Obiter has often defended the House of Lords as a repository of expertise not often seen in the lower chamber. But every now and then our noble peers display a political (and journalistic) tendency to deploy convenient facts from sources that might not stand up to the strongest scrutiny.
Take last week’s debate on the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism (SARAH) Bill. You might have thought that Lord Pannick’s dismissal of the 20-line bill as ‘a statement of the legally obvious’ would be persuasive. After all, David Pannick QC presumably picked up a bit of legal knowledge in his 35-year career acting in the highest courts of the land.
But this did not deter some lords from adding some homespun wisdom. Conservative Earl Attlee explained that ‘only this morning my taxi driver explained to me that, on his statutory training course, he was advised he should use his first aid kit only on himself’. Lady Hodgson of Abinger contributed a tale of being on the tube and seeing a young boy separated from his mother. The point of the story seemed to be that two men who had seemed willing to help were anxious they might be seen as attempting to abduct the child.
But the high point was surely a another contribution from Attlee. He explained that children visiting an army museum had been barred from climbing on tanks for health, safety and ‘compensation culture’ reasons. ‘Of course, youngsters outside of the cadets will still get their excitement and adventure but that might be from drugs, motor crime and other undesirable activities.’
So there you have it: compensation culture causes drug addiction. No doubt we’ll be hearing more about that in due course.