Friday, November 16, 2007

The single European soil

Exercising its perpetual itch to legislate, the EU commission brought its latest venture into the darker realms of bureaucracy before the toy parliament in Strasbourg this week – none other than the draft Soils Directive.

Amongst other things, this is aimed at implementing the EU's soil strategy, something that even we did not realise the EU had. As to the detail, one of the delights of the current draft include a requirement member states to list contaminated sites in public inventories, which must be updated at least every five years.

Others include a requirement to identify locations where "soil-affecting activities have taken place", and the provision of information to potential buyers of land, who must be told of past activities on sites, particularly in cases where hazardous substances have been used. Member states are also required to identify soil protection "priority areas" and take "appropriate measures" to protect against erosion, biodiversity loss and other threats.

Much more than this you don't really want to know. Suffice to say that our own National Farmers Union, which is usually supine to the point of comatose when it comes to criticising the EU, roundly declared:

We believe the directive will add unnecessary administrative burdens on member states, regional and local authorities, and land managers. It is particularly concerning that the EU's objectives of better regulation and simplification appear to have been disregarded in respect of these proposals.
Furthermore, it seems that an uncommonly large number of MEPs agreed, with 225 voting in favour of a motion to scrap the whole directive. Prominent amongst the refusniks was Irish MEP Kathy Sinnott, who said that the need for harmonised EU legislation on water and air quality does not apply to soils because of widely differing regional soil conditions.

Her arguments, of course, did not prevail as 395 of the Euroluvvies rallied behind the commission, defeating the motion. The measure goes through to the next stage, and the Single European Soil is on its way.

Strangely, none of this finds its way into the front pages of the national dailies today. In fact, the whole affair passed without comment in any of the British media. And, for once, they can hardly be blamed. It is all too boring and too complicated to compete with more immediate issues.

So it is that, with the passage of time, we will see another absurd law come into force, unheralded, unrecognised and almost completely unknown. After a further passage of time, it may give Christopher Booker the substance of a few articles for his column, and we will all tut-tut about the stupidities and injustice of it all. But nothing will change.

That is how our government is run in Britain these days.

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