Helen Martin: Driven to distraction by bureaucratic berks

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MANY years ago there was an outcry following daft European rulings that had something to do with the curvature of bananas and cucumbers.

Clearly someone somewhere in Brussels didn’t have enough to do with their time.

Since it was eventually rescinded, apart from making the EU a laughing stock, it could be seen as relatively harmless.

But now we have a decision by European judges, based on a case brought by a consumer group in Belgium, which is just as barking but no laughing matter.

The judges have ruled that men cannot be charged more for car insurance than women, even though they are far more likely, statistically, to crash and claim.

Ever since the business of selling people insurance began, the whole thing has been based on calculated risk assessment. Today it may appear unfair that an 18-year-old boy has to pay more for his insurance than his car. But if he’s statistically more likely to break the speed limit, drink, show off, write off his car and be a danger to himself and others than his 50-year-old auntie, it’s only right that her insurance should be less than his.

Since the claim was based on gender discrimination, some men may be quite happy with the judgement. Young men will be joyous. And our roads will be full to bursting with boy racers who put the insurance money they save towards an even faster car.

Naturally, in order to pay for men’s premiums coming down, women’s will go up – by more than £350 a year.

Driving skills vary. I know some women who are so into driving and their cars they’d love to have a go at Brands Hatch. A lot of women are, I admit, pretty duff, but even the most rotten woman driver tends generally to be rotten at things that don’t actually write off cars or kill people.

Sometimes they don’t drive fast enough. They can’t reverse park. They get involved in shunts and bumps that require a new bumper. They dither. They’re indecisive.

They have the ability to infuriate, slow you down or dent your pride and joy but are significantly less likely to put you in intensive care.

For some working women who need their car to work, or to manage a complex journey dropping the kids off at school first, an extra £30 a month to keep themselves on the road will be a body blow. In these trying times it’s got to be fairer to keep the extra premium on the ones who claim most.

The industry thinks it’s madness. MPs think it’s madness. Yet the British government doesn’t have the “cojones” (to use a European term) to tell Brussels to shove its motor insurance decisions wherever it put its misshapen fruit and veg legislation.

Not that Scotland’s immune from potty new rulings that come uncomfortably close to April 1.

Thanks to some Holyrood killjoy idiot/s working on criminal justice and licensing, local authorities now have the power to charge for a licence to hold any public entertainment, even if it’s free. That includes Easter egg hunts, whist drives, organised picnics, fetes and fun days, the sort of events we should be encouraging in our local communities. It would also include community celebrations for the Queen’s diamond jubilee.

Of course, we might hope the councils don’t actually use that power but experience tells us that given an opportunity to make money from something they will exploit it to the full. There really isn’t any reasonable response to this other than for us to press on with our picnics, church fetes and fun days, ignore this ludicrous rule and refuse to pay if asked. If any council ever dragged a community group to court for non-payment for a kids’ Easter egg hunt, I’d love to be in the front row of the public gallery.

That’s the size of it

THE last time I had a bra fitted “professionally” a dragon of a woman scoffed at my current “holster” and told me it was the wrong size. She then produced some expensive piece of “bone” and frill I would never have chosen but she declared “just right”, man-handled me into it, tugged on the shoulder straps and keepers as if I was a particularly uncooperative horse, and hooked me up so tightly I could barely breathe. She sent me out the door with my bosom closer to my chin that it had ever been and a large dent in my debit card.

Now we are told professional fitting doesn’t work because the shape of a woman’s body has changed since the 1930s when the fitting rules were devised. The new recommendation is to try on a variety of sizes and see which one fits. Genius.