Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Living in a mad world

In April last year, we were confidently told that the administration was proposing to change the MoT frequency from one to two years. Notably absent from the report, of course, was any reference to the EU or any mention that road safety was an EU competence. It took, therefore, this blog to point out the EU dimension, when we wrote:
While there is no specific requirement for the UK to come into line (yet), the writing is on the wall, and any changes to the MOT legislation must be approved by the EU Commission. Thus, our "Eurosceptic" government is playing the usual trick. In anticipation of an EU requirement, it is bringing domestic legislation into line with the expected (but as yet undeclared) standard.
However, assailed by the safety nannies and the self-interest groups demanding that the existing interval be kept (the latter having a point, as they have invested hugely in testing equipment), the government has decided to back off and ditch the plans to cut the frequency - for the time being.

That the EU was considering harmonising roadworthiness tests (with the effect that the more general two-year interval would be adopted) was clearly signalled in this document (see page 8, last para), latterly (in September 2011) endorsed by the EU parliament. But, reading between the lines, it now seems that EU-wide plans have stalled, pending evaluation of new testing technologies and systems.

What appears to have happened is that the British administration, aware that it will now be some time before the EU commission issues definitive proposals on testing frequency, has opted to avoid confrontation, and is going for the status quo, for the time being.

The ironic thing is the proposed change - in what in fact is part of the Single Market acquis - was also part of this administration's drive to sweep away red tape in what was described as a "bonfire of regulations" aimed at "stimulating business and economic growth". And it was actually only a week ago, at Davos, that The Boy was attacking the "madness" of European regulations, calling for the "colleagues" to "stop throttling growth with excessive bureaucracy".

So, as it stands, in one very clear example where the EU commission was in due course planning to reduce the amount of bureaucracy in a specific sector, with the UK jumping the gun, The Boy's administration has drawn back from the process – until it is instructed to carry it out by the EU - while all the time criticising the EU for its "red tape".

Does one ever get the impression that we are living in a mad world?