Curmudgeon News - October 2000

This month's items include:

  • Tories Plan Drug-Driving Bans
  • Anti-Smokers Demand Censorship of Thunderbirds
  • Club Operators Oppose Licensing Reform
  • Cheapest Pint Producer Attacks Big Brewers
  • Scientist Condemns 'Ignorant' Greens
  • New Gun Laws Threaten Olympic Chances
  • Right to Roam May Harm Wildlife
  • Anti-Obesity Tax for Burgers
  • European Tobacco Ad Ban Overturned
  • Greengrocer Charged Over Pounds and Ounces
  • Beer as Brain Food

Complete News Index


  • Tories Plan Drug-Driving Bans

    Tory Home Affairs spokesman Ann Widdecombe attracted widespread criticism for her plans to introduce ďzero toleranceĒ for cannabis users, including a £100 fixed penalty for possession of any quantity. The proposals were rapidly disowned after eight Shadow Cabinet members admitted to using cannabis in their youth, and one to actually enjoying it. An aspect of the proposals that drew less attention was that the presence of illegal drugs in the bloodstream would become an offence, not merely possession, and that people could be banned from driving if they had any drugs in their system. As the vast majority of adults drive, the drug-driving issue is one that must be addressed in a credible way before any liberalisation of drug laws can be contemplated. Iím all in favour of proper controls, but, as with alcohol, itís essential that impairment, rather than mere presence, can be proved, otherwise the policy will fail to command public support. Under Widdecombeís plans, you could have been banned from driving merely for going to a rock concert and inhaling a bit of the atmosphere. Fortunately, the plan will never come to fruition, and I suspect Dorisí days as a front-bench spokesman are numbered.

  • Anti-Smokers Demand Censorship of Thunderbirds

    Anti-smoking group Fags End have demanded that the BBC censor the classic children's puppet series "Thunderbirds". They want the BBC, who are currently showing re-runs of the show, to use new technology to edit out scenes in which characters are shown smoking. "Thunderbirds" is hardly great art, but this sets a disturbingly Stalinist precedent in airbrushing out aspects of the past that don't fit in with contemporary political correctness. Next thing they'll be wanting to remove Winston Churchill's trademark cigar and suggesting that his favourite tipple was sarsaparilla rather than a stiff brandy.

  • Club Operators Oppose Licensing Reform

    Government plans to extend pub opening hours were thrown into disarray when the British Entertainment and Discotheque Association withdrew its support and accused Jack Straw of "fuelling yob culture". The group broke ranks with the rest of the licensed industry after research in Scotland suggested that longer opening hours led to greater binge drinking and alcohol-related violence. It is worried that the plans have been too influenced by the pub and brewing industry and will lead to hordes of drunken yobs spilling on to the streets and into their nightclubs. It says that any plans to liberalise the licensing laws must be balanced by the pubs accepting rigorous safety conditions on the provision of fire exits and noise levels - as nightclubs must. Obviously the safety requirements for the typical pub are far different from those for a massive nightclub, and to suggest otherwise implies theyíre worried about competition. Many people who currently go to nightclubs would probably prefer to stay in the pub if they could. And itís pretty rich, the nightclub operators claiming to be concerned about the rule of law when illegal drugs are so central to their whole industry.

  • Cheapest Pint Producer Attacks Big Brewers

    A licensee who claims to sell the cheapest pint in Britain has accused the big pub chains of "ripping off" beer drinkers. Julian Taylor charges £1.05 for a pint of bitter produced at his own micro-brewery at the Church Inn, Saddleworth - less than half the average price of a pint in London. He makes 30p profit on each of the 1,000 pints of Saddleworth More bitter he sells every week, despite having higher production costs than the leading brewers. He said: "Beer drinkers are the victims of a cartel to keep prices high. I make reasonable money, even though I don't have any of the economies of scale of the big brewers." Mark Hastings, of the Brewers and Licensed Retailers' Association, denied that drinkers were paying too much for their beer. He said the wide variation in prices across the country was accounted for by transport, labour and property costs. Obviously thatís why you can buy Holts for £1.20 a pint in prime real estate in Central Manchester, when big brewery pubs a couple of hundred yards away are charging over £2. Nonsense, the big brewers and pub operators are ripping us all off, and thatís one of the two key reasons why the licensed trade is in steady decline.

  • Scientist Condemns 'Ignorant' Greens

    A veteran scientist revered by Green groups has attacked them for their stance on nuclear power and GM food. James Lovelock, 81, who is best known for his Gaia theory and the many environmental prizes he has won, said: "Too many Greens are not just ignorant of science, they hate science." He likened Greens to "some global over-anxious mother figure who is so concerned about small risks that she ignores the real dangers". He wished they "would grow up" and focus on the real problem: "How can we feed, house and clothe the abundant human race without destroying the habitats of other creatures?" It certainly seems to be the case that many so-called "Greens" are only too willing to condemn anything that smacks of progress, but remarkably reluctant to come up with any practical solutions. And it should not be forgotten that the extreme fringes of the movement believe that the Earth can only be saved by a tenfold reduction in human population, which would dwarf the combined genocidal crimes of Hitler and Stalin.

  • New Gun Laws Threaten Olympic Chances

    Sports minister Kate Hoey has expressed concern over government plans for new restrictions on gun use and ownership that are likely to limit future British prospects for Olympic medals. Shotgun owners will have to give "good reason" why they should be allowed to possess a shotgun, rather than being subjected to a ďnegativeĒ test, which it is estimated may halve the number of licensed shotgun owners. Minimum ages for young people to use guns unsupervised will also be raised. Richard Faulds, who won a gold medal in the men's double trap shooting event, attributed his success to starting the sport at the age of nine. My congratulations to Richard Faulds, and best wishes to his sport. The government have already eradicated one Olympic sport in this country through the handgun ban, introduced in a hasty and ill-considered knee-jerk reaction to the actions of a lone madman. As long as this ban remains in place, Britain does not deserve to be awarded the Olympics.

  • Right to Roam May Harm Wildlife

    A leading conservationist has condemned Government plans to increase public access to the countryside as "a disaster" for wildlife. Stephen Warburton, head of conservation at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, said the Countryside Bill would put birds and other wildlife at risk and would damage grouse moors. He accused the Government of being "doctrinal" and said it had "failed to think through the implications of granting the public greater access to large areas of the countryside". Another classic example of two facets of political correctness coming into conflict. And surely it stands to reason that the best way to protect rare species is to keep humans away from them as far as possible

  • Anti-Obesity Tax for Burgers

    A leading academic has proposed that fatty hamburgers should be taxed to stop Britain's obesity levels reaching American proportions. Professor Mo Malek, a health economist, said that a 10p tax levied on hamburgers exceeding a certain fat content would encourage manufacturers to use leaner and better quality meat and deter people from gorging on fast food. Now 10p on a £2.99 Big Mac Meal is really going to make a big difference - and the manufacturers would rapidly find a way to bring their burgers in just below the threshold without increasing their costs, possibly by bulking them out with non-meat substances, which rather defeats the object. When will these scientists begin to learn that if you treat adults as naughty children they will inevitably kick against it?

  • European Tobacco Ad Ban Overturned

    The European Court of Justice overturned a ban on tobacco advertising across Europe when it ruled that the European Commission had acted illegally when it introduced a directive in 1998 to phase out all tobacco advertising and sponsorship by 2006. The court said that the Commission had acted "outside its competence" and that it would go against competition within the European Union. The Commission may now have to restart the whole process of drafting a tobacco advertising ban, this time as a public health matter, which would require the unanimous backing of all member states and could take many years to come to fruit. In the meantime, individual member states can introduce their own legislation banning tobacco advertising if they wish, and the UK has already stated its intention to do so. Three cheers for a victory for free speech and consumersí right to information about legal products, which has obvious implications for potential future attacks on the rights of consumers of alcohol. And no doubt any future UK ban will be strongly challenged under the European human rights convention as an infringement of free speech.

  • Greengrocer Charged Over Pounds and Ounces

    A Sunderland greengrocer whose scales were seized as he served customers in pounds and ounces has been summoned to appear before magistrates. Steven Thoburn has been accused of two offences of possessing non-automatic weighing machines not stamped fit for business use. His case is seen as a test of British traders' rights to continue using imperial measures following European regulation. His stall was raided when he refused to sell fruit and vegetables in metric weights. Letís hope the case succeeds and forced metrication is derailed. There was a time when people were imprisoned for speaking Welsh or Gaelic, and this is now getting dangerously close to the same thing.

  • Beer as Brain Food

    Research by Dr Jorge A. Cervilla, reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry, indicates that moderate drinking, already shown to promote heart health, may also ward off the mental decline that comes with age. While slowing or preventing mental decline has obvious benefits in and of itself, it also cuts the risk of developing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, Cervilla said. Research findings presented at the World Alzheimer Congress 2000 showed that a drink or two per day may cut the risk of Alzheimer's disease. As with other studies, results were best for those who drank in moderation. "We're not saying you should get drunk every day," Cervilla said. Fair enough, so Iíll stick to every other day and look forward to an enjoyable old age.

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