Irresistable isn’t it? It is difficult not to be cynical when the retail red tape challenge results, announced today by Vince Cable, produced the dramatic outcome that the Trading with the Enemy Act was redundant. So retailers are no longer banned from selling to Siam or Yugoslavia (remember them?).
Cue sighs of relief from retailers all over the country, though if the French are now our friends then where will it all end?
Nine thousand submissions on retail red tape and that’s one of the main headlines – result!
Half of all regulations affecting retailing will be scrapped or simplified, according to the Business Secretary. A veritable bonfire of red tape – or not, given that further consultation will now have to take place. But a bonfire to what effect?
Now there is good news in there. There is and has been stupidity in regulation – it is hard to justify why selling liqueur chocolates needs an alcohol licence – though will they be exempt from alcohol selling regulations in Scotland? Simplifying age regulations would seem to make sense given the frequency of comments on this from retailers, and after all we have proof of age in Scotland and the world has not fallen in.
But let’s pause and ask some questions:
1. What is the comparative cost/benefit of the regulations being scrapped and those remaining? Is it tinkering and not much else? Too difficult to find out according to Vince.
2. Why do regulations not have automatic sunset clauses or at least specific review periods?
3. Why do we have to wait for further consultation – can’t we get people to do things?
And the big one:
4. Given all the other regulations and red tape retailers complain about, will any of the proposed changes make any difference to performance and consumer confidence?
So, let’s celebrate the burning of the red tape while we can, and watch the retail recovery take off as a consequence. Fiddling, Rome, anyone?