the local workforce.

    We have sorted the first two of these, the last one seems to be OK by the will of the political classes who don’t have to suffer its consequences.

    You are right the regulation industry itself is out of control, and could be improved big time, however I don’t think this means we need little regulation. We need to get the balance better.

    On equality, equality is equality is equality. So it should be just as illegal to discriminate on the basis of a working class accent, as it is to discriminate on the basis of skin colour. It should be just as illegal to show bias in favour of ethnic recruits in some misguided attempt at positive discrimination as it is to discriminate against them. It should be just as illegal to show positive discrimination for women.

    It should be very very illegal to have state funded schools bar potential pupils because their parents don’t profess the same religion as the school. Indeed the divisions within society this religious segregation is causing is building up serious problems for the future. The Catholic Church (has double standards) as it happily lets children of all faiths into its schools when these schools are not state funded and they need the parents hard cash.

    Sadly there aren’t any politicians with the balls to tackle these issues.

  17. Lord Blagger
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Most of the things that go wrong and most bug us are already crimes
    ==============

    Quite.

    Now look at what you do about crime.

    1. Expenses.

    It is an offence to sign an expenses form saying that the claim is wholly and necessary for your work as an MP, when that isn’t the case. It’s making a false document and its fraud.

    52% of MPs made such declarations, and then when caught paid the cash back. That means there is no argument, it wasn’t wholly and necessary, its a fact.

    Were there prosecutions of 52%? Nope.

    So we have a problem of the law not being enforced.

    2. False accounting on the pensions. As it stands the state pension is a legally enforceable debt. However, you’ve kept 4.7 trillion off the books. That creates a wholly misleading impression about the state of government finances. At the same time, you encourage people to give you money for extra years in the state pension. Again, that’s a fraud under section 2 of the fraud act.

    No action from the police, or from MPs.

    It’s a bit like finding a bill stuffed down the back of the sofa for quarter of a million quid, when you are only earning 26K. How do you tell the wife? Hence MPs won’t tell the truth on the debts.

    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171766_263808.pdf Page 4 for the estimates.

    For the public that’s pretty dire. They haven’t time to make alternative provision. They haven’t the money because you’re taking it off them to keep the ponzi going. When it collapses, they are the ones in the merde.

    3. etc

    Reply: How can the state pension be a fraud when it has been clearly stated it is pay as you go and not funded? most of the 52% of MPs made legal claims honestly and had them paid, but then Parliament retrospectively changed the rules on what was reasonable to claim. That is not fraud.

  18. stred
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    One of the areas of regulation which has become subject to the law of unintended consequences is the attempt to reduce water consumption. I refer to the Eurobog.

    Across the EU the toilet cisterns have beeen redesigned to allow two degrees of flushing. I have had to install them over the last few years and have been having problems with mechanisms and leaks. On holiday the owners of properties where I stay have been having similar problems.

    The old British cisterns operated on a syphonic system, so that, if the piston seal wore out it would not work, as the water would not pull over the syphon. The new Eurobog is a triumph of engineering. It has two little float operated release systems, allowing the user to push a button and series of levers in order to chose a smaller flush for number ones. In order to fit all this into the cistern, the water is released by a plunger which seals a hole at the base and allows the water out directly into the flush pipe. The operation depends on a rubber piston seal which fits over a plastic outlet.

    But, after a year or two, depending on the hardness of the water, the seal starts to fail. All that is noticeable is a little trickle of water, which can be seen by looking carefully at the water surface, after the flush. Very few tenants every bother to report it and, as the supply is not metered, they do do notice or care. At home, I have taken ours apart several times and tried to clean it, but it still leaks. A new Eurobog costs about £35 and new rubber plungers are hard to find. A visit from a plumber could take an hour plus travelling. Meanwhile, adding up all the faulty WC seals across the EU, a torrent of water similar to the Rhine must be going straight down the drain.

    • stred
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      And, as reported by JR recently, increased water production counted to the growth of GNP. So at least we can feel good about this aspect of cistern failure.

    • stred
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

      Are you checking up on bogs?

  19. Posted December 3, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I think regulation can actually be damaging and counter-productive. What we should be doing is having as few laws as possible and have those laws well enforced.

    Regulations have many negative effects:

    1. Act as a barrier to enforcement

    2. Encourage companies to ‘work to the regulations’ instead of working to the market, distorting ‘natural’ markets and ultimately leading to excessive prices and profits

    3. Add unnecessary overhead and lack of democratic accountability in the form of quango regulators

    4. Force the innocent majority to be treated as wrongdoers when the wrongdoers should have been dealt with

    For example, try dealing with a bank: they hide behind regulations when you try to make a complaint; they make excessive profits, protected by a barrage of regulations into a cartel-like club of the few; they treat any new customer as a potential criminal until the person can prove they are innocent.

    A simple example of the substitution of quango regulation for enforcement is the extent to which we all need to carry id around with us in order to get through the day.

    To exaggerate the point, there may come a day when it will be easier to lock up the innocent and let the guilty out of prison and so they can see what it is like to be treated like a criminal.

  20. Wilko
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Press regulation should be simple & efficient. Try this:

    Allow the Complainant & Defendant 1 page of A4 each, to state their accusation & defence.

    Give both pages to a 12-person Jury to decide: Is the Defendant guilty?

    Guilty verdicts result in publication being banned for 1 to 7 days. If crime is involved, normal legal remedies apply.

    • Lord Blagger
      Posted December 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      Ah, but what’s been going on was and is illegal.

      The problem is getting the police to do anything about it.

  21. Posted December 3, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Yesterday I read in the Daily Telegraph about the pressure that MoD had tried to apply to stop them reporting the case of Sgt Nightingale and the illegal handgun which had been packed in his kit. The issued threats of “D” notices on the grounds of national security and tried numerous other threats to try to stop publication.
    How much easier it would have been if the Leveson proposals had been in place, and clearly this is what senior civil servants want !
    And, much as I have sympathy for those who had their phones hacked, one should never take notice of what the victims suggest should be done as it is usually totally out of proportion. My personal view with what should be done to the vandals who smashed the window of my car and did other damage – “I’d string them up from the nearest lamppost if I had my way” would hardly be justice (or would it?).
    We need no more regulation, just enforcement of existing laws.

    Reply: Your punishment for damaging your car is disproportionate. Surely the proper punishment for damaging your car should include paying you the cost of full repair or a new one.

  22. Bill
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Completely agree, John. Regulation has become an industry. I recently met a young graduate who was ‘going into’ Diversity & Equality as someone years ago might have ‘gone into’ librarianship or dentistry. We will end up under a mountain of regulation that will prevent business and eventually encroach on personal freedoms.

    • zorro
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      We are already there!

      zorro

  23. Richard1
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    The concept that banks can be regulated to the point of being both fail-safe and economically efficient is particularly foolish & dangerous. The best way of ensuring safe and efficient banks is to make sure that shareholders, creditors and managers carry the risks and rewards of success and failure. The regulate and bail-out philosophy followed by Labour goes in the opposite direction: decision makers and capital providers are infantilised, and banks have an incentive to game the regulator. We see this now as bad loans & other investments are buried rather than recognised and written down, and capital is preserved to achieve new arbitrary targets.

  24. APL
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    JR: “Do we expect too much of regulation?”

    Regulation has its part to play. But on its own it is not a lot of use as we have seen with the regulatory capture of the FSA in the UK and FSA in the US by the large financial institutions. We are going through a period of extreme financial stress caused in part by at the very least reckless activities in the finance houses, yet there has been next to no prosecutions.

    In this case Regulation is worse than useless, because it gives a false sense that everything is OK, when it really isn’t.

    But regulation does have a place, the real driver of financial sobriety would be if the government took a step back and allowed insolvent and bankrupt banks to go bankrupt.

    Instead the thrust of government policy under this and the last administration, is to shield the finance sector from the effects of their own misbehaviour.

    Regulation has a role to play, but with out the discipline of the market, regulation is a chimera.

    • APL
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      APL: “but with out the discipline of the market, regulation is a chimera.

      Nope, perhaps mirage or joke.

  25. Neil Craig
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    The other thing that regulators do is spur the demand for more regulations (& vice versa).

    “The purpose of government programmes is to pay government employees and their frieds, the nominal purpose is, at best, secondary.” Pournelle

    The one place where we need more regulation is over government. We need regulations aloowing the removal of all laws and regulations that have a negative cost benefit compared to comparable laws/regulations in similar circumstances. We need a written constitution which limits the power of Parliament to legislate that a man is a woman or any other inanities including a section repealing laws which are useless, psooibly subject to a vote of both Houses preventing it.

    The rule of law does not mean that we should obey the law in all circumstances but that government and Parliament should & should be limited thereby. (I am reading Hayek at present and it may show).

  26. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Let’s look at this from the standpoint of cost effective public expenditure. Regulators, their pensions, their offices and support staff cost a fair amount of money. Therefore, unless they are demonstrably effective, we should get rid of them.

    We should ask ourselves what is needed to ensure that the police enforce the law more effectively than they do at the moment. We have Police & Crime Commissioners in post who are meant to do that but there is only so much work that a polce force can do. We need to acknowledge that there is too much law in this country, much of it imposed by the EU. Parliament can do something about this by repealing unwanted and unnecessary laws, indeed it is their duty to do so. And if a preecondition for repeal is a renegotiation of our status in the EU, then political parties can put forward their proposals in their election manifestos.

  27. pete
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Agreed

    In the case of Leveson it is surely more a case of strengthening what is in place rather than new statutory regulation.

    If all agree that laws that have been broken are to remain the same then (without reading the report) I firmly believe that its the process by which current laws and regulations are policed and enforced is the issue. A journalist hacking a phone surely will have known he was acting illegally so of course I cant see that regulation is more likely to stop this sort of behaviour.

    Follow this with a strong process of redress accessible to all – meaning anyone who suspects wrong doing, not just those who can afford expensive lawyers.

  28. Bazman
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    There does not seem to much regulation private companies bleeding the state. The outsourcing of services and maintenance contracts. The failure of many of them to deliver, but paying massive fees to their bosses an poverty wages to their employes. I went to an interview for a care job last week just to be nosy. They will not tell you anything on the phone. Have you a lot of work I asked. Yeah! The more people we get the more work we get from the government. Branches all over the country now helping keep people in their homes. Broad shoulders and patience needed. Interesting. The pay? Zero hours contract no pay traveling between the jobs. We say how long the jobs take. £6.90 an hour. Use your own car and £0.25 per mile. A 2.0 Mondeo uses about £0.25 per mile in fuel alone. Use you own phone. I would hazard a guess that the bosses of the company get a better deal. This one just about pays the legal minimum maybe less if the time to do the job is longer. Needless to say the job was rammed. My shoulders are to broad and I am to wide. Picked up my seventy one quid dole money today so will be living a life of style in Cameron’s army and will be doing for some time if that is what on offer. Job center tells me that there is to many people and not enough jobs. This is an area of high rates of employment. The wealth is all around, so what is it like in the blackspots?
    Osbourne’s cuts have given us the worst of both worlds. Expenditure on the rise with millions unemployed and services downgraded or cut. He can ram it as well.

    • Edward
      Posted December 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      Bazman,
      Companies I visit are all using some contact labour from agencies despite a big extra cost.
      They pick the people they feel are good and reliable and then take them on, full time after they have been with the company a few weeks.
      In my work role, the companies I work with asked me to set myself up as a company and invoice them like a contractor.
      The situation you describe and mine are the unintended consequence of the many regulations and laws brought in to protect employment rights.
      Im not certain they have been a success overall.
      Rightly or wrongly I sense a fear by employers to take staff on in the traditional way.

      • Bazman
        Posted December 4, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

        Basically the agencies exist to circumvent employment laws as you say. The problem is though that often the money saved by not using them can be used to pay higher wages to employes directly employed on short term contracts. In Christmas 2010 I worked in picking/packing job in just such a situation. The agencies were sending teenagers who could not even push a shopping trolly around a warehouse choosing the goods to be sent. Sadly exactly true. Filled a gap for me and was something interesting to do. The Indian and Polish woman did take it very seriously it has to be said. Clean job with nice people and very clean conditions. Don’t take a mortgage out on it though. Strictly pub money and thats the problem for the UK. In more serious work working for the same employer for three years as a ‘temporary’ worker is out of order and cannot be argued as right.

        • Posted December 5, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

          The Inland Revenue’s criteria for employment are designed to prevent your last sentence, just as their regs. on self-employment.

          • Bazman
            Posted December 5, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

            Not if they are employed through an agency.

          • Posted December 6, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

            IR35???

          • Bazman
            Posted December 6, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

            Cuts to government enforcement of agencies and umbrella companies? No rights or holidays?

  29. startledcod
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Before any new regulation or law in considered the case should be made as to why a regulation or law is required with the presumption being that it isn’t. It is fair to say that almost all undesirable activity is covered by existing statute and that it is application and enforcement that is lacking. There is a good chance that if the Government had to make a compelling case for actually creating a new law prior to deciding what the new law should contain it would improve the standard of our law making: fewer and better.

  30. Posted December 3, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    ipsos custodiet ipsos custodes?
    Quite right John. With the Speaker doing his utmost to (question?ed) one “guardian” put in place to guard your colleagues can we trust anyone these days? Too much regulation has spawned PC and “Elf & Safety” while good old Common Sense has gone out of the window.

    • Bazman
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

      It’s interesting how he links political correctness and health & safety.
      You know who the most oppressed minority in Britain are? White, middle-class men. You’re a bunch of idiots. In 2008, the only time you ever see PC mentioned is when people are complaining about PC. For money. And usually on the very publicly funded radio stations that these nitwits believe are involved in a politically correct conspiracy to silence them.
      This guy does the jokes better than anything I could write.
      Stewart Lee- Political Correctness Gone Mad

      • Posted December 4, 2012 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        Rather than burden every-one with a list I simply mentioned just two examples. My “mistake” was not being pedantic enough to write “such as” in the sentence. Just fill in your own examples.
        P.S. I’m a, “White, middle-class man” who is being shafted by the political classes – which is why I contribute to Blogs and newspapers.

  31. Posted December 3, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Regulation can do very powerful and positive things….

    ….. provided it’s not interfered with by politicians and regulators adhere to the regulators code.

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted December 4, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      I shall do such things.
      What they are I know not.
      But they shall be the terrors of the earth.

  32. Dick Sawdon Smith
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I agree that so much is the fault of non enforcement. Take the home secretay’s plan to make us all pay more when it is only a minority who are guilty of binge drinking. Don’t we still have a law about being drunk and disorderly? If we do let the police enforce it. £400 fine and 4 days in the cells might no make them stop but at least they would be paying for their behaviour and not us.

    Dick

  33. Julian
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Yes it is an enforcement problem. There is zero police action on the widespread e-commerce fraud perpetrated on small and medium businesses (just taking one example). What the police act on is arbitrary and also I would assume (questionable) in that they (may) ignore crimes which fall outside the subset they bother with. The other problem is the pro-crime judiciary. Many years ago judges were feared by criminals now judges are regarded with contempt by (some?) criminals.

    • julian
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

      This is not what I posted!

  34. Tad Davison
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Having campaigned on law and order for well over two decades, I have but diminishing faith in regulators to solve the problem of crime.

    Some years ago, I was invited onto the Killroy programme to discuss the issue of so-called ‘joy riding’. Sickening theft to the rest of us. I was sat on the front row, and a gentleman sitting behind me asked a persistent and totally unrepentant car thief a question that the legislators should have asked. He said, ‘If you knew you would get ten years hard labour the next time you stole a car, would you continue to steal?’

    Predictably, the car theif said he would not. There then, is the level of deterrent to set, and of course, with all the very best deterrents, you don’t have to use them, so they are very cheap and cost-effective.

    Our security largely depends on the fallibility of the legislators, and clearly, they don’t always get it right.

    In the case of the car thief, the law was, and still is, inadequate. Yet I’m still trying to comprehend the stance taken by Ed Moribund. From what I can tell, it is not a question of introducing more legislation, but ensuring that which we presently have is used to the full, but with perhaps greater penalties where trash has clearly broken the law.

    I’m afraid Red Ed Moribund is looking increasingly desperate to do anything to get Labour back into power, because he knows if he doesn’t deliver, he’ll be out on his ear. Recall the slogan, ‘New Labour, New Danger’? That proved to be spot on!

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

    • uanime5
      Posted December 4, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      The problem with harsh deterrents is that people try much harder not to get caught.

      Let’s not forget that the death penalty in the USA hasn’t stopped people being murdered.

      • Edward
        Posted December 4, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

        uanime5,
        Given that in the UK over a hundred innocent people have now been murdered by criminals convicted for murder then released to kill again, the death penalty would at least have saved the lives of these innocent victims.
        Or if you feel capital punishment is wrong then a life sentence actually meaning life would have helped save them.

  35. Nicol Sinclair
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    “The Regulators come in both to buttress the police in enforcing the criminal law…”

    So. Let the law take its course. And stop buggering about…

  36. Martin Weaver
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Many of the problems we face could be solved by simply enforcing the laws and regulations we already have. Why implement Leveson when we could simply prosecute and jail journalists for phone hacking (which is already an illegal act) and see how quickly the practice ceases? Prosecute and jail the bankers that manipulated the LIBOR rate and see how quickly that kind of fraudulent banking practice ceases. It’s only politicians who wish to be “seen to do something” that want to create even more laws and regulations. Wasn’t the 4300 new laws created under the Blair/Brown regimes enough already?

  37. David John Wilson
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    The problem with most regulation is not the intention of the regulation but the interpretation of the people who implement it at the working level.

    The most obvious example in recent years has been health and safety. This in my experience was much worse in “government” establishments than elsewhere. One prime example I came across in a government agency office where the H&S officer found it necessary to post notices on all the staircases requiring people to hold the handrail while using the stairs. Not only that she carried out spot inspections to make sure that staff were conforming to the requirement.

    I spent some period as a quality assurance officer in a computer company. Again the requirements placed on this function for government contracts was way over the top and constrained the company in the way it was able to work. Most of the requirements had little affect on the quality of the products delivered but did increase the costs and thus the price to government by about 15%.

  38. Pleb
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    What I find amazing is that the Lib Dems don’t seem to realise that they only have two years before becoming nearly extinct. Why arn’t they clamoring to change their leadership. Or are such discussions being held in secret.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted December 4, 2012 at 12:24 am | Permalink

      You should try to blag your way into one of their nutty annual conferences some time as I once did. Its a freak show. They must struggle to find someone who looks even vaguely normal for high-profile or leadership positions. If you have any problems looking for the venue just follow the graduates from the Institute of Silly Walks who will be making their way awkwardly to the “event”.

      • Max Dunbar
        Posted December 4, 2012 at 12:35 am | Permalink

        On second thoughts don’t bother – unless you can put up with the excruciating boredom of listening to speeches from plain women with greasy brown hair in centre partings wearing no make-up and bespectacled men with dandruffy beards.

      • Posted December 4, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

        I once covered several of these as part of a small business lobby.
        They could never make up their minds and were forever “referring back” for a re-write.

  39. Muddyman
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    No matter which party, the state is the enemy of the people. The political industry which we have allowed to develop is imposed upon us with one aim, its own benefit
    Every penny you pay is for the support and maintenance of the control mechanism.

  40. forthurst
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    “Too many people seem to believe in the perfectibiltiy of man and woman”

    …or the perfectibility of language to render the evocation of thoughcrime impossible: “man and woman”? In the context, ‘man’ would mean the human species therefore the reference to the female is superfluous. Newspeak is the communication tool of the Frankfurt School.

    There is need for regulation; not everything that people do or don’t do in in their jobs could or should be incorporated into the statute book. With the Press, most of what has gone wrong has been as a result of law-breaking and the failure or alleged collusion of law enforcement. The failure to prosecute criminals in the finance industry is as a consequence of law enforecement being instructed to back off these crooks for fear they would take themselves and their crooked activities elsewhere.

    The demand for regulation is frequently as a result of the failure to actually examine what has gone wrong and indentify specific remedies where apropriate. For example, why is it on the one hand that we are told that a man (or woman) is helping the police with their enquiries and on the other that a man is helping police with enquiries who is believed to be a general purpose pervert with an extremely suspicious hairstyle?
    Should not the concept of sub judice apply to anyone interviewed by police in connection with an offence, possibly, even if under a foreign jurisdiction? Should not the concept of habeus corpus be extended so that people who bad mouth their fellow passengers on a tram cannot be locked up indefinitely, simply because they have at one time been charged with an offence?

    JR claims that the City creates substantial added value; added value is created when a collection of minerals of little intrinsic value are rendered into the device on which JR types his blogs. The failings of the City are not as a result of a failure of regulation but a failure of the risk/reward ratio. If individuals or their bosses who sell fraudulent derivatives or rig markets do not go to prison and suffer heavily confiscatory fines, then we can reasonably expect that prices for commodities, stocks and interest rates will neither be subject to market clearing pricing nor be ‘discovered’ by human rather that machine intelligent aactivity. If people who are paid to gamble can earn huge bonuses if they succeed, but are able to pass their losses onto shareholders if they lose and that their institutions, having become financially embarrassed as a consequence are able to pass their losses onto taxpayers, then reckless behaviour is a certainty which no amount of regulation will prevent. At the moment it is not clear at all, that apart from supporting international trade etc, the City actually adds value rather than impoverishing the rest of us by ensuring that we spend more on essentials and receive lower incomes and pay lower taxes on our savings and pensions.

    There is need for regulation; this should be mainly concerned with ensuring that practioners obey the law and that those who are not fit to practice through moral, intellectual, or vocational shortcomings are disciplined. Regulation does not need to be statutary, but does need to be sufficiently robust as to merit public confidence. That is not the case at the moment with e.g. the Press, or the City, or the NHS.

  41. Alan Wheatley
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Oh how true!

    It can be comforting to think that things are being done as they should be done under the direction and supervision of “the regulator’. But then you come fact to face with a regulator with respect to something where you have particular knowledge, expertise even, and when you find yourself being told what to do by someone who, by the erroneous things being said, patently knows far less than you about the subject your faith in regulation suffers a severe knock.

  42. Alan Wheatley
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    A weakness of regulation is that the Regulator does not have the expertise in house. OFCOM springs to mind. So they have to buy in the expertise, such as by placing study contracts.

    This does not overcome two failings: (1) the ability to correctly understand and evaluate the expert’s report; (2) most of the expertise lies with those being regulated.

  43. uanime5
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    John your argument would more convincing if the banks hadn’t failed after regulations were relaxed and the media hadn’t gotten out of control because self-regulation didn’t work.

    You also fail to distinguish between regulations designed to prevent crimes and those designed to prevent accidents, that latter of which do not concern the police even if there is a major accident.

    Reply Regulation was changed, strengthened and made Statutory in 2000!

    • uanime5
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Permalink
    • Bazman
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

      The banks ran rings around the regulators that was the problem not the regulations.

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted December 4, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        Regulators and the police are too often wimps or little Hitlers. The trick is to narrow their focus to the things that everybody agrees are criminal or grossly anti-social and not to bother too much with the rest. For example, I think that most people agree that traffic cops are too busy. Most people wouldn’t make it criminal to sell potatos by the pound.

        • Bazman
          Posted December 4, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

          The regulators, politicians, pay boards, and the bankers were all chums together. That was the problem.

  44. Electro-Kevin
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    People are asking why journalism isn’t regulated as are other professions.

    The press IS different to the legal profession, the medical profession, accountancy, architectural …

    For one it charges a few pennies for its services. Journalism operates in the ultimate of free markets with the most elastic of demand elasticities.

    It’s demand is dependent upon it getting things right most of the time – as is its solvency which is forever at risk from libel writs.

    If a journal gets things too wrong too often then people will stop buying it.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 4, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      People only stop buying a paper if they’re intelligent enough to realise that the paper is wrong, and therein lies the problem.

  45. Jon
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    We have a reminder today why about 25 years ago the regulatory motorway started. The under funded Serious Frauds Office is about to be sued for £200m by a couple of rich property developers. This was the problem way back then, there was a choice to beef up the SFO or to go down the regulatory route.

    We are better off policing these things rather than trying to regulate people as if people were a mechanical clock. Criminals do not follow the rules even when regulators can write a mountain of them. What happens is that the law abiding end up having their freedoms restricted whilst the criminals carry on as before.

    Take LIBOR, the only reason why its being investigated is because the US announced it was going to. That prompted the regulator to decide whether to act on the many tip offs they have over the years. With Equitable Life we paid hundreds of millions in court costs defending teh regulator because they didn’t act on the many regular tip offs. Not that they needed tip offs as their own minuted meetings with the company showed.

    I think the industry would be more than happy to exchange regulation for paying for a beefed up SFO. Could be done on a gradual negotiated basis.

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted December 4, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      The SFO has a poor record in getting convictions. I am told that the problem is often that they need to prove not only illegal behaviour but fraudulent intent.

  46. Martin
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t it good to see our beloved Home Office leading the way with its snooper database again? http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/12/03/home_secretary_snoopers_charter_will_save_lives/

    Nice to know that a certain tabloid while it doesn’t support any state regulation of the press is happy to give Mrs May space to support the police database to snoop on emails. I expect bad people will use snail mail or clever advertisements in the press! So Mrs May’s database regulation will be another expensive waste of money.

  47. sm
    Posted December 4, 2012 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    I think its more the capture of our democracy, the regulators and those the companies they regulate and the enforcement agencies that is the problem. The fish rots from the head as many have remarked.

    Perhaps if parliament got a grip but alas they appear to be the problem.
    An example -make clear the FOI act is to apply to the BBC and other public bodies, so they cannot claim to be private companies and be exempted.

  48. Steve Cox
    Posted December 4, 2012 at 4:45 am | Permalink

    Yet more pointless and damaging regulation possibly coming our way soon – honestly, why can’t these people get a proper job?

    http://www.zdnet.com/un-conference-overwhelmed-by-internet-regulations-battle-7000008205/

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
    Published and promoted by Thomas Puddy for John Redwood, both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU
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