Do British people feel ‘burdened’ by regulation? Do we think over-zealous rules zap entrepreneurialism and stymie innovation? Do we believe that ‘red tape’ costs consumers struggling with their bills? The answer, quite simply, is no.
Unchecked UK has reviewed the evidence. In survey after survey, we find very little appetite for deregulation. Whether you live in the North or the South, vote Labour or Conservative, supported Leave or Remain, study after study demonstrates that there is scant support for dismantling regulations.
On the contrary, Unchecked UK’s research shows that for a majority, the ability to design strong rules and abide by them are part of what marks Britain out a great nation. Whether it’s animal welfare or safety in the workplace, high standards are something that should be celebrated domestically and exported internationally (much like British cheese). Indeed, nothing illustrates this attachment to rules more powerfully than the orderly queue of mourners waiting to pay their respects to the Queen last week.
It is perhaps because voters are unpersuaded by the benefits of deregulation that so much of it has tended to happen ‘by stealth’. Over a decade of funding cuts has left UK regulatory agencies struggling. The results are all around us. Water companies can pump sewage into rivers and beaches with impunity. Employers can undercut workers safe in the knowledge that inspectors are likely to visit only once every 500 years. Commercial fly tippers can dump junk on streets and fields untroubled by the threat of fines. Rules may be there, but the agencies charged with enforcing are simply out-resourced by those who have the most to gain from breaking them.
From workers protections to bankers’ bonuses, the new government has made no secret of its desire to turbocharge the deregulatory programme. Indeed, the new Prime Minister has been clear that she is not concerned about securing a public mandate for her economic policies.
Putting the significant political risk of this strategy aside, it seems highly unlikely that turbocharged deregulation is likely to deliver on the promise of growth. The UK is already one of the easiest countries to set up and run a business. Studies show that a robust and stable regulatory environment is one of the strongest drivers of competitiveness, private investment and innovation. Indeed, we know that previous drives to cut back regulation have yielded nothing by way of economic efficiency.
Last week we saw how much the British public yearns for a national coming together. Deregulation is the wrong way of going about this. An alternative strategy, one which prides itself in the pursuit of higher standards and the role which rules can play in protecting people and the environment, has to be a better option. The Government would do well to listen to the public.
Phoebe Clay is co-Director of Unchecked UK