Monday 1 August 2011

Red Tape

I have just spent a delightful week walking on the Gower in South Wales so have picked up only snippets of news. However, I gather that Vince Cable's department is to unleash entrepreneurial spirits by abolishing lots of red tape. That sounds to me rather a forlorn hope, since what budding entrepreneurs need is potential customers, ie demand, rather than fewer regulations which are, in the main, designed to protect employees and customers from inappropriate exploitation. One person's "red tape" is another person's health, safety, security of employment and human dignity.

Nevertheless I recognise that some regulations are a bit daft. Shops should be able to display liqueur chocolates in their windows without fear of turning teenagers into alcoholics, though I suppose parliament will rush to reinstate the age limit for buying Christmas crackers as soon as a toddler chokes on one of the little plastic gadgets.

However, the regulation which requires sellers of television sets to inform the TV Licence people of the name and address of the buyer seems to me to be perfectly sensible. That may sound a bit illiberal, but I am all for measures which make it more difficult for people to avoid paying their dues. On the wider tax collecting front it seems common sense that the government should employ more staff in HMRC in order more effectively to chase up the tax evaders and avoiders, and the payments they simply haven't got round to collecting. If this were tackled with the same enthusiasm as the harassment of alleged "benefits cheats" that really would make a massive dent in the deficit.

A regulation I should like to introduce is the French one of requiring motorists to display a current insurance certificate in their windscreens. We all pay higher premiums because some motorists get away with having no insurance at all.

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