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A Letter to the Prime Minister

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A letter to the Prime Minister

22nd March 2011
The Rt.Hon. David Cameron M.P.
Prime Minister

Dear Mr Cameron,

I hear you want to get Britain’s industry to regenerate itself to fund the rather massive deficit caused by blatant government overspending over the last 20 years and some very bad behaviour by others. This is very commendable. However there are a number of fundamental bullets you must bite before you have the slightest hope of being effective in your endeavour.

My qualifications for suggesting I can tell you what to do.I was educated at grammar school and then obtained an advanced technical qualification from a Polytechnic. I became a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (I make no claim that that organisation supports my views) in 1966. I worked making rocket motors to deliver atom bombs onto Moscow and then designed missiles and instruments for testing Concorde and then I worked for seven years in Canada designing American military and civilian aircraft and helicopters.

I then returned to the UK and, together with my brother, started and ran a small manufacturing company in Coventry. We prospered despite the then current drastic decline in the Coventry motor industry and within fifteen years we had built the company to within the top 5% of British sub-contract manufacturing companies. We succeeded for five years until BMW bought Rolls Royce Cars and played a dirty trick on us and we were insolvent within twelve months. During those years our company returned to its workforce and the exchequer at least forty times as much money as it had put into our pockets.

After being forcibly retired I worked in the local community and soon became an unpaid member of the local authority Neighbourhood Management. I learned a lot about local government and its relation to central government. I am an active member of our local Civic Society and have much concern with local planning issues of all types.

My long term interest has been practicaI philosophy and I know a great deal about how a society works – or should work.

The first thing you should do is to destroy the massive burden on small companies imposed by Health and Safety regulations. I successfully ran my company – without a single reportable accident in 30 years with around two pages of safety practice notes. A friend who still runs a virtually identical company, and a third the size of mine, has a Health and Safety Policy that runs to around three thousand pages. This is utter rubbish. He cannot even read it let alone implement it. Indeed it is of no more use than my two pages of succinct notes were.

The imposition of such policies on any company of less than around 100 persons is self defeating. People soon devise ways to appear to conform but actually do nothing other than what they must – i.e. buy a lot of rubbish paperwork. The presence of legislation that deliberately turns honest men who might make mistakes into evil criminals – I refer specifically here to the Warwickshire Firemen on  trial for manslaughter – results in an attitude of covering backsides and will inevitably detract from and prevent the pioneering trials, and inevitable mistakes, that define a surging economy. The dead hand of bureaucracy can never replace the entrepreneur.

A reasonable Health and Safety policy might be needed on an oil rig, a steel works, a huge quarry or a mine or shipyard but imposed upon a small business it is smothering rubbish. The notion that honest men should be charged with manslaughter for bureaucratic failings is a horrendous insult to our law and to every citizen. The concept that you are innocent until proven guilty has been turned upon its head and now people are assumed guilty by implication by an unknowable and unworkable agglomeration of twisted and immoral regulations. Every businessman breaks the law every day at least once. This is rubbish law.

The second thing you should do is to revoke about ninety percent of the current employment laws. It is perfectly common that the owners of small companies dare not employ a fertile female. The ridiculously onerous conditions attached to pregnancy in employment mean that most small enterprises would be rendered insolvent. Rather than celebrating one of the finest events of life, birth has now become a deadly sin.
A friend of mine still runs the company that I built and reports horrendous stories to me. She had one employee who attended on time every day while on a temporary contract. Within a week of gaining full time employment she had gone off sick for a month and effectively never came back to work. It took my friend nearly six months to get rid of an employee who never lifted a finger but made endless demands backed through no-win-no-fee lawyers and the pathetically debilitating law of this land. This is bloody ridiculous.

It is not without notice that all the big companies now keep a very small key staff and use temps or sub-contractors for all other work. They cannot abide these laws either. One cannot help but conclude that these draconian employment restrictions have actually reduced available work and terms of employment rather than improved them – except perhaps for a very small minority fortunate enough to be in the employ of the government with all their over-protected benefits paid for by the long suffering taxpayer.

The third thing you should do is to sort out the banks. We all know the horrendous shenanigans that the banks have been up to. The fundamental problem is the banks were originally licensed and given a monopoly over the creation of money in the nineteenth century. Most banks have abused the terms of their monopoly ever since. I see that HSBC is threatening to move to Singapore because it is not being allowed to abuse its monopoly enough. Good. Let them go. The banks are miserable failures. They do not deserve to survive. Institute instead a moral system under the control of the people – from where the authority to grant a monopoly properly arises. We may well take a temporary hit but the control of his own finances is a fundamental right of every individual.

The banks create money virtually without cost to themselves and lend it as debt at very high interest rates and stuff the enormous rewards into their own pockets. It is difficult to conceive of any alternative system that could do as badly by the average citizen as has this monstrous rip-off. Our national debts are not repayable no matter what you, and we, may do or achieve. The concept that these very few should make themselves filthy rich by providing a very simple service is an obscenity of the first order. Their only weapon is the monopoly that you, and we, grant them. Make the terms of the monopoly right for us who grant this monopoly and have the right to revoke it. 
The fourth, although by no means last, thing you should do is to much reduce building planning law. I spend much time involved with the local authority in the planning of the much local regeneration necessitated by the destruction of Coventry’s once proud industrial base. Hitler and Goering never came close to the harm done by the multi-nationals, the corrupt banking system and stupid bureaucracy. Unfortunately I am only one member of our local civic society and cannot speak on its behalf but we are starting to make a difference by opposing and cajoling into civilised behaviour the large companies that now virtually control all development. Of all the many schemes to which we have contributed with opposition or constructive suggestions there is one outstanding parameter common to all; small businesses – and even shops - are completely ignored. They do not exist. In around ten major regeneration schemes in Coventry there is not a single small business unit. Not one. If our regeneration does not start providing cheap and cheerful premises for small businesses you have not a hope in hell of achieving your desire. The present planning system clearly has a built in hidden agenda to destroy small businesses.

The small businessman (and woman) is the residence of all that is good in society. Freedom, independence, thought, action, responsibility, wealth creation, success and the consequences of failure; these are the attributes that every businessman must have and they, unfortunately, reside elsewhere in our society in very small measure. You are absolutely right to encourage small businesses but words alone are of no use. You, too, must act – and decisively.

My friend, the same one that produces vast amounts of wealth for this country despite being beset by endless, mindless bureaucracy, wanted to improve her nice but modest home. She had a glass conservatory behind her kitchen that would allow expansion of the kitchen and provide a very nice cooking and dining space. She engaged a planning agent who seemed to know his stuff and he soon reported that her wishes were impossible. She had a fir tree in her garden about 30 feet from the house. Now everybody knows that trees mirror image and their roots are the same shape as the crown. The roots could not have been within thirty feet of her house but the planning regulations demanded that as a result of the tree the foundations must go down two metres. Unfortunately the local water authority had a storm sewer within one meter of this location and so it was impossible to build. Neither of these problems would have been difficult of solution to a reasonably competent architect but the bureaucracies involved could not handle them – even at considerable cost.

She took the decision to build a new conservatory – that did not require planning consent - and to extend the kitchen into it – which is against planning rules. She has done no damage to the sewer or to any neighbour and everything she has done is within her own home. But it contravenes certain inexplicably tangled planning rules and is illegal. The finished work is superb. Then last week she had a demand from another bureaucratic department to gain access to her home for unrelated purposes. She was utterly terrified that this officer would grass her up. My friend, who creates enormous wealth for this country through manufacturing was terrified of a tiny little bureaucrat. This horrible bureaucracy had turned her into a criminal for doing nothing more than improving her home. It had even reduced my friend’s daughters to tears. Seeing her children distraught in this manner I experienced, just for one moment, and for the first time in my long life, what it must have been like for the Jews in Nazi Germany. While the magnitude of the scenarios are quite different the principles underlying the experiences are the same. Mindless control by bureaucrats – fascism.

Have the guts, Sir, to act to destroy this monstrous bureaucracy in all its guises. You will not make yourself popular but you are not going to be popular anyway. The inevitable reduction in our future standard of living will be firmly blamed on you. You might make a difference if you act as I have outlined. If you do not do these things you will definitely fail as will this country.

I wrote this just before I heard your party conference speech on the TV. You can talk the talk. That’s easy.  Now can you do it?

Since I wrote this you have dragged us into another war that is strictly not our business. There is no possible acceptable exit strategy for us other than to take out Gadaffi with troops on the ground. That is very dangerous. The man might be a shit but this is not our business. You should get us out while you still can. Are you going to make an enemy of every oil-rich country or has HMG, together with Uncle Sam, already decided that military occupation is the only way to secure oil supplies? Those of us in the firing line are entitled to know.

Yours sincerely
Colin Walker.

28th March 2011

Colin Walker

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