» Thursday, May 26, 2005

PM Speech on Compensation Culture

Asked if this was the Prime Minister’s fiercest criticism of the European Union, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that he had said this before. We had already heard him say in the past that the EU, like the UK, had to do better impact assessments of regulations. It was one of the things that we had been pushing for some time within the EU. It was also one of the things that we would be taking forward during our Presidency. Reforming the way in which you regulate from the EU was part of the economic reform process. This did not call into question your overall support of the EU but it did say you should be more sensitive to the impact of regulation.

In response to the suggestion that we had never heard him criticise the Vitamins and Supplements Director before, the PMOS said that his understanding, without giving chapter and verse, was that he had indicated his view on that before. Asked whether this was before or after Carol Caplin had delivered her petition, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had his own view on this and had held that view before the petition was delivered. His view of that was an illustration of the overall point, as he had said, of course people needed to have information about that area but that information should not be at the expense of people being able to make choices. In the same way that other regulations, either here or in Europe, should not be totally counter productive to what you were trying to achieve.

Asked if there was an acknowledgement here that the Government had played a part in getting this wrong, and whether there was a tendency to rush plans, the PMOS said that in the spirit of the speech what we needed to do was recognise that we all had a responsibility for the problem just as we all had responsibility for the solution. That included the media, regulatory bodies, the Government and everybody. Equally though it was worth pointing out the PM’s reference to the judgement of the OECD that had said we were a lightly regulated country in comparison to other countries. It was something where the Prime Minister felt very strongly that you had to get the balance right. It was a common sense balance, between on the one hand safeguarding people, and on the other not letting the fear of the compensation culture drive the bureaucracy to the point where it was choking the very thing that it was meant to be safeguarding.

Asked if it was accurate to interrupt it as a warning to Whitehall against gold plating the PMOS said yes, he thought that was a fair way of putting it, though it was directed not just at Whitehall but at other regulatory bodies as well. He hoped people had recognised, that right at the start of the speech he went out of his way to say that what he was not suggesting was that we did away with all regulations or that we did away with the concern about safety, that was precisely what he was not doing. What he was doing was saying that you had to study the impact of regulations as a whole.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

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