Regulation doesn't need to be a millstone

We need a properly managed recovery.

There has finally been something to cheer about in recent weeks. The economy seems to be experiencing some meaningful growth, unemployment appears to be dropping across the country and the property sector is at long last out of the doldrums. All in all, with the winter months fast approaching, it seems that the "green shoots" we’ve heard so much talk about over the past few years are finally beginning to germinate.

As we all know, tied to all the economic woes of recent times is the property sector. Property represents a huge proportion of the UK’s wealth and when the sector starts to suffer, so too does everything else. In the same way that we need a healthy banking sector to support the nation’s businesses, we need a healthy property and construction sector to build our homes, maintain our roads and make sure our assets are correctly valued. In a nutshell, property makes the world go around.

We know that the Coalition Government is reluctant to create new laws or legislation, seeing it as a potential burden on business. It is for this reason that they’ve pushed ahead with the likes of the Red Tape Challenge, since so many large firms have cited "regulation" as a cost holding back their growth plans. In this environment, professional standards and ethics, created by professional institutions, are all the more important.

We need specialists operating to regulated professional standards and guidance to protect against things like projects coming in way over budget or homes not being built properly. Ministers rightly say the state can’t do everything, and nor would we want it to; they turn to the professional institutions and their members to provide guidance and certainty. The standards set by RICS for its members safeguard against these things and are the sort of thing we’re going to need if we’re going to have a lively yet sustainable property sector powering our economy.

Regulation does not need to be a millstone around the neck of the long-awaited recovery. With an effectively regulated, ethical property sector driving the UK forward, it is not green shoots that we’re looking to in twenty years, but a blooming garden.

Photograph: Getty Images

Mark Walley is Regional Managing Director of RICS EMEA.

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How the shadow cabinet forced Jeremy Corbyn not to change Labour policy on Syria air strikes

Frontbenchers made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the leader backed down. 

Jeremy Corbyn had been forced to back down once before the start of today's shadow cabinet meeting on Syria, offering Labour MPs a free vote on air strikes against Isis. By the end of the two-hour gathering, he had backed down twice.

At the start of the meeting, Corbyn's office briefed the Guardian that while he would hold a free vote, party policy would be changed to oppose military action, an attempt to claim partial victory. But shadow cabinet members, led by Andy Burnham, argued that this was "unacceptable" and an attempt to divide MPs from members. Burnham, who is not persuaded by the case for air strikes, warned that colleagues who voted against the party's proposed position would become targets for abuse, undermining the principle of a free vote.

Jon Ashworth, the shadow minister without portfolio and NEC member, said that Labour's policy remained the motion passed by this year's conference, which was open to competing interpretations (though most believe the tests it set for military action have been met). Party policy could not be changed without going through a similarly formal process, he argued. In advance of the meeting, Labour released a poll of members (based on an "initial sample" of 1,900) showing that 75 per cent opposed intervention (though it is reported that just 100 emails were checked).

When Corbyn's team suggested that the issue be resolved after the meeting, members made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the Labour leader had backed down. By the end, only Corbyn allies Diane Abbot and Jon Trickett argued that party policy should be changed to oppose military action. John McDonnell, who has long argued for a free vote, took a more "conciliatory" approach, I'm told. It was when Hilary Benn said that he would be prepared to speak from the backbenches in the Syria debate, in order to avoid opposing party policy, that Corbyn realised he would have to give way. The Labour leader and the shadow foreign secretary will now advocate opposing positions from the frontbench when MPs meet, with Corbyn opening and Benn closing. 

The meeting had begun with members, including some who reject military action, complaining about the "discorteous" and "deplorable" manner in which the issue had been handled. As I reported last week, there was outrage when Corbyn wrote to MPs opposing air strikes without first informing the shadow cabinet. There was anger today when, at 2:07pm, seven minutes after the meeting began, some members received an update from the Guardian revealing that a free vote would be held but that party policy would be changed to oppose military action. This "farcical moment", in the words of one present (Corbyn is said to have been unaware of the briefing), only hardened shadow cabinet members' resolve to force their leader to back down - and he did. 

In a statement released following the meeting, a Corbyn spokesperson confirmed that a free vote would be held but made no reference to party policy: 

"Today's Shadow Cabinet agreed to back Jeremy Corbyn's recommendation of a free vote on the Government's proposal to authorise UK bombing in Syria.   

"The Shadow Cabinet decided to support the call for David Cameron to step back from the rush to war and hold a full two day debate in the House of Commons on such a crucial national decision.  

"Shadow Cabinet members agreed to call David Cameron to account on the unanswered questions raised by his case for bombing: including how it would accelerate a negotiated settlement of the Syrian civil war; what ground troops would take territory evacuated by ISIS; military co-ordination and strategy; the refugee crisis and the imperative to cut-off of supplies to ISIS."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.