One in, three out

Christine Berry on “deregulation” and Grenfell Tower:

In the wake of the horrifying Grenfell Tower disaster, people are starting to ask questions about why reports on housing safety were sat on and ignored. And the finger is being pointed towards the government’s ‘war on red tape’ – more specifically, towards a little-known policy called ‘one-in, three-out regulation’.

Oh that – the Republicans and Trump have been promoting that here, too. For every new “regulation” aka protection, you have to remove three. Wham, just like that – no questions asked about whether the three removed are actually a life or death necessity or not.

[H]ere’s a quick primer on what people are talking about when they talk about things like ‘one in, three out’. The architecture the government has put in place has three main pillars, each of which are systematically designed to prevent new laws being passed and to privilege the interests of big business over ordinary people:

  • ‘One in, three out’ (OITO). This means that no government department can introduce a new law that imposes a cost to business unless it can find another law to repeal that cuts costs to business by at least three times that amount. With the policy having been steadily ratcheting up for 7 years now, this basically means that new laws are nigh on impossible to introduce, because there is precious little left to cut.
  • Impact assessments. This is the way civil servants have to assess proposed new laws to comply with OITO. All potential impacts have to have a price put on them, which immediately undervalues things that are hard to put a price on – like the benefits of clean air or safe homes. But it doesn’t matter anyway, because as far as OITO is concerned, the only number that matters is the cost to business: the benefits to society are literally irrelevant.
  • The Regulatory Policy Committee. This is a quango with the power to give the green or red light to impact assessments, effectively vetoing new laws if they don’t think the OITO figures are good enough. It might sound like a bunch of technocrats, but it’s actually stuffed with corporate lobbyists. Stephen and I found that from 2013-2015 they met almost exclusively with other lobbyists, and boasted about being an “effective brake” on government’s ability to pass laws. Yes, we are putting the foxes in charge of the henhouse.

It just assumes that laws and regulations / protections are a bad, toxic thing, all of them, by definition.

The key thing to understand about this regime is that it applies to any law that costs businesses money. That includes the cost of paying the minimum wage, the cost of building diesel engines that don’t emit poisonous fumes – and, yes, the cost of making our homes safe to live in.

You know, laws that have made things slightly less shit over the past century or so, and could do more along those lines if it weren’t for these people who think laws are of the devil.

The appalling fate of the Grenfell residents has laid bare the human consequences of this inhuman policy. And they are not the first casualties in this war on protections. Scientists have found that handing control of plans to cut salt and sugar in food to the likes of McDonalds and Mars may have contributed to 6,000 deaths a year. The government raised the speed limit for lorries on single carriageways in order to cut costs for haulage companies, despite acknowledging it would likely cause a 14% increase in accidents.

As long as someone somewhere is making some money, that’s all that matters. Your health and safety? Pffft – not their problem, Snowflake.

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