Thursday, December 27, 2012

Britain's 'crazy' health and safety rulings attacked

 "Jobsworth" officials are wrongly applying health and safety rules to prevent people undertaking everyday activities, a minister says today.

 Mark Hoban, the minister for employment, said that the “crazy” interpretation of health and safety rules must stop.  “It's time for authorities, businesses and other organisations to stop hiding behind the catch-all, cop-out term “health and safety” and come clean on the real reasons for these crazy decisions,” he said.

 “The jobsworths can’t be allowed to get away with it.”

 Writing for, the minister recalled a recent incident when he went to buy a Christmas tree and was told that health and safety rules meant that the sellers could not trim the trunk for him.

 He also described an employer in his constituency who refused to let work placement students make tea and coffee in case they injured themselves.   “That's just nonsense - and it drives me mad,” Mr Hoban said.

 Mr Hoban’s remarks come after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that the rules are often being wrongly applied or used an excuse.

 The HSE looked at 100 cases, and found that in 38, health and safety rules were simply being used as an excuse for unpopular decisions. In more than a quarter of cases, the rules had simply been wrongly applied.

 To highlight mistaken uses of the rules, the HSE has published a list of the worst misuses.   Among the worst examples:

 <> A bus driver refused to allow a customer to board while carrying a hot drink in case it spilled.

 <>A Bar refused to let a customer carry tray of drinks because they had not been 'health and safety trained'

 <>A charity shop said that it cannot sell knitting needles because they could be dangerous.

 <>A school banned yo-yos because children might injure themselves with the toys.

 Judith Hackitt of the HSE said that such “stupid” decisions are undermining rules that, properly enforced, can prevent death and injury.

 She said: “It’s really important that we are all ready to challenge stupid decisions made in the name of health and safety, and that we as the regulator give the public the confidence to do so.

 “Not only do the jobsworths who make these ridiculous edicts waste time and money, and interfere needlessly with harmless activities, they also undermine our efforts to reduce the number of people made ill, injured or killed by their work.”


Forget the sympathy and counselling. Just lock up my burglar!

Rachel Johnson encounters the useless British police

The last time I wrote about a crime in the family – after my younger son was relieved of his BlackBerry in London’s Holland Park in broad daylight – a certain local politician complained of me putting it about that the capital’s streets were in the grip of a ‘middle-class mugging epidemic’ ahead of an important election.

Well, even as Plebgate turns to Plodgate, I have another crime to report. On the heartbreak scale, nothing like Robert Peston’s recent loss of jewellery belonging to his late wife, Sian Busby. But unpleasant enough.

I got home after a festive gathering and my older son rushed to greet me at the front door, his face stricken. He’d been sitting watching TV downstairs and heard a noise. He thought nothing of it, but when he went into the kitchen he discovered we’d been burgled.
Cut the sympathy: The Johnson family have received a house call and phone call from victim support offering counselling as well as two letters from the police since the MacBook was stolen

Cut the sympathy: The Johnson family have received a house call and phone call from victim support offering counselling as well as two letters from the police since the MacBook was stolen

I admit, officer, that the back door to the house was unlocked at the time. Unlocked by me. We’d been burgled, and my son’s new MacBook stolen.

Now the MacBook was replaceable, of course, unlike treasured family jewels, let alone a beloved wife. But still: it was a laptop a teenager had worked for weeks in a restaurant kitchen over his summer to buy.

‘Did you insure it, like I said?’ I asked. ‘No,’ he said shortly, working away on my laptop. ‘But I’ve got tracking.’ ‘Oh good,’ I said, not knowing what he meant.

The police turned up, then left, saying they’d be in touch, which they most certainly were. Since the ‘incident’, we’ve had a house call from Victim Support, a call asking us whether we needed counselling, a letter expressing sympathy, and a letter asking if we wanted more counselling.

Something astonishing happened three days later. While nothing seemed to be occurring on the crime-solving front, the tracking was working like something out of Spooks. Prey Project software sent us a three-pronged report, generated from the nicked laptop. And very interesting it was, too.

The first part was a photo taken by the stolen MacBook of the first person who’d gone online since the theft. It showed the large face of a bald gentleman.

he second showed the home screen of the missing laptop, where our gent was logged into Facebook. The third was a map, which zoomed in on the current location of the missing item, to a radius of 110 yards.

Now, you would have thought that when we excitedly told our detective constable that we had a visual, the Facebook profile, and almost exact location of the current ‘owner’ of the stolen item on the mean streets of Ealing, as well as the laptop’s serial number and IP address, he would have hopped in a panda car, and gone all Life On Mars. But he didn’t.

Explaining why would take ages: essentially, all the information generated and given was still insufficient to execute a search warrant. So this is where we are. Nowhere.

Now, I presume that the local constabulary feel it’s ‘job done’ because they turned up, fingerprinted, gave us a crime number, and offered counselling. But it’s not. The one important box remains unticked: they have not solved the crime or, in my view, really tried to. There has been no – in the jargon – ‘justice outcome’.

After we’d stopped even getting letters offering tea and sympathy,  I called them. ‘How about I go to Ealing and do a Mummy Stakeout followed by a citizen’s arrest myself?’  I suggested. There was a pause. ‘I advise against attending an unknown location due to obvious risk,’ the DC replied.

Then he said, as if I’d be pleased: ‘The image of the man in possession of the computer has been fed through the Met’s facial-recognition software without result and has been circulated to Ealing’s safer neighbourhood team.’

I can’t help feeling we’re on our own here, and this is also why a desperate Peston, I presume, has taken to Twitter, and published photographs of the missing rings, and appealed for their return.

It’s as if Plod is now devoting more resources to aftercare than investigation when it comes to theft.

As I’ve learnt, while apps and spy software may reveal where your electronic babies are, they won’t help you get them back. Even if the cops had kicked down doors in Ealing, they say my son would only get into a protracted civil dispute over who had legal claim on the item, which had doubtless been fenced on within hours for £50 or so on the Uxbridge Road.

So if you have splashed out on anything expensive and electronic, do remember: if you don’t buy insurance (and check your household insurance, too – it turned out we didn’t have any, which was happily my husband’s fault), Father Christmas will be giving the present to some light-fingered footpad, who will flog it on within hours, making it virtually irrecoverable.

Not that insurance, of course, would help when it comes to Sian Busby’s rings, or the necklace  saying ‘Mum’, given to her by their teenage son, Max.

No tracking can ever find them;  no amount of compensation can  ever replace them. When the police appear to care as little for our possessions as those who have stolen them do, then we are all robbed – of our faith in the force.


British judge criticises Government for focus on 'minority issue' of gay marriage

A High Court judge has criticised the Government for focusing on the "minority issue" of gay marriage during a time in which society was facing a "crisis of family breakdown".

Sir Paul Coleridge questioned the decision to concentrate on an issue that affects "0.1%" of the population at a time when break-ups were leaving millions of children caught up in the famiy justice system.

The comments by the judge - who started a charity to try to stem the "destructive scourge" of divorce - come after plans for gay marriage were criticised by the leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales as undemocratic and totalitarian.

Sir Paul said that his charity, the Marriage Foundation, did not take a stance on same-sex marriage.

But he told a newspaper: "So much energy and time has been put into this debate for 0.1 per cent of the population, when we have a crisis of family breakdown.

"It's gratifying that marriage in any context is centre stage... but it [gay marriage] is a minority issue. We need a much more focused position by the Government on the importance of marriage."

Sir Paul added: "The breakdown of marriage and its impact on society affects 99.9% of the population. That is where the investment of time and money should be, where we really do need resources."

The overall divorce rate remained "miles too high", he said, resulting in 3.8 million children in the family justice system.   "This is an obscene level of family breakdown," said the judge.

It comes after Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, used his sermon at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve to accuse ministers of acting to legalise same-sex marriage in defiance of public opinion.

The Coalition has said it will change the law to allow homosexual couples to marry. It says churches that do not wish to hold same sex marriages will not have to, and the Church of England will be excluded from the legislation.

The plans have been criticised by dozens of Conservative MPs, and campaigners opposed to the new law say there is no public support for the change. Roman Catholic leaders have been among the fiercest critics if the plan.


Capitalism With a Human Face: A Golden Age

Ralph Benko

There’s an urban legend besetting the urbane that capitalism is a system of privilege designed for the Ebenezer Scrooges of the world. Not so. Capitalism works at least as well for us Bob Cratchits as it does for misers, probably better. Capitalism is the only proven mechanism by which the workers of the world may unite to lose their chains.

The big picture is set out in a recent article in the UK’s The Spectator:  “It may not feel like it, but 2012 has been the greatest year in the history of the world. That sounds like an extravagant claim, but it is borne out by evidence. Never has there been less hunger, less disease or more prosperity. The West remains in the economic doldrums, but most developing countries are charging ahead, and people are being lifted out of poverty at the fastest rate ever recorded. The death toll inflicted by war and natural disasters is also mercifully low. We are living in a golden age.”

This world scoop lays out paragraph after paragraph of impressive evidence for its thesis. One of the most compelling points:

"In 1990, the UN announced Millennium Development Goals, the first of which was to halve the number of people in extreme poverty by 2015. It emerged this year that the target was met in 2008. Yet the achievement did not merit an official announcement, presumably because it was not achieved by any government scheme but by the pace of global capitalism. Buying cheap plastic toys made in China really is helping to make poverty history. And global inequality? This, too, is lower now than any point in modern times. Globalisation means the world’s not just getting richer, but fairer too."

As this columnist has pointed out here before, in The End of Politics, World Peace is breaking out. This is obscured by media reportage focusing on carnage. And yet the peace, which is real, represents a brisk tailwind for the forces of small “l” liberal small “r” republican governance — and a headwind for the Big Government/Dark Side of the Force crowd. As The Spectator puts it, bringing billions of souls out of extreme poverty “did not merit an official announcement, presumably because it was not achieved by any government scheme but by the pace of global capitalism.” World Prosperity, as well as Peace, is emerging: “a golden age.”

Real capitalism is a humanitarian force. Making capitalism synonymous with miserliness is what Marxists call false consciousness. A great example of capitalism with a human face — with a beard, even! — is Garry Kvistad, founder and proprietor of Woodstock Chimes®.

Whenever you hear a wind chime, or see one in a gift shop, chances are that it’s a Woodstock Chime. Woodstock is — by far — the market leader. It earned its market leadership by providing a superb quality product at a competitive price, reliable service, and good management. It began, as so many companies do, with its founder’s passion. From

“Being a recent college graduate, Garry found the materials for his metallophone at the local landfill – it was made from the aluminum tubes of discarded lawn chairs! Garry was fascinated by the Scales of Olympos, a 7th century Greek pentatonic scale that can’t be played on a modern piano. His metallophone experiment was so successful that he had the idea to cut and tune lawn chair tubes to the exact frequency of the scale and create a windchime from the tubes. … The Chime of Olympos® was the first Woodstock Chime….”

Kvistad, a Grammy® Award winning musician, also is a founder and participant of the most highly regarded percussion ensemble working today, NEXUS. And as he said, over craft beer, to this columnist, “It’s clear that if you wish to pursue a career in New Music — performing works by extraordinary composers such as Steve Reich and John Cage — you’d better have a supplementary source of income.”

In addition to freeing Garry to play the music that delights him (and audiences worldwide) the Kvistads have distributed millions of dollars of profits philanthropically. Many who have earned wealth are generous givers. (Actually… Republicans, very well advertised as, to a man, rich, mean, and miserly, have a well-documented track record, as noted by George Will, of charitableness consistently far in excess of that of the equally well advertised sweet, generous, wealthy Democrats. Go figure. No implication intended that the Kvistads might be sinister Republicans. Perish the thought.)

Let it not be thought, however, that the laws governing Hippie Capitalism are somehow kinder, gentler, or more renewable, than that of Republican Square Capitalism. To most everyone’s surprise it turns out that the laws of economics, being laws of nature, apply to all equally. The law of supply and demand, like the law of gravity, applies to Progressives as well as conservatives. (This is a fact mostly unnoticed, or at least unforgiven, by Progressive policy makers.)

Some years ago, Kvistad noticed that international suppliers were beginning to sell chimes almost as good as Woodstock’s, and more cheaply. The necessary response, as it turned out, did not involve redeploying to the city dump in search of more discarded lawn chairs. “We had always manufactured our chimes right here, near Woodstock,” Kvistad told me. “It was very gratifying to be able to provide work to skilled artisans here in my home town. Yet it was clear to me that if we continued to make them here we soon would be out of business and providing no jobs at all. So I sought out and found reliable, high quality, ethical suppliers — in China and Indonesia — and… between natural workforce attrition, people moving on or moving away, and retraining my team to handle the complexities of managing an inventory built abroad, I was able not only to keep jobs here in America but to generate more highly skilled, better paying, jobs right here. It was a positive, not a negative, sum game.  We also sell in Europe, Canada, and are opening up a distribution center in the UK. All of that goes to create more American jobs.”

Kvistad’s action provides empirical proof, as if more were needed, of Tamny’s Law (named for the editor of Opinion who has reiterated this observation ad infinitum, and, one hopes, will continue to do so until the policy elites come to grips with reality): “Technology erases unnecessary work so that we can constantly migrate toward more productive pursuits. We destroy jobs to create better ones.”

It begins to appear that the world is entering, as The Spectator noted in emulation of this columnist, “a golden age.” (“A Golden Age” has been this column’s categorical title for over two years. Memo to The Spectator: Forbes scooped you.) A golden age may prove precursor, rather than the predicate, of a return to the classical gold standard. As the rest of the world honors, rather than attempts to override, the natural laws governing the production of goods and services the rest of the world becomes more prosperous … and fair. Will the political elites of the developed world continue to adopt policies calculated to induce “economic doldrums”? Perhaps the sight of equitable prosperity blossoming all around us will inspire our own policy makers toward capitalism.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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