It\’s the Tories, slashing and burning:
Both are being consumed in what British Conservatives proudly describe as a bonfire. Nowhere is deregulation more destructive than in its treatment of the natural world.
If ash dieback takes root in Britain, it could be as damaging as Dutch elm disease was. This fungus is now raging across the continent, consuming almost all the ash trees in its path. Few ashes – among which are some of the oldest and best-loved trees in Britain – are expected to survive if the disease becomes established here.
The only way the fungus can arrive in this country is through imports of infected saplings. In February the first case in the UK was reported, at a tree nursery in Buckinghamshire. The disease has now been found in 10 places, and foresters are desperately trying to contain it.
But – and this is the extraordinary thing – the government still refuses to ban imports of ash saplings. Instead, it has put the issue out to consultation, as if it had all the time in the world. It\’s like spraying one side of a burning house with water while allowing petrol to be sprayed on the other. The government\’s commitment to deregulating business outweighs the likely consequences. If ash dieback spreads through Britain, Cameron\’s administration will be solely and unequivocally to blame.
Hmm. I\’m deeply unconvinced that this is a result of deregulation. I have a very strong feeling (but no direct proof let me note) that this is actually a result of regulation.
The consultation is here. I\’d note that it finishes on Friday and it\’s entirely intended to provide an answer by the main planting season in mid-November. But maybe that isn\’t fast enough, given that it was launched on Aug 31.
However, here\’s what I suspect is the truth. We\’re in the European Union. Which means that there is absolute freedom of the movement of goods among the 27 nations. Except, except well when there\’s not freedom of movement of goods of course. But the thing is, in order to be able to ban the free movement of a particular item the government doing the banning has to have evidence.
I think I recall a French ban on British beef that was overturned some years later on the basis that there was no satisfactory evidence for the ban. I think I recall that….
If the above is true, and I think it is but as I say have no proof at all, then this consultation isn\’t as a result of deregulation: it\’s a result of regulation. You must collect proof before you ban the free movement of goods.