One of the most despised features of the Blair-Brown years is the number of busybodies who get their noses into the trough by inciting new inspection regimes in areas which pose no significant risk. The latest is trees which, the British Standards Institution urge, should be subject to checking by a “trained person” every three years and to a full “expert inspection” by an arboriculturalist every five years. There will, of course, be hefty fees payable for this.
According to the Times, six people a year, on average, are killed by falling trees. Nervous little men from local authorities are already hacking down every tree which, by their risk-averse estimate, might one day nearly be a possible cause of danger, and not just because they might fall – two particularly dim councils (South Tyneside and Norwich) have chopped down or lopped the branches from chestnut trees because of the risks to children attendant on gathering conkers; another (Newcastle Upon Tyne) sends out machines to strip the conkers; and another (Havering) wanted to destroy trees whose slushy fruit might cause someone to slip – note the “might”; no-one had actually claimed against the council for this and £150,000 was to be spent on the exercise.
So what causes the generally reputable BSI to urge these frequent inspections? One assumes that it has been put up to it by members who stand to gain from the fees. In these feeble times, one does not allege any conspiracy here, just weak-minded naivety. You know how it goes – someone with an interest in the outcome puts it about that danger lurks unless something is made compulsory, that something being a product or service which they sell. They cannot do this publicly, so they find a dead-beat MP who needs to be seen to be doing something and who lobbies for the cause, and they convince some authoritative-looking body to back it. The organisation does not support it because they genuinely believe there is a risk, nor because they are active members of the conspiracy, but because they are too weak to run the risk that someone might blame them. In due course, the combination of back-bench lobbying and fearfully-worded report reaches some junior minister with an urge to do something – anything – to make his or her name. And so it becomes law.
The Health & Safety Executive (who apparently oppose this particular imposition) always gets the blame, and claims to be upset by the way the public lay all Elf ‘n Safety stupidity at its door. That is in fact where it belongs, because it is HSE jobsworths who have done more than anyone to create the climate in which every self-interested busybody can create a market for an alleged safety requirement.
NuLabour loves it – the whole restriction, job-creation, red-tape and back-door tax thing is entirely to its taste. I would take a few of these people and hang them from sturdy branches as a warning to other busybodies to mind their own business and leave us alone.