Why enjoying yourself could be a crime . . .
PUBLISHED: 12:44 20 December 2007 | UPDATED: 13:07 04 May 2010
I AM sure the vast majority of people who read the Ely Standard are law-abiding citizens. The odd parking ticket maybe, but nothing that is likely to excite the local constabulary. However, I fear that over the festive period there will be a great numb
I AM sure the vast majority of people who read the Ely Standard are law-abiding citizens.
The odd parking ticket maybe, but nothing that is likely to excite the local constabulary.
However, I fear that over the festive period there will be a great number of readers who don't just break one law, but three or four.
But don't worry, there won't be any arrests. Or cautions. Or even slaps on the wrist.
For these are laws that are ancient, obsolete, and frankly, ridiculous.
For instance, did you know that former Ely resident Oliver Cromwell brought in a law banning eating mince pies on Christmas Day? (Indeed, he banned Christmas altogether between 1647 and 1660).
Or that Henry VIII outlawed all sports on December 25 except archery?
Then there is the Holy Days and Fasting Days Act of 1551 which is purported to decree that people only travel to church by foot (presumably not too great an inconvenience in the 16th Century!)
And one of my favourites - the law enacted by Elizabeth I in 1588 making it an offence to eat any bird other than goose on Christmas Day, since it was the first meal the Queen had eaten following England's victory over the Spanish Armada.
So anyone who takes the car to the morning service, has roast turkey for lunch, kicks a ball around in the back garden with the kids and comes inside for a mince pie (or two) may have broken four laws before the Queen's speech!
Governments and Parliaments down the years have proved themselves far more interested in writing laws than repealing them and nothing illustrates this more clearly than the fact that many of these arcane Christmas laws still technically exist.
The current Government is no different and have passed a constant stream of laws and regulations in the last 10 years, some of which are more absurd than the ones above.
We all have laws that we would like to abolish, but equally there is legislation that we would like to introduce.
In the coming year, I am looking forward to playing my part in making the Climate Change Bill a piece of legislation that will truly enable Britain to take the lead in fighting global warming.
I also want to see a Marine Bill so we can protect marine habitats and wildlife; steps to give the NHS more independence from Government; and more effective action on crime and anti-social behaviour.
Above all, I want to see more power devolved to the local level, greater decentralisation and more respect for local democracy.
This is something that cannot be legislated for but is about changing the political mindset.
It is about embracing a concept that is alien to many politicians and bureaucrats - that Whitehall does not always know best - and relinquishing power to local people, who are in tune with local needs and circumstances.
Henry VIII did not introduce the first bad law and Gordon Brown will not introduce the last.
But by giving local people more of a say I strongly believe there will be fewer of them.
I wish all my constituents a very merry Christmas. Enjoy your mince pies and your roast turkey.
But remember, if you have eaten too much for Christmas lunch and really can't face that kickabout, you can always cite the Unlawful Games Act of 1541