As the Keystone fiasco reminds us, President Obama is no slacker when it comes to frittering jobs away, and David Cameron’s ill-judged “environmentalism” has had similar effects in the UK, but, when it comes to job-destruction, this new effort by Cameron ought to win some sort of award. Christopher Booker reports:
When David Cameron, implausibly describing himself as a Euro “sceptic”, made reference in his Guildhall speech on Monday to “pointless interference, rules and regulations” from Brussels, he might have been thinking of Kevin Doherty of Yeovil, whose story seems perfectly to exemplify what the Prime Minister was talking about.
When Mr Doherty was made redundant in the 2008 recession, he started his own business, Auto-Movements, taking cars all over the country on a trailer for dealers and leasing companies. All went well – he turns over more than £100,000 a year – until he recently met a friend’s son working for the Vehicle Operator Services Agency (VOSA). He told Mr Doherty that new EU rules coming into force on December 4 might apply to him because the combined weight of his van and trailer exceeds 3.5 tons.
When Mr Doherty discovered what this was about, he was shocked. Under EU Council Regulation 1071/2009, thousands of small businesses like his are being put on the same regulatory footing as large transport firms operating trucks all over Europe. He will have to pay £1,000 and take two weeks off work to obtain an International Certificate of Professional Competence (even though he never works outside the UK), or hire a fully qualified transport manager. He will have to keep £8,000 permanently in the bank as security, and acquire “premises” to store his vehicles when not in use.
As shocking as anything was that – although Mr Doherty learned about it only by chance – the new law comes into force in just two weeks’ time. Yet VOSA tells him it will take 12 weeks to process his paperwork. So for more than two months it will be illegal for him to work.
On looking into it, I was astonished to find that the statutory instrument putting the EU regulation into UK law was only laid before Parliament on November 7, less than a month before coming into force. When I discussed this with the Department for Transport, they were clearly sensitive to the difficulties it was creating. They admitted that they had no way of notifying all the businesses that will be affected, but said that VOSA will take no enforcement action for six months, until businesses have had time to comply.
And people wonder why so many believe that the EU makes a mockery of democracy (and, yes, I know that similar disgraces happen over here).
But then there’s this:
Oddest and most shocking of all, however, is to read in the EU regulation that it is “unnecessary” for it to be applied to firms “which only perform transport operations with a very small impact on the transport market”. If Mr Cameron’s Government had wished it, thousands of tiny operations such as Mr Doherty’s could quite legally have been exempted altogether. Instead, it has imposed on them a wholly unnecessary burden which is likely to force many out of business.
And yet, there are folk who insist that Cameron ought to be some sort of example to the GOP. Amazing.