Monday, 23 March 2009

The Governor's eyebrow should trump the law

Full Article:

Hordes of lawyers are infesting Britain. Wouldn't it be better for good judgment to prevail over the loophole seekers?
This is a story about a mystery widely discussed in recent months: the Governor's eyebrow. Let's approach the facial hair by way of a riddle. What do the Baby P affair, the assisted suicide debate (rekindled yesterday by Patricia Hewitt), Lord Turner of Ecchinswell's report this week on the future of financial services regulation and a new scrap between The Guardian and Barclays about the avoidance of taxes, have in common?
In every dispute the Governor's eyebrow stands twitching at the centre of arguments about methods of adjudication. Oliver Letwin, the Tories' policy chief, set this out in a speech about Baby P this year: at issue (he said) was a choice between rule-based and judgment-based regulation.
The rule-based approach aims to capture what a regulation means in careful, comprehensive, exhaustively assembled words: an authoritative text. At its best this offers certainty to citizens anxious to know if they are complying with the rules. At its worst it leads to the letter trumping the spirit of regulation: to box-ticking and the recruitment of hordes of lawyers to help people to look for ways round the spirit of the rules while obeying their letter.

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