River Wissey Lovell Fuller


November 2007

Ron gets on his soapbox to air several issues from Global Warming to Speeding.


Most people that live in Norfolk live in a village or a small town and most of them get angry at motorists that ignore the speed limit and race through their village. They complain that the police do not do enough to catch the culprits and enforce the limit.

Recently we were driving towards Crimplesham from the A134 at about 5.45 in the evening. It was a time of day when there was a steady stream of cars coming towards us. Nearly every one of those approaching cars flashed their headlights and we deduced that there must be an accident ahead or a police operated speed trap. In the event it was a speed trap but, needless to say, as a result of all the light flashing everybody was driving at a sedate 30mph and the police caught nobody. No doubt the majority of those drivers approaching us flashing their lights live in a village. It puzzled us as to why they should all be so keen to foil the police in their efforts to catch the offenders breaking the speed limit in Crimplesham when, no doubt, many of them would be calling for the police to catch the drivers exceeding the speed limit in their own village?

Parking on Private Land

We are all well aware of the manner in which wheel clampers have been exploiting motorists who park on private land, often in cases where the motorist is unaware that it is private land. We are aware also of the failure of successive governments to tighten the law sufficiently to prevent cases of extortion.

I was appalled, however, to hear a report on BBC radio of a rather different case. A woman took her children into McDonald's at Gatwick, parking her car in the McDonald's car park. She had three children, the oldest was 8 years old. After the meal they all wanted drinks. She was very surprised several days later to receive a letter demanding the payment of a £60 fine, a penalty, she was told, for overstaying the permitted time in McDonald's car park. The letter said that she had been there 52 minutes, 7 minutes in excess of the permitted time of 45 minutes. It seems that, although she was unaware of the existence of a limit, she is now legally required to pay this fine.

Aspects of this case that appalled me were: 1) That McDonalds should regard her stay of 52 minutes as excessive, bearing in mind the difficulty in dealing with three very young children and 2) (Perhaps more importantly) That the company operating the parking surveillance were able to obtain her name and address from DVLA. Can anyone ask DVLA for the name and address of the registered owner of a car? Who says who can and cannot have this information?

I have always accepted the need for police to have access to certain personal details, even records of phone calls but it seems to me that the number of organisations given access to personal details has gone far too far. A recent newspaper report claimed that there are 795 agencies that can now have access to records of our personal telephone calls without even having to say why they want them


Flag Waving

The army chiefs are complaining that as a nation we do not show enough appreciation of our servicemen. They compare us unfavourably with the United States, pointing to the welcome home celebrations and parades that are organised for their servicemen when returning home from a tour of duty overseas. I suspect that part of the reason that we do not indulge in this type of welcome is to do with the British psyche. Since the disaster of the first world war there has been some reaction in Britain against overt patriotism and flag waving. We do have our flag wavers of course, but there is not the equivalent unthinking national pride that seems to pervade the US, there is no "stars and stripes forever" mentality here. There is more questioning of that which is done in our name by our politicians.

As individuals I am sure we do have a quiet pride in the UK and our countries within it, we are very proud of our servicemen and very appreciative of them, equally as much as in the US, if not more so. Whilst as individuals we are appreciative of our forces, as a nation, as expressed by the actions of our politicians, we appear to be less so and one must ask, as in so many other areas, if our politicians adequately represent the wishes of the people. If I was a serving soldier actively involved in operations I would not want the nation to express its appreciation of my efforts by organising flag waving parades. I would be happier if they expressed their appreciation by ensuring that I and my comrades had the best possible equipment, from weapons, defensive armour etc to simple matters such as clothing. I would like to see that wounded or otherwise damaged colleagues were given the best possible care and that my family and those of my colleagues were adequately looked after in my absence. Given all this then I would feel that our service personnel were appreciated not just by individuals but by the nation. Unfortunately our nation, as represented by our politicians' actions, falls short of this ideal. At this time of the year, however, we as individuals have an opportunity to express our appreciation by giving to the British Legion Poppy Appeal so that they might provide the help that the government sometimes fails to provide

Global Warming

Data from the British Climate Research Unit show that 1998 was the warmest year on record. Global temperatures since 1998 have shown a slight fall. The mean temperature of the earth in 2006 was 0.125 degrees less than in 1998 (How do they know?) and was lower than the mean temperatures for each of the preceding years. So, in this very marginal way, it would appear that the earth is cooling. This has occurred despite the fact that, since 1998, there has been a small but steady increase in average CO2 levels. It is also true, apparently that, whilst the Arctic ice sheet is getting smaller Antarctic ice has been increasing, although not to the same extent. Of course these facts do not disprove the theories on global warming,

but they are interesting.

Inheritance Tax

This became the major political issue in the recent battle between the parties for poll rating. I personally regret the manner in which this battle has led to such a big increase in the level at which this tax becomes payable. Below is an extract from an item that appeared in 'Soapbox' about 18 months ago on the subject of inflated house prices:-

"Not a bad thing for those of us owning our house, whether it be mortgaged or not, or for those in some of the extremely well paid jobs that some seem to enjoy. It is extremely worrying, however, because of the manner in which it tends to prevent those not so fortunate from ever getting a home of their own. Buying a first home is becoming dependent upon the property status of the generation before, the children of those with property are likely to have property, those without property now will, more than likely, have no property in the next generation. We are producing a division in society between the 'haves' and the 'have nots', a 'propertied' class and a 'non-propertied' class.

It is a situation, generated partly by draconian planning restrictions that ensure the continuance of the housing shortage. It is inequitable and should not be permitted to persist in a just society. Tackling the problem is not easy in a free market economy but there are things that the government can do. They could use their power to force an increase in the land available for building. They could also use inheritance tax as a means of helping to redistribute wealth. Whilst none of us like inheritance tax it should be recognised that much of the wealth that people have has arisen because of the manner in which the property market has behaved over the last many years, it is unearned wealth and, in all justice, deserves to be taxed at death. The alternative of regarding the increase in value of one's property as capital gains for tax purposes annually would be even more distasteful. Inheritance tax is an appropriate tax, but it is unfortunate that those with real wealth appear to have ways of avoiding paying their dues."

I still consider this to be a valid argument.

Ron Watts

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