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Red Tape

Originally posted on my Vox blog in January 2008.

I mentioned about my pal’s stocking filler book about red tape which gives some insight into the way that unnecessary and futile government/corporate procedures can adversely affect peoples’ lives, sometimes in the most dramatic and serious way. Red tape in fact is very much like political correctness. Both stem from need to protect the citizen from the more undesirable traits of human modus operandi but very soon become the opposite. What starts out as a sensible measure to safeguard the citizen’s right to go about their daily business can end up as quite the opposite.

We are all familiar I think with the kind of golf/bowling club mentality where the rules of the clubhouse become so important that they almost overshadow the fact that people are there to enjoy some relaxation away from the stresses and strains of working life.

It can be quite amusing to observe the implementation of dress code rules, particularly over recent years where casual clothing has become the norm. There can be heated discussions at the door as protagonists discuss whether a pair of shoes are in fact leisure shoes or trainers. It’s even crept in to football. At one pre-match hospitality lunch I attended at Dumbarton last season (a defeat for the local side) the after match concern was as much about two guests who had not worn the required tie rather than the result.

My point is that the country (Scotland/UK) and indeed the continent has turned into a giant golf club. The courts seem besieged by absolutely trivial ‘human rights’ cases, yet at the same time our (UK) government can jointly invade a foreign country on a false premise, remove the government, bomb and kill over half a million people and spark an uncontrollable civil war without so much as a by-your-leave. So whilst the European Convention on ‘Human Rights’ concerns itself with some violent scumbag prisoner’s right to vote in an election, no one it seems is prepared to look at the bigger picture. If any Prime Minister were to have pulled such a stunt when I was growing up he would quite rightly been hounded from office. A prisoner lodging such a petition would have quite rightly been ridiculed.

I’ll be returning to the theme of red tape over the coming weeks and to begin with give you an insight in to my fairly recent personal experience. Because my daughter suffers from a medical condition which can see her take unwell unpredictably, we are understandably cautious to allow her on school trips etc. We decided the best way would be for us both to apply for Disclosure Scotland to allow either one of us to accompany her on such trips. Disclosure Scotland is a sensible measure which requires anyone working or volunteering in activities involving children to apply for a certificate. To get this you must complete a form declaring your details including much personal info including criminal convictions. No problems there and my wife and I got the certificates quickly and easily. However it turns out that if I now wated to volunteer in another activity for example helping with a football team or suchlike, I would have to get ANOTHER Disclosure Scotland Certificate and another for each separate activity! (why oh why! etc.)

On one school trip it had been arranged for the children to go on the Waverley paddle steamer for a two hour cruise.

Unfortunately on the day it was raining heavily and by the time we had accompanied the kids on the one and a half mile walk to the pier they were soaked through. The rain didn’t let up all day and when we returned, the poor kids (and me!) being faced with another 30 minute walk in the pouring rain didn’t fill me with enthusiasm. I suggested that we should take the walk only as far as the train station and catch the service bus which passes the school door. “But we don’t have permission for that” one of the other parents pointed out. I protested that surely each and every parent of these kids would, if they were there, vote for the sensible course of action I was suggesting in loco parentis. The other adults were resolute and firm however that the box hadn’t been ticked. I then suggested phoning the headmaster but it seemed that individual parental permission was required. Instead therefore returning to school relatively dry, the kids walked back in torrential rain and had their second soaking of the day. Many were absent from school over the next week with a cold.

This is a perfect example where there should be an overriding law of common sense. I propose that such an act of parliament be introduced forthwith, It will be called the “Away and Don’t Be Daft” Bill, where the rule of common sense is superior in law to all others. I’m going to suggest it to my MP today!


Wendy Truth Is Told

The Wendy Alexander saga has now entered the sympathy phase following her resignation. Of course much of it is of the patronising variety such as that expressed in Tory activist Ian Dale’s Diary
. Perhaps one of the most amusing aspects of this sympathy though is the idea that the rules on MP’s and MSP’s declaring donations are just a bit too confusing and it’s easy therefore for the poor old simple politician to be bamboozled by their complexity. Excuse me while I laugh out loud for a moment.

………………….. *laughs heartily*…………………..

Ah! that’s better. I have news for Mr. Dale. Complexity, rules, laws, legislation, regulation and red tape are politicians stock in trade! There is nothing they like better than to unnecessarily complicate the simplest of activities. This could be anything from a farmer moving a goat to a different field (45 pages of instructions contained in the Sheep And Goats (Wales) Order 2006) to a business trying to cope with the number of tax forms they have to fill in annually (the current average in the UK is 279) or arranging to accompany your child on a school trip.
A small business owner at work
A small business owner sorts out her paperwork for the day.

The average amount of pieces of legislation passed into statute in the UK each year numbers nearly 4,000. The height of this paper mountain is that of a typical double decker bus. I own a small business and have long since delegated the financial paperwork of my business fully to my accountant. It is really the only way to keep on the right side of the law. It costs me over £3,000 per year but it is worth it to keep on the right side of the myriad of rules and regs. Last year I had an Inland Revenue and a VAT bill to pay on the same day. The combined total of these bills was into five figures. I arranged to pay them by BACS but unfortunately had not realised that instead of taking three days to process, they would take four because of a bank holiday. Thus for the first time in 23 years in business my VAT payment was late (albeit by ONE day). They slapped a notice on me and said that if I was late again with a payment within the next 18 months this would lead to a financial penalty. I appealed pointing out that this was the first time I had been late in nearly quarter of a century. I felt that I conducted my affairs with them in an almost exemplary fashion and that whilst it was my error to not take account of a bank holiday I felt it was perhaps a little unfair to be penalised. The reply came and I’m sure you will forgive me for paraphrasing it slightly but it was along the lines of Dear Sir, Go and take a good running fuck to yourself.

Anyway getting back to wee Wendy. She is a university educated, bright and intelligent person. She has a staff at her disposal, paid for by the tax payer whose duty is to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed. The rules and regulations she was subject to were no worse or more complicated than those inflicted on the rest of us. Those rules and regulations were voted through by politicians just like her.

Sure let us simplify rules and regulations as Ian Dale suggests. However lets do it for everyone and not just the political class.

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

I've already mentioned the Little Black Book of Red Tape bought for me by my pal Iain. It is not merely about red tape at all and in fact also draws the reader's attention to the level of officialdom's interference in peoples' lives. The book quotes from a leaflet, which it says was published by Tayside Health Board, designed to (ahem!) help you shit properly! I was sceptical that such a thing existed but a quick internet search found this article from the Times from April 2006. I have highlighted some of the most helpful advice.

 

Nanny society though we are, the mature adult does not expect to be told how to eat or to breathe. Up in Dundee, however, the local NHS trust has issued an instruction book on how to do the other thing that all species do; in our case, usually once a day.

Potty training is a near-universal experience of early childhood in civilised societies. That NHS Tayside feels obliged to issue a four-page leaflet entitled Good Defecation Dynamics, complete with a diagram, suggests there may be a gaping cultural black hole in a well-populated part of eastern Scotland.

Still, let us not fall into the trap of typical Edinburgh nose-in-the-air superiority; we are always ready to learn, from the bottom up.

The advice is sound; while sitting on the throne, it counsels, don’t forget to breathe. And, in a hint rarely taught to two-year-olds, it is apparently a good idea to keep your mouth open.

No reason is given for this; perhaps it is to guard against a potentially damaging build-up of pressure that might blow off one or other end of the digestive tract. No recent cases of any such accident have been reported in Tayside, possibly because the population reaches for the prunes before matters reach such a head.

But what matters most is posture: not quite balancing a book on your head, as though you were at modelling school, but at least sitting upright. “Do not slump down but keep the normal curve in your back. Keep your mouth open as you bulge and widen,” the booklet says. “You should aim to do this every time you open your bowels.”

Have you ever, while sitting there in silent contemplation, thought about your feet? No, we thought not, but NHS Tayside has. “When you sit on the toilet make sure your feet are well supported; you may need to use a small footstool.” This cannot apply to the young, whose next stage after the potty is to sit on the real thing with little legs swinging in the air while a yellow labrador puppy steals the toilet roll.

Even though they probably don’t know the meaning of “defecation” in Dundee, preferring a more Anglo-Saxon term pronounced in the Scottish way to rhyme with “bright”, the leaflet has been distributed to clinics and GPs’ surgeries in the region. A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside turned the other cheek to accusations that the leaflet was a waste of money and would be better employed hanging on a nail behind the bathroom door.

“One in three people suffers from bowel and bladder dysfunction, and this can be extremely debilitating and distressing for individuals,” she said. “These patient information leaflets contain advice for those people who suffer from this condition, and are based on national guidance from the Association for Continence Advice.”

The cost of producing the leaflet, she added, had been minimal.

By the strange vagaries of the internet, the text of the leaflet has appeared on a website in Poland, a country of fine peasant customs that should have no need of such advice and where they would instantly dump it.

 

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Red Tape – A Citizen’s Overview

I mentioned about my pal's stocking filler book about red tape which gives some insight into the way that unecessary and futile government/corporate procedures can adversley affect peoples' lives, sometimes in the most dramatic and serious way. Red tape in fact is very much like political correctness. Both stem from need to protect the citizen from the more undesirable traits of human modus operandi but very soon become the opposite. What starts out as a sensible measure to safeguard the citizen's right to go about their daily business can end up as quite the opposite.

We are all familiar I think with the kind of golf/bowling club mentality where the rules of the clubhouse become so important that they almost overshadow the fact that people are there to enjoy some relaxation away from the stresses and strains of working life.

It can be quite amusing to observe the implementation of dress code rules, particularly over recent years where casual clothing has become the norm. There can be heated discussions at the door as protagonists discuss whether a pair of shoes are in fact leisure shoes or trainers. It's even crept in to football. At one pre-match hospitality lunch I attended at Dumbarton last season (a defeat for the local side) the after match concern was as much about two guests who had not worn the required tie rather than the result.

My point is that the country (Scotland/UK) and indeed the continent has turned into a giant golf club. The courts seem beseiged by absolutely trivial 'human rights' cases, yet at the same time our (UK) government can jointly invade a foreign country on a false premise, remove the government, bomb and kill over half a million people and spark an uncontrolable civil war without so much as a by-your-leave. So whilst the European Convention on 'Human Rights' concerns itself with some violent scumbag prisoner's right to vote in an election, no one it seems is prepared to look at the bigger picture. If any Prime Minister were to have pulled such a stunt when I was growing up he would quite rightly been hounded from office. A prisoner lodging such a petition would have quite rightly been ridiculed.

 

I'll be returning to the theme of red tape over the coming weeks and to begin with give you an insight in to my fairly recent personal experience. Because my daughter suffers from a medical condition which can see her take unwell unpredictably, we are understandably cautious to allow her on school trips etc. We decided the best way would be for us both to apply for Disclosure Scotland to allow either one of us to accompany her on such trips. Disclosure Scotland is a sensible measure which requires anyone working or volunteering in activities involvong children to apply for a certificate. To get this you must complete a form declaring your details including much personal info including criminal convictions. No problems there and my wife and I got the certificates quickly and easily. However it turns out that if I now wated to volunteer in another activity for example helping with a football team or suchlike, I would have to get ANOTHER Disclosure Scotland Certificate and another for each separate activity! (why oh why! etc.)

On one school trip it had been arranged for the children to go on the Waverley paddle steamer for a two hour cruise.

 Unfortunately on the day it was raining heavily and by the time we had accompanied the kids on the one and a half mile walk to the pier they were soaked through. The rain didn't let up all day and when we returned, the poor kids (and me!) being faced with another 30 minute walk in the pouring rain didn't fill me with enthusiasm. I suggested that we should take the walk  only as far as the train station and catch the service bus which passes the school door. "But we don't have permission for that" one of the other parents pointed out. I protested that surely each and every parent of these kids would, if they were there, vote for the sensible course of action I was suggesting in loco parentis. The other adults were resolute and firm however that the box hadn't been ticked. I then suggested phoning the headmaster but it seemed that individual parental permission was required. Instead therefore returning to school relatively dry, the kids walked back in torrential rain and had their second soaking of the day. Many were absent from school over the next week with a cold.

This is a perfect example where there should be an overriding law of common sense. I propose that such an act of parliament be introduced forthwith, It will be called the "Away and Don't Be Daft" Bill, where the rule of common sense is superior in law to all others. I'm going to suggest it to my MP today! 

 

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