New Bill of Rights or Statute of Repeals?

Today the BBC kite flies a new “Bill of Rights” to reassure us that we are still a free country. The government’s spin masters must be desperate if this idea comes from them. Maybe at last they have realised that people are fed up with the myriad petty ways our liberty has been eroded by this government in the name of fighting terrorism or reinforcing the forces of law and order.

There is a much easier way to reassert our liberties than drafting a new “Bill of Rights”. Enforcing the old one would be a good start. Getting powers back from Brussels would help, as so many of the unhelpful interventions in our life from Home Information Packs to rubbish bin surveillance have a strong European component which this government has allowed to creep up on us. Abolishing unelected and unloved English regional government would get a lot of meddlers off our backs. Giving us back habeas corpus and more jury trials would be good. Reversing some of the idiocy perpetrated in the name of health and safety would make life easier and no less safe.

I flew into Southampton airport on Friday from a distant part of our lovely country. There were 14 of us on the small plane. We had to sit and wait on the tarmac whilst one young man came out to place a couple of desultory cones near the wing of the aircraft, and for a young woman to bring a chain on a cart and solemnly extend some of this chain underneath the trailing edge of the wing before we could leave the plane. The pilot told me this safety precaution was not needed at any of the other airports where he landed. None of us were likely to want to walk into the propeller which was clearly visible above us, and the pilot could have mentioned it if the authorities thought planes these days are full of people absent minded or perverse enough to walk into hard metal parts of an aircraft they have just flown on.

This is one tiny example of how over the top some of the things have become. People in many jobs are scared of the system. It makes them behave collectively in a way they would not dream of behaving at home. I doubt the person who demanded the chain near the aircraft insists in extending a chain around his car when parking at home to make sure people do not walk into the wing mirrors, which would be a more likely occurrence than someone hitting the propellers.

I am all for high standards of health and safety at work. I do think a safety culture, especially in companies handling dangerous equipment, chemicals and materials, is crucial. Going over the top and inventing too many petty rules and requirements can annoy people, and it can also distract people from more serious safety threats that may not have been captured by the Safety boffins.

I think we need a Statute of repeals more than a new Bill of Rights. We need to repeal many of the silly rules and regulations that do not make us safe but make us cross. I would welcome your suggestions for the silliest rules we need to abolish in the first Statute of Repeals. We need to make them an annual event to get to grips with the stultifying bureaucracy we now experience daily.