Why Rules Must Sing with Rhyme and Reason

By Huhne, Christopher | The Evening Standard (London, England), March 21, 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Why Rules Must Sing with Rhyme and Reason

Huhne, Christopher, The Evening Standard (London, England)


COULD business regulation be more rational? This is a key question for Brussels, since the European Union sets many of the rules that govern what may be sold by a business, how it sells it and what safeguards must be incorporated to protect consumers or investors. Yet there are still far too many examples of loopy regulation.

For a start, such rules are often based more on the perceived threat than reality. There are tough regulations in every member state on lifts and escalator manufacturers and on installations, yet far more people die falling down stairs every year.

Among EU regulations, some horror stories are home grown. In the late 1990s, our former Ministry of Agriculture insisted on applying the EU directive on regular veterinary inspections of abattoirs with officious force and the Treasury asked each abattoir to meet the full cost of visits.

The result was small abattoirs without the scale to justify continuous veterinary attendance just collapsed.

Yet no such phenomenon occurred in other member states, where a flat veterinary charge is often levied per head. Small abattoirs continue to thrive. Far from helping promote health, this UK gold-plating of an EU directive lengthened the times that animals are transported before they are killed, providing a new means for BSE to spread rapidly across the country.

In regulation, the law of unintended consequences is alive and well.

But Brussels is also quite capable of offending against common sense. Last week's vote in the European Parliament on the directive on vitamins was a classic case.

The pharmaceuticals industry successfully lobbied to have vitamin supplements (and other such health food products) undergo the same sort of testing regime as medicines. Never mind that the chances of problems arising from ginseng tablets are about as great as problems from eating broccoli.

"Safety first" is a powerful political argument, particularly when the costs are on someone else's budget.

In another case, the European Parliament required offshore oil rig operators to apply the same emission control equipment on their turbines as is applied to onshore power plants.

The cost of modifying 150 turbines on 100 North Sea oil platforms is estimated by the industry at e430 million ([pound]270 million).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Why Rules Must Sing with Rhyme and Reason


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?