In the 21st Century, regulation is seen as a dirty word, a burden on the business success of the UK. The government in 2010 promised a “bonfire of red tape”. Well, those words are now coming back to haunt them after the horrific disaster at Grenfell Tower in Kensington, which looks to have been caused by flammable materials used in a refurbishment.
Regulation is no more a burden than buying food to eat is a burden. It is an essential for a healthy life for the population of a country. Regulation goes some way towards equalising life chances for rich and poor, men and women, black and white and able and disabled.
Regulation saves the lives of normal people. It’s in the interest of the many to regulate everything from water and food production to buildings and theme parks. Regulation is good for everyone’s health and wellbeing. Deregulation only helps businesses that want to cut corners, it doesn’t help the people of the country. The outcome of deregulation is a race to the bottom because businesses that do want to do the right thing would be priced out by those that don’t.
Deregulation hurts people. Lack of regulation causes deaths, this has always been the case. Everything from unprotected women painting radium onto watch dials, to tobacco sales, to lack of guards on factory machines which meant that workers had limbs cut off. This is why governments started to regulate, because people were being maimed and killed in the pursuit of profit.
Good regulation means that everyone has the right to a safe work environment, a safe home environment and a safe public environment. Yes, this costs, but do we as a 21st Century society really want to go back to Victorian times where the poor were expendable? Because this seems to be what the bonfire of red tape is aiming for.
The Conservative Party’s mania for cutting red tape means that they are deliberately making it easier for wealthy people to become richer by cutting costs and increasing share value whilst putting the risk of injury and death onto those who don’t have the private resources to protect themselves in a neoliberal capitalist “society”.
In 2012 David Cameron stated that his new year’s resolution was to “kill off the health and safety culture for good“. Health and safety legislation has become an “albatross around the neck of British businesses”, costing them billions of pounds a year and leaving entrepreneurs in fear of speculative claims, he said.
This “killing off” is best demonstrated by the vote in Parliament last year on an amendment to a Housing and Planning Bill put forward to ensure that rental accommodation was “fit for human habitation”. This was voted against by a majority of Conservative MPs with the Conservative Government claiming the new law would result in “unnecessary regulation”.
So there in a nutshell we have the neoliberal attitude to regulation. This is government by the few for the few. The very use of the phrase “killing off” is not even dog-whistle politics, it’s overtly stating that they are happy for people to die. They don’t care if people who don’t own their homes burn to death, it’s just a side effect of cutting the state to give more money in tax cuts to the few. This is the culmination of 35 years of neoliberal capitalism and it’s vile and disgusting.
To fail to hold the people making these political decisions to cut regulation to account is to fail the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.