Many of the stupid announcements by politicians must irritate you as much as they do me. That arch feminist – she from planet Pluto not Venus – Ms Patricia Hewitt, the then Minister for Trade and Industry who, to the best of my knowledge, has never started, run a business or even worked for a commercial company in her life – which is of course the perfect qualification to tell us how to run our companies – came out with such nonsense in a consultation paper that I can only conclude she had spent the previous 24 hours in a pub trying to prove it is good for you to drink for that period.

Mind you, she is now Minister for Health, a logical career move after all day and night pub opening; it’s a case, I suppose, of supplying extra customers for the hospitals.

She tells us that, if we give working mothers 12 months maternity leave, allow them to transfer part of it to their husbands or live-in partners and allow them to demand flexible working hours, it will be of great benefit to business. What planet does she live on? After all, if these were such great ideas, we in business would have done it years ago and the government would never need to coerce us into doing it; we would all be doing it to improve our bottom line.

Naturally, being a politician, she has no idea of costs. All she knows is the public sector with its bloated staffing levels where, if half the staff were away – and they usually are – no one misses them.

This government’s idea of consultation is listening to the public sector unions and the Confederation of British Industry, which represents the very large companies and apparently has no interest in the small companies.

Next, they say to us: “We are listening.” Then they totally ignore our needs and do exactly what they were going to do anyway. The only solution I can see is for the private sector to give very serious thought before employing ladies of child-bearing age and to be grateful, for once, to the public sector, which can carry on employing them.

The downside, even of the public sector employing all the ladies, is that next, they will

be coming to us for even more taxes to pay for extra accommodation to build hundreds of crèches to put all their children in and to fund wages for staff to look after them because they want to be seen as caring employers.

We uncaring employers, meanwhile, will either be working our staff and ourselves to death to pay the taxes for this madness or will have said, “No way! I will sell out to some other fool who wants to try and support the country.” Again, as always, the snag: even the supply of fools will dry up.

Now I will confess that my views are slightly to the right of centre and, at the moment, are not fashionable to the tie-less brigade of modern politicians.However, fear not! One day, two and two will make four again; I lived through the crazy ’50s and mad ’70s, but the day of reckoning came, as it will – without doubt – come again.

Tony Phillips is past president of the NAMB and is (allegedly) retired from running Janes Pantry with 10 shops in Gloucestershire