le 21 novembre 1998
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MUSINGS BY MADDOCKS
STANDARD EUROPEAN PERSONS
IN BUREAUCRATIC JUNGLE
by Ralph Maddocks
Everyone knows the story of the Boy Scout patrol who were asked what good
deed had they done that day, and they answered that they had taken an old
lady across the road. « But why »,
asks the scoutmaster, « did it take eight of you to
do that? » The patrol leader replies, «
Because she didn't want to go! »
This story reminded me about law making in the European Union and some
of the odd regulations that have been issued there over the years. One
country that continually has problems with the EU bureaucracy is Britain,
whose ideas on free trade and bureaucracy, at least in Tory days, were
frequently in opposition with those emanating from Brussels. A recent letter
from a friend of mine, who owns a pub at Hengoed, near Oswestry, provided
some examples of the kinds of regulatory changes introduced into his business.
Apparently, one European directive concerns the standardization of liquid
measures throughout the union. Wine for example, if advertised by the measure,
must be served in a 125cl., lined, certified, oversized glass. If not so
advertised, it may be sold in a container of any size. Spirit measures
are 35cl. (no longer a sixth of a gill) except for brandy, which can be
sold by the egg-cup or bucket as may be required!
The attempted regulation of beer caused a real uproar, with a «
Save the Pint » movement making representations
to retain that ancient and much loved measure. Ultimately, an exception
was granted, but it only mentioned beer and cider. This meant that mixed
drinks, such as Shandy (half beer-half ginger ale or lemonade), must be
sold by the 244cl. measure. Lunatic? It gets worse. It is legal now to
sell a bottle containing a half-pint of shandy, but to make up a half-pint
of shandy in a drinking glass is illegal. Beer must be sold by the half-pint,
or multiples thereof, in a measured vessel. Not to do all this is considered
very sinful and carries terrible penalties, though my friend says, in the
main, these regulations are ignored. In France and Spain, spirits are still
decanted by hand.
Ecology is not only of concern of Canadians. According to EU regulations,
all waste in the UK has to be moved to controlled garbage sites only by
registered waste movers. All moves must be fully documented, with official
numbered, duplicate, receipts issued (at his own expense) by the mover
to the disposer. My correspondent tells me that horse manure is considered
to be industrial waste and must be disposed of as above; so using it for
your roses is, officially, not allowed. Cow manure however, is classified
as agricultural waste and does not need to be moved by authorized waste
It may be true that many economic advantages may be expected to result
from such a union of states and the standardization of government regulations,
but who could believe that the above examples so qualify? Why anyone would
wish to emulate such lunacy, is beyond the comprehension of this chronicler.
In a UK newspaper, I noted an item about a local pie maker who had run
afoul of the law and who was appearing in the local magistrates court.
The charges concerned the accused of having made « meat
and potato » pies containing an insufficient amount
of meat. Apparently, in this Kafkaesque bureaucratic world, a pie described
as a « meat and potato pie » must
contain a given percentage of meat. A « potato and meat
pie », so described, is not the subject of such regulation.
In this wonderful topsy-turvy world there have even been arguments raging
about the permissible « curve » of a banana or
The initials OLF are not unique to Quebec, as a British newspaper recently
reported. This concerned the funding, by Brussels bureaucrats, of a group
of sniffers to measure the smell given off by British office workers. Fifteen
researchers, all specially trained, were to carry out the project employing
a new scientific unit known as the olf (defined as the odor emitted
by a standard European person) an abbreviation of olfactory invented
by a Danish scientist. He employed 160 sniffers to smell one thousand Europeans
and calculated the average olf for one individual. An average
smoker is said to emit six olfs and a trained athlete, when exercising
vigorously, is said to emit 20 olfs. According to the scientist
involved, one Professor Fanger, « The olf is
the pollution perceived by human beings that is generated by a standard
person. We are talking of a few hundred chemicals in different quantities.
Some are very hard to measure. » The professor mentioned
that validation of the olf outside Europe showed that Americans
and Japanese gave similar results, although there were large differences
due to variations in diet.
The objective of the project was to introduce new measures to control indoor
pollution by arriving at an olf factor which will enable them to
calculate the ventilation required. The better buildings are supposed to
have 0.1 olfs per square meter. The «
sniffers » are sniffing empty offices and other objects in
the belief that some modern materials give off minute quantities of gases
which can make people feel ill. What will be the result if one has a variety
of individuals from various European countries occupying the same office?
Will the heavy garlic users of the south be able to co-exist with the garlic
haters of Great Britain? Indeed will they be allowed to? All this goes
to show what an uncontrolled bureaucracy can be capable of.
Another bizarre incident occurred in Britain where the owner of a small
mountain hotel was fined $50 by the National Rivers Authority on the grounds
that the rain water collected in a barrel behind the hotel «
could have flowed into the rivers where it would have become available
for use by others ». The owner must also pay $2000 each
year to have the water tested. Elsewhere, a man was charged by that same
authority for using water from an underground stream, water which would
otherwise have emptied into the sea, to irrigate his crops.
If you prevent someone from using water it is an offence and if you use
water which no one else could use it is also an offence. Joseph Heller's
term Catch 22 is alive and well, and living in the European Union.