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Rearranging the icebergs

Posted by Richard Friday, August 27, 2004

In The Times letters today, Digby Jones – he of the CBI – has had a return swipe at Bill Cash, the latter having had a go at our Digby for complaining that MPs are "asleep on the job" when it comes to scrutinising EU laws.

But if ever there was an argument to bring to mind the description of "two bald men fighting over a comb", this has to be it. Scrutiny is hardly the issue when, for the main part, if the legislation was not produced in the first place there would be no need for such oversight.

Digby Jones complains in his letter that scrutiny committee is not adequate because it "operates in a parliamentary atmosphere where EU laws do not appear on the radar early enough", but the point is – and he must know this – that by the time an EU legislative proposal reaches the formal stage of a draft regulation or directive, it is virtually set in stone.

And even where the scrutiny committee does do its job, as we described in a previous Blog, the government can (and routinely does) ignore it.

For some time I have been struggling with an appropriate analogy to describe the process – to avoid using the over-worn cliché of "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic", which effectively describes the process of fiddling with tiny amendments to draft legislation.

For a time I toyed with the idea of the process being similar to allowing a committee of concentration camp inmates to redesign the shower heads in the gas chamber, but this was far too insensitive to be used, even if it perhaps more adequately mirrors what is going on.

So, rearranging the deck chairs it is, with Cash and Jones arguing about who does it and how well it is done. Meanwhile, in the manner of icebergs bearing down on the ship, the commission continues to churn out its legislation.

Perhaps if this pair were more concerned about rearranging the icebergs rather than the deck chairs, we would all be better off.