More leaks

The following letter from Dr Roy Spendlove to Dame Lucy Doolittle has come into my hands:

Dear Lucy,

                 I have just got back from Cancun to find that various departments have answered questions on how many regulations they have passed in the last six months and how many have been repealed. This kind of information  does not make for orderly government and can so easily be misconstrued. I do not think Ministers in the last government would have let this unexpurgated material out. I appreciate that fortunately there has not yet been any media campaign based on it, but there could be. We need to be careful.

                  When an MP asks such a question we need to prime Ministers. They should be told that a Statutory Instrrument is not a homogeneous unit of account. They should be reminded that some departments need to make  orders for temporary purposes on a regular basis – as at Transport. Many departments now are smoothly integrated into the EU system, and have to implement general European agreements. More regulations are an essential feature of modern government.

                      These MInisters should be told that their own priorities will require substantial rule making. I understand the Chancellor is chairing an exercise to seek to cut regulation. His own department will need considerable new regulation to implement its wishes to control banker bonuses, bank balance sheets and other priority matters for the Coalition. At the same time we are in the throes of a very active programme strengthening European regulation of all banking and financial services, which in turn will require precise transposition into UK law.

                    At Justice The Lord Chancellor wishes to create more community sentences to replace prison. These will need considerable staff  input to come up with the right regulatory provisions. The Home Secretary has asked her team to work on riot control which may well lead to additional legislation. The wide ranging reforms of the Health service require careful guidance to be issued for the new bodies which will replace the Health authorities that are being removed. Some of this will also take the form of lengthy new regulaiton,. The changes of course allow us to improve on the old framework and ensure we cover the items that had been missed in the past.

              You will be well aware of these pressures. The problem arises with resources to handle all this. It is not acceptable to many of us that we are under instructions to reduce the numbers in our units and divisions by 30% over four years when there is so much additional work to be done. I appreciate that spreading it over five years was designed to ease the difficutlies and allow second thoughts in later years, when the normal pressures of governemnt might be more apparent even to these Ministers. However, there is the additional complication that the redundancy terms are being reduced shortly. As a result rather more colleagues have decided to leave early than is good for the health of the service, seeking to take advantage of the better terms. This will leave us very stretched.

                 I would appreciate your thoughts on how we can tackle the presentational issue of extra regulations under this crude proposal of  one in, one out. I also need to put in for some replacement people given the current levels of staff loss and the high level of activity we are experiencing from Ministers.

Yours etc


  1. Ross J Warren
    December 13, 2010

    You really collect these delightful spoofs of yours into a book John. The really sad part is they are far closer to the truth than the spin suggests.

  2. lifelogic
    December 13, 2010

    The only way regulation will decrease is if the people deciding on them have an interest in rationalising and removing them and who understand the huge negative impact they have on what they regulate.

    At the moment civil servants, the EU, regulators, lawyers, large industry (as it pushes out small competition and pushes out older products) , most pressure groups, most charities (even pressure groups for small industries sometimes) and the BBC are almost always in favour of new regulations for everything as it generates pointless but profitable work for them.

    The only people who lose out are the public forced to pay more for everything or loosing their jobs and the smaller businesses pushed out of the country and closed down (with tax revenue thus lost).

    How many more real jobs would there be but for the often absurd and excessive employment regulations, waste disposal rules, planning rules, health and safety rules, energy rules, absurdly complex tax rules, tenancy rules and the rest of an almost endless list?

  3. norman
    December 13, 2010

    The burning question is has the ‘one in one out’ rule been regulated yet? Surely we need a set of regulations to ensure various departments are in compliance? After all, as the letter makes clear, what is a regulation and what isn’t? A bit like the Premier League dubious goals panel, we could have a regulator for dubious regulations who decides what is and what isn’t a regulation, and if it is a regulation how many can it be put down as.

    If the overuse of the word ‘regulation’ in the above paragraph doesn’t have your brain flat lining you should apply for a job in the civil service forthwith.

  4. Nick
    December 13, 2010

    Look at the difference between Pickles and the others.

    Here’s a simple one.

    Make the cost of administrating regulations is tax deductable.

    1. Iain Gill
      December 13, 2010

      Pickles is my MP

      he is not impressive as a constinuency MP, his answers to consituents letters are sigificantly substandard

      lots of spin less convinced by the substance

      1. Adam Collyer
        December 13, 2010

        I agree with Nick. Mr Pickles is the only one showing any serious interest in making any cuts.

  5. Nick
    December 13, 2010

    If you cut regulation you cut the need for staff.

    That you want to keep and recruit means you aren’t serious.

  6. electro-kevin
    December 13, 2010

    Of leaks, I would think the chatter between Washington and Downing Street during the build up to the invasion of Iraq would be of huge interest.

  7. NickW
    December 13, 2010

    De regulation can be easily achieved by consolidating the existing legislation, and ensuring that when regulations are changed, the entire Statutory Instrument is replaced.
    There are many areas of Regulation where the piecemeal repeal and partial amendment of successions of Statutory Instruments makes life impossible both for Government Department and public.

    Child Support Law is a glaring example. There are so many different Regulations with partial repeals and amendments that it has become almost impossible for anyone to establish with certainty what the Law actually is.
    How much easier (and therefore cheaper) would it be if all the existing legislation was replaced with one single consolidated Instrument.

    Legislation is no longer written out by clerks with quill pens and it is actually easier to replace a complete Statutory Instrument rather than amend it, with all the countless filing work and collating that that requires, by every clerk in the Government and every Solicitor, Barrister and Judge in the field.

    Child Support Law can be viewed online. Have a look and see what I mean.

    1. NickW
      December 13, 2010

      And while we are at it, why not allow the active and updated versions of Statutory Instruments to be downloaded to e readers?

      The technology is there.

      When I worked as a civil servant I could easily have spent my entire working time on filing amendments of legislation and instructions and keeping my file of Statutory Instruments in order and up to date.

  8. Sally C.
    December 13, 2010

    The National Statistics office finally released Input Price inflation this morning. They postponed it on Friday because they couldn’t quite believe their own figures. Input prices went up 9% year on year in November – 9% ! What is the government and the Bank of England going to do about this? My guess is absolutely nothing.

    1. Mark
      December 13, 2010

      Charles Bean can’t see it:

      Of course, it is the job of the BoE to ignore inflation for as long as possible in the vain hope that someone’s debt may become less onerous in consequence.

    2. alan jutson
      December 13, 2010

      Sally C

      Should not really be a surprise to them, as thats what happens when you print money and thus devalue the currency, they have had plenty of warning.

      Oil also going up, so all fuel costs rise. Vat up next month as well.

  9. Eoin Clarke
    December 13, 2010


    I must apologises since I have the emotional intelligence of a plank of wood. Are these Spendlove letters fictional? Are you a 21st Century Johnathan Swift? I am puttin gmy neck on the line here, I know, but I wanted to be sure. Apologies again.

    Reply: The clue is in the names.

  10. startledcod
    December 13, 2010

    I thought this leaked letter was a spoof but it just doesn’t read that way.

  11. Denis Cooper
    December 13, 2010

    Here’s a useful, carefully worded, answer from 2002, which could be recycled by the present crop of ministers.

    “Mr. Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many legislative measures have been enacted in the UK to implement European Union legislation in each year since 1992. [86478]

    Mr. MacShane: It would entail disproportionate cost to research and compile the number of legislative measures enacted each year in the UK directly implementing EC legislation.

    17 Dec 2002 : Column 756W

    The picture is complicated. Some EC measures are directly applicable in the member states. Others require incorporation into national law. This is sometimes done by legislation, but on other occasions by administrative means. In yet other situations, domestic legislation which is being amended for other purposes, may also incorporate changes to reflect EU directives. This makes it extremely difficult to determine how many legislative measures have been introduced in the UK as a result of EC measures.”

    Oddly enough by 2008 Mr MacShane had found an answer, one which pleased him and which he and others like him repeatedly touted:

    “I asked the Library to freshen up its continuing study about the amount of legislation that we decide on in this Parliament that emanates from the European Union. I asked for the document to be sent to me last week after that exchange, but it is publicly available in the Library. It showed that so far this century approximately 10 per cent., at the highest point, of all the laws that we pass are to do with the European Union.”

    However in its latest effort, published in October:

    the Library has corrected an egregious error which played a major role in producing that satisfyingly but deceptively low percentage, and from that report it would appear that the average is about 47%.

    Nevertheless I doubt that they’ve captured the full impact of ECJ case law, and it should also be recognised that even where the EU does not have “control” over our laws it can still have considerable “influence”.

    As an example of the latter, I don’t believe that Gordon Brown was obliged by EU law to write into the Bank of England Act 1998 that the primary objective of the Monetary Policy Committee would be “to maintain price stability”, and nor was he obliged to decide that “price stability” would mean just consumer prices, with property prices being disregarded, but by doing so he was closely following the defective model laid down for and by the ECB.

  12. Ken
    December 13, 2010

    Dr Spendlove,

    Thank you for your letter dated 13th December.

    I must say that my initial thoughts are to encourage Ministers to consider putting the whole issue into a review. This shouldn’t take any more than 3 years at no more cost than say £4 or £5 million. Within the terms of reference there must be a way of defining the ‘unit’ of a law. For instance, rubber stamping eu regulations may only constitute 0.2 of a law; a temporary order may be 0.4 of a law.

    I wouldn’t want to pre-empt any such review but I feel the time may be right to put together a Ministry for Administrative Affairs to oversee all these issues in the long term. This will also be a good home for those dispossessed from other departments. Perhaps the bulk of this department should be based in Brussels. Just a thought.


    Dame Lucy

    1. Mark
      December 13, 2010

      Very woolly, Bernard. But where is Jim the Hacker?

  13. edgeplate
    December 13, 2010

    Dear Roy,

    I was somewhat puzzled by your letter in view of your long career as an outstanding public servant.

    We will of course embrace these new measures fully and work professionally to implement them in an entirely satisfactory way, completely in line with the traditions of public service.

    It is fair to point out that there should have been fuller consultation, during which it would have emerged that there may be unfortunate unforeseen consequences. These things, although well-intentioned, inevitably have undesirable side-effects which usually reflect badly on their most enthusiastic ministerial proponents; the most enthusiastic are generally the least experienced, and most prone to making immoderate public statements.

    Naturally, there may be some rationalisation of staff requirements in these difficult times. Some sacrifices will have to be made.

    How is young Penny Witless, your legal assistant, getting on with her remedial training?

    Remember, there are no such things as problems, only opportunities.

    Yours faithfully,

    Lucy DooLittle.

  14. Iain Gill
    December 13, 2010

    good to see this issue raised and John in the press

  15. Eoin Clarke
    December 13, 2010

    John, [or should I say John Redwood-Swift] …

    Very good.

    All governments create lots of legislation. Clegg will rue the day he mocked Labour’s 3,000 laws. I suspect if the Liberals were let loose for 13 years, we would have at least an equal number of pieces of legislation.

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