And for incredibly stupid people too, it appears! Following on from the recent announcement that our parliamentarians are considering awarding themselves an extra week off work, as a result of not having enough legislative business to occupy them for the entire parliamentary term, it seems that one or two of our democratic representatives are now busily thinking up new ways of interfering in people's lives, in terms of their individual childcare skills and how they manage their personal health. If you thought that our lives were already being blighted by lots and lots of highly intrusive and generally unnecessary social conventions wrapped up in the law, then stand by, because it's only likely to get much, much worse in the future!
Stupid idea number one, which the coalition are said to be seriously considering is a so-called "Cinderella" law that will make it a criminal offence for any parent to be emotionally cruel to their offspring, although defining what might be construed as 'emotionally cruelty' has yet to be fully explained by the proponents of the new law. In essence however, it seems that the new bill would seek to strengthen existing neglect laws that are thought to have been in place for well over a hundred years; and are regarded as being wholly out of date. Under the provisions of the proposed new act, it has been suggested that police and social services would be able to charge parents with isolating, belittling, rejecting or corrupting their children, or encouraging them into committing criminal or anti-social activities.
A number of leading children's charities have welcomed the proposals, as has the like of MP Robert Buckland, who has described the proposed changes as a monumental leap forward for thousands of children in the UK, a view that is also shared by Liberal Democrat MP, Mark Williams, another avid supporter of additional childcare protections.
Now obviously any new rules and regulations, which are specifically designed to protect our children, the youngest and most susceptible citizens within our society, are to be welcomed. However, as with any new legislative measures the devil is often in the detail; and it would be easy to see a situation arising where spurious and malicious charges are brought against entirely innocent parents by a variety of accusers with their own personal agendas, or their own malign intent. After all, what constitutes "isolating", "belittling", or "rejecting" a child in terms of the law; and who would be responsible for determining whether or not such a charge were brought in the first place, a neighbour, a relative, a social worker, a police officer, or a judge? And on what basis would such a accusation be made, where a child has been "grounded" for bad behaviour, where a child has been called a name by a parent, or when a parent chooses to ignore the vocal pestering of a spoilt child? Just who decides what constitutes "neglect" and how on earth do you prevent malevolent reporting by someone with an axe to grind against an individual parent. Along with the Tax Man, social workers in the UK are probably some of the most heavily armed public sector workers in the world, in terms of regulatory powers; and yet under these new proposals the government would willingly offer them additional grounds and means to interfere with parent's rights over their own children. History suggests that parliamentarians are notoriously bad at drafting new laws that people are expected to live by; and there is no reason to suppose that they will be any better with regard to this particular issue.
The second stupid idea of the day has been put forward by Lord Warner, a former Labour Health Minister, whose suggestions have been endorsed by the right-wing think tank "Reform". Lord Warner's basic proposal, of charging every citizen a £10 monthly health tax, paid either locally or nationally, would help plug the financial shortfall in the UK's public health system, the NHS, which most people now recognise is a growing problem for the country. In addition to the monthly health tax, the Labour peer has also suggested that certain patients should be asked to contribute to their costs of staying in hospital, a so-called "hotel" tax that would help offset the cost of a patient's "bed and board", while they were undergoing some forms of, as yet to be disclosed, treatments.
Of course, even though Lord Warner's proposals were immediately dismissed by both the coalition government and the Labour party, who both professed their preference for the existing health service model, which is paid primarily through Direct Taxation and people's National Insurance Contributions, some commentators believe that Lord Warner's proposal marks a statement of intent for future governments; and that his report is simply a testing of the public waters for future changes to the UK Health Service. As it is, with up to an estimated £5 billion a year being lost to fraud in the NHS; and with billions more being taken out of the health service by private "for profit" healthcare companies, it is perhaps little wonder that the NHS is struggling to cope at the present moment in time. Any commercial business that sees its most profitable customers taken away, who are cherry-picked by the competition; will almost inevitably be left with the most expensive and least profitable ones, who will eventually drive the company into the ground, which is exactly what appears to have been happening to the NHS over the past few years, under both Labour and the Coalition governments.
It is a grave mistake for any of us to believe that our elected representatives represent the brightest and the best of our society, as they clearly do not; and as has been said before, it is often a fact that a significant number of our sitting MP's are only in the House of Commons because they have failed to make the grade in their previous careers, or didn't even try and find a proper job to begin with. If the Devil does indeed make work for idle hands, then Old Nick is likely to be fully employed finding work for the 650 idlers who presently occupy the comfy benches in the Palace of Westminster, a bigger bunch of indigent loafers he would be hard pressed to find.