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How Much is a First Class Stamp to Hidden Europe?
It was a good week for what this column calls "hidden Europe". First, various newspapers reported on a new study by the British Chambers of Commerce, showing that the total cost to business of new regulations imposed since 1998 is £55.66 billion.
Under such headlines as "Labour's £55bn roll of red tape", all this was blamed on the Labour Government. Yet it might have been rather more useful and interesting to quote from the BBC's website, which shows that £40 billion of this cost, or 72.5 per cent, is due not so much to "Labour" regulations as those emanating from the EU.
Then there were front page headlines greeting the Royal Mail's announcement that as from April - thanks to new competition which has taken away much of its lucrative business - the price of a first class stamp will rise to 38p, and that it may no longer be able to guarantee a "universal" postal service to all parts of the UK. Again, not one report explained that this undermining of the universal service set up in 1840 has derived from the EU's Postal Services directive, 97/67, which broke the Royal Mail's monopoly.
This means that it can no longer subsidise its universal service from all that business post which has now gone to its private competitors (which still expect Royal Mail to deliver it, for a knock-down 13p per item).
Third, it was reported that the Department for Transport (DfT) is planning to introduce random breath-testing for motorists. Oddly, the DfT scathingly dismissed just such a proposal in 2004 when it was proposed by Ad Hellemans, the Head of the European Traffic Police Network, Tispol. As I reported at the time, the DfT could not have been more withering, claiming that random testing did not work and was wholly unnecessary.
But Mr Hellemans insisted that, unless member
states introduced such a scheme off their own bat, he would ask the European
Commission to issue a directive, making it compulsory. Three years later,
the DfT has come meekly into line. But no one explains why it is now supporting
a policy it previously dismissed as unworkable and unnecessary. Thus are
we now governed.