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OldSmoothie’s Law of Unintended Consequences

“I still can’t believe I didn’t get anything in the New Year’s Honours,” said OldSmoothie.
“What? Been a bit too tight-fisted with your political donations, have you?” said BusyBody.
“That’s exactly the point,” said OldSmoothie. “I’ve been paying way over what I consider fair. In the past it’d have got me a peerage and these days it seems it doesn’t even get me an MBE.”
“It must be a terrible blow when even your corrupt plans come to nothing,” smiled TheBusker.
“Anyway, I’m taking a new tack this year and supporting the Prime Minister’s campaign to tackle the health and safety culture. That should get me a little more recognition.”
“What and cut off your nose to spite your face in the process?” said TheVamp. “Health and safety is where all your fees come from.”
“What you forget,” came the reply, “is that when it comes to deregulation, OldSmoothie’s Law of Unintended Consequences applies.”
“What’s that?” asked TheCreep, reaching for a notepad and looking somewhat concerned at the possibility that there was a law of which he was completely unaware.
“Young man, OldSmoothie’s Law of Intended Consequences is this: Whenever a government tries to cut back on regulation, however well-intentioned it may be, it always results in far more rules and regulations in the long run.”
“How’s that?” asked BusyBody.
“Well, in order to repeal the legislation you first of all need to create more legislation to do so. Once that’s done it’s like a fatted lamb being offered up to the Bar. They’ll fight over every last bit of it until eventually each tiny little sub-clause has had the benefit of the insuperable wisdom of the great learned minds of our Supreme Court. By which point the protracted definitions, and of course the exceptions, naturally, will always outweigh the original clause being attacked. Always. OldSmoothie’s Law applies in every case. Mark my words.”
“But why don’t the parliamentary draftsmen simply do their job and draft the law so that’s it’s unambiguously clear and leaves no need to get clarification from the appeal courts?” asked a wide-eyed pupil.
Raised eyebrows all round before OldSmoothie gave the answer: “Ah, the innocence of youth. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear that there has never been a single line of any piece of legislation which has been passed by our glorious parliament that is not capable, with sufficient ingenuity and application, of becoming part of an argument between two lawyers.”

BabyBarista is a fictional account of a junior barrister written by Tim Kevan whose new novel is Law and Peace. For more information and to read past posts visit Cartoons by Alex Williams, author of 101 Ways to Leave the Law.

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