It is .. utterly incredible that the state should now be trying to prolong our national car seat agony
individual choice .. or .. international coercion
Has Labour gone finally potty in asking the cops to spend their time poking their noses into the back seats of our cars…
We need proper standing committees with the power to mandate ministers, and to refuse to accept directives even if they are decided at a majority vote
Brussels is taking a big liberty with children’s booster seats
Of all the sensations of joy and release that Nature in her kindness has bestowed on the human race, there is little or nothing to beat the moment when you get rid of the baby’s car seat.
It beats getting off a long-haul flight. It beats taking off a pair of ill-fitting ski-boots after a hard day on the slopes. It verges, frankly, on the orgasmic. As you take the wretched thing to Oxfam, you thank your stars that never again will you have to grapple with that incomprehensible buckle.
Never again will you stand sweating over your baby as it screams and writhes and sticks yoghurt in your ear. Never again will you have that struggle of wills, as the child’s efforts to escape become ever more desperate and violent, and you grow later and later in setting off on your journey.
For children and parents alike that precious moment – when it is deemed that the offspring are capable of sitting on their own in the back with only a seat belt – is one of the pleasures of growing up. It is a rite of passage, a moment of pride and childish prestige.
It is, therefore, utterly incredible that the state should now be trying to prolong our national car seat agony. How old do you think they have to be before the nanny state will let your kids sit in the back without a car seat? Did I hear six? Did I hear seven? No, my friends, we are being asked to put our children in plastic booster seats until they reach the ripe old age of 12 or attain a height of 135cm, whichever is the sooner.
When I first heard of this plan I thought it must be some garbled echo from one of Bill Cash’s froth-flecked Eurosceptic digests. But as of this week, millions of hard-pressed British families have been stampeded to the shops, where they have been forced to pay as much as £30 for these ludicrous plastic banquettes, and my feelings of disbelief have gone, and I find myself shocked by the depth of my own anger.
If people decide that they are not going to comply with this crack-brained law, and they are not going to buy a banquette booster-seat for an 11-year-old, then they will have my complete sympathy. If the overworked police of this country decide they have better things to do than flag motorists down and measure their children to see whether or not they are more than 4ft 5in, then they will have my full support.
If they decide that they are not going to waste their precious time fining parents up to £500 for driving a 134cm 11-year-old without a booster seat then they will, in my view, be exercising robust common sense.
Has Labour gone finally potty in asking the cops to spend their time poking their noses into the back seats of our cars? Why the hell are we doing this, when violent crime is going up, when burglary has been virtually decriminalised, and when the number of children killed in car accidents has been steadily diminishing for the past 20 years?
Between 1981 and 1985 there was an average of 18 fatalities per year of children aged eight-11 using roads in the United Kingdom. That had fallen to 12 in the period 1994-98, to 11 in 2002, and in 2004 the total number of fatalities stood at four – an astonishing reflection on the growing safety of cars, when you consider how enormously they have increased in number.
I would resent this law badly enough as an infringement of my liberty to decide how to convey my own children in my own car. But the main reason why I am so angry is that this stupid and impertinent law was not even generated by the British Government. It wasn’t some gentleman in Whitehall who decided he knew best about booster seats. It wasn’t even the brainchild of the UK health and safety industry. It is, of course, an EU directive, which means that elected British politicians have been given neither the means nor the opportunity to contest it – or even to debate it.
This EU directive, 2003/20/EC, arises because a few years ago some lonely and bored European Commission official was persuaded (no doubt by the booster seat industry) that in some circumstances children under 135cm would be safer with booster seats.
So a directive was drawn up. Even if any EU government had dared oppose this “child safety” measure, that government could have been simply outvoted – while looking cavalier about the wellbeing of our little ones. The UK therefore apathetically connived in the exercise, and the directive was sent for “scrutiny” before parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee.
Needless to say, there was no discussion or “scrutiny”, since the huge volume of EU legislation makes this impractical. As it rubber-stamped the directive (and bear in mind that there is no way Parliament, at that or any other stage, could have said no) the committee did ask two questions. How much would these seats cost the average family, and how many lives would be saved?
Four years later, long after this directive has become irreversible, the Government has replied. They don’t know how much it will cost, they say, but the measure “might save” the lives of 1.5 children per year. In the whole country.
OK folks: you do the maths. You think how many millions of car journeys are there involving children every day. You might decide that it is still worth installing booster seats for all under 135cm. But with odds like that it should surely be a matter for individual choice and not international coercion.
What enrages me is that this was not even discussed in one of the Commons’ three European Standing Committees, and what enrages me more is that even if it had been discussed, it would have made no difference.
We need proper standing committees with the power to mandate ministers, and to refuse to accept directives even if they are decided at a majority vote. Otherwise we will find that the law of this country – the law affecting the personal lives of millions, and their children – is not made in this country; and that is a perfect and justifiable reason for massive civil disobedience.