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If I Ruled the World

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Like anyone else, I have certain pet hates, certain things that I would dearly like to see enshrined in law and enforced in order to make the world a better place. This page is dedicated to those things.

Road Vehicle Licence

At present in the UK, a 17 year old can pass a pathetically simple theory test and a fairly minimal practical test and, unless disqualified for any reason, will then be able to take charge of a lethal box of plastic and metal on the public highway with no further tests until they reach the age of 70. Frighteningly, they are often trained by professional instructors who themselves seem to have a worrying lack of respect for road traffic law and the Highway Code.

Motorcyclists are slightly better trained. They have to pass the same theory test followed by two practical tests, one simple, the second slightly more challenging.

Cyclists don't have to pass any test. In fact there are many people who ride bikes without even having passed their Cycling Proficiency.

I believe that National Standards Cycle Training should be offered to all children over the age of 8. Indeed, it should be on the national curriculum. Children of secondary school age should be required to pass their Cycling Proficiency before being allowed to cycle in public places. The road skills and Highway Code knowledge learnt during Cycling Proficiency training will be invaluable throughout life.

To continue cycling on public highways and public rights of way beyond the age of 16, a cyclist should be required to pass a theory test (demonstrating a good working knowledge of the Highway Code) and a practical cycling test. Passing these tests would qualify the individual for a 'Road Vehicle Licence' (RVL), allowing him to cycle anywhere it is legal to do so for as long as the licence is valid. A licence would need to be renewed at 10-yearly intervals by passing another theory test and another practical cycling test.

Beyond that, new categories of vehicle may be added to the RVL by taking further training and further tests. For example, the road user may wish to add the entitlement to drive a motorcycle, a car, a PSV or an HGV on the public highway. When a new class of vehicle is added to the licence, the licence will remain valid for that class of vehicle for 10 years, provided that the RVL itself is not allowed to expire.

I anticipate that some people will object to the cycling requirement of the RVL on grounds of balance problems or other disabilities. This is not an issue, as any class of street legal solo pedal cycle may be used, including tricycles and hand-cranked machines. Obviously the limitations on hand signals would need to be taken into consideration in devising an alternative test for those who need to use hand-cranked cycles, and there will still be extreme cases where the requirement for the practical cycling test might be waived.

As at present, pedestrians would have ultimate right of way on all roads except for motorways (although I would dearly love to see the cycling equivalent of motorways, where motor vehicles and pedestrians would be banned), and there would be no requirement to hold a RVL in order to walk on the public highway or public rights of way.
(Written 04/02/02)

Vehicle Excise Duty

I would remove all banding on Vehicle Excise Duty, and would give serious consideration to its abolition.

No, not Road Tax. Vehicle Excise Duty. Road Tax was abolished in the 1920's. Unlike the old Road Tax, VED does not pay for road building and maintenance. They are paid for out of general taxation. Nor does VED give motorists a right to use the road. It is a payment to maintain the registration of your motor vehicle with the DVLA, allowing you to make use of your privilege under licence to use a motor vehicle on the public highway.

I find VED objectionable for the same reason that Winston Churchill objected to Road Tax over 80 years ago. It reinforces the belief of many motorists that they own the road and that other road users have no right to be there (the truth being, of course, that cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians have a legally enshrined right to use the public highway, while motorists do not).

At the time of writing (October 2003), VED for private cars is banded according to engine size and fuel type. The government is considering introducing more bands, increasing the difference in VED between a small-engined car and a large-engined car. I have my doubts that this will achieve the stated aim of discouraging British motorists from using large-engined cars. I think it more likely that the move will simply increase the dangers of motoring for the drivers of small cars.

At present, many motorists feel justified in running cyclists off the road on the basis that "I pay for the roads, they don't". With banded VED, I fear that the drivers of smaller cars will get the same sort of treatment from the drivers of large cars. The sort of idiot who likes to roar up behind a car travelling at the speed limit and try to intimidate the law-abiding driver into getting out of the way will use the banding as justification for his aggressive behaviour. "I pay more for the road than he does, so I've got more right to be here."

I often think it would be a good idea to abolish VED and to raise the revenue thus lost from increased fuel duty. However, I must concede that there is a need for vehicle registration and that the motorist must pay for this. I therefore propose that there should be a single rate of VED, payable for all motor vehicles regardless of weight, axle loading, fuel type or engine size. The rate of VED should be enough to fund the DVLA, no more. The resulting shortfall in revenue should be made up by additional duty on fuel.

That's the way to discourage the excessive use of large-engined cars. Make the motorist pay more per mile travelled, rather than increasing the fixed annual costs. And who knows, perhaps one day we could even dispel the "I pay for the road, you don't" myth?
(Written 20/10/03)


I have no problem with anyone using the drug of their choice, provided they don't inflict it on others. When I breathe someone elses cigarette smoke, I feel that my human rights are being violated. I love to go out for a few pints, but hate it if I have to shower and put all of my clothes in the wash as soon as I get home.

I would like to see smoking banned in all public places, with the exception of those places holding a tobacco licence. Pubs, clubs, restaurants and shopping centres would thus be able to provide places for their customers to smoke. However, to qualify for a tobacco licence, the licensee would have to demonstrate that the facilities provided for non-smokers are as good as or better than those provided for smokers. The smoking and non-smoking areas would have to be separated by at least two doors, usually kept shut. Non-smokers should not have to walk through the smoking area at any point in their visit, whether to reach the toilets, the bar or the exit.

I would like to see smoking banned for the driver and any passengers in any motor vehicle. Drivers should concentrate on their driving and should keep both hands on the controls. They should not be using one hand to take drugs while driving. They should not be driving with smoke in their eyes, nor should they be distracted by their passengers' smoke.

Finally, I would like to see smoking banned in the presence of minors, and in any place where minors usually reside. For example, parents should not be able to smoke in the home. I regard smoking around children as a form of child abuse.
(Written 04/02/02)


It is often said that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners. I have noticed that there are a hell of a lot of bad owners out there.

Until 1987, it was necessary to have a licence to own a dog in the UK. I believe that the requirement for a licence should be reintroduced, only this time people should be required to take a course and pass a test in animal care and their responsibilities to the safety of others before they can even think about owning a dog. They should also be able to demonstrate that they have a garden of at least a certain minimum size, depending upon the size of the dog, in which the dog can run free and from which it cannot escape.

Part of the cost of the dog licence would go towards setting up and maintaing a dog DNA database, containing the DNA of every licenced dog in the country. If a dog defecates in a public place and the owner fails to clean it up, the dog can be traced by its DNA and the owner will be given a hefty fine. The owner will also be given points on his dog licence. Once a maximum number of points is reached, the owner will be disqualified from keeping dogs. The DNA database would also be invaluable in tracing sheep worriers.
(Written 04/02/02)

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