Sunday, April 06, 2008

Consistent incompetence

We have already remarked on how lightly scathed the commission had emerged from one of its more egregious cock-ups, so it is good to see the Press Association revisit the issue of the attempt by the EU to ban MRI scans, all under the guise of health and safety.

The agency reminds us that the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee produced a report in 2006 on the Electromagnetic Fields Directive, planned to come into effect on 30 April. This would have banned new MRI machines and severely limited staff operating times in the use of existing scanners, drastically restricting the use of these life-saving scanners, putting thousands of lives at risk.

Thanks to the intervention of the Committee, however, the legislation has been postponed for at least four years, while the MRI health risks are studied again. Its report, which triggered the reversal, declared: "It is deeply regrettable that the impact of the Directive on MRI procedures was not established before the Directive was adopted".

The Committee went on: "This case study illustrates the potential consequences of the failure of policy makers to seek comprehensive scientific advice early in the policy formulation process and to commission the necessary research to inform this process where uncertainty or gaps in knowledge exist."

Why the Press Association should suddenly resurrect this is not clear, as there is no obvious topical "hook", but we cannot be reminded too often of the incompetence of our masters-over-the-water.

Speaking of which, Reuters – via The Guardian is retailing a complaint by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) that EU plans for curbing emissions will hand utilities windfall profits of up to €71 billion euros between 2008 and 2012 even as they burn highly polluting coal, environmental group WWF.

Power companies in five European Union countries - Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy and Poland, which are among the biggest coal burners - stand to earn windfalls totalling between €23-71 billion during the second phase of the scheme.

This huge sum will come directly out of the pockets of electricity consumers, reinforcing yet again the amazing ineptness of a scheme which last year brought us a 1.2 percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

Thus, whether it is the hoary old favourites, like the Common Fisheries Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy – or the management of its own accounts – the one thing which characterises the European Union is its sheer incompetence. With its disastrous venture into "improving" the safety of MRI scans or its attempts to "save the planet" from non-existent global warming, however, one can at least commend our new supreme government for its consistency.


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