The writing on the wall

Submitted by Anon on 18 June, 2003 - 1:00
  • Banking on us
  • Not immune
  • Brain food
  • Brainless
  • More childcare! More sharing!

Banking on us

For the first time in its history the Bank of England is being taken to court. Deloitte & Touche, the liquidator for the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, is suing the Bank for £1 billion, it says, for neglecting, over a very long period, to properly regulate BCCI. The actual charge is "misfeasance": making mistakes, but also failing to perform its duties while knowing that the omissions put BCCI depositors' money at risk. Three former governors will step up to defend the honour of the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street. Gordon Pollock, QC, acting for the liquidators, is likely to earn £3 million during the trial. His opening submission is set to last three months. Who will pay the bill if the Bank loses? You and me.

Not immune

With any luck, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will be back in the dock soon. The constitutional court voted 10:5 to throw out the law he passed recently that granted the top five state officials legal immunity as long as they hold office. In March, then, the trial should resume of Berlusconi on charges of bribing judges. He has suffered another blow recently: the president refused to sign into law a bill that would have the effect of reinforcing Berlusconi's control over Italy's media.

Brain food

Aside from its irritating use of the phrase "adding value", the Government's outline of its Food in Schools pilot schemes looks good.

Right-wing bigots will crap on about the nanny state, but it can't be a bad thing if schools can develop:

  • Breakfast clubs, in a situation where 8% of children have nothing to eat before school, rising to 18% for 15-16-year-olds and 20% for 15-16-year-old girls.
  • Healthier vending machines. The Government, though, will have to do more than "Challenge schools and the vending industry to make healthy options available" to realise this ambition.
  • Healthier lunch boxes, in a situation where nine out of ten children are taking food to school that contains too much sugar, salt and saturated fat.
  • Cooking clubs, when surveys suggest 58% of children would like to be taught to cook at school.

It is now common and right for young children to have fruit available to them at school: currently, in a typical week 1 in 5 children eat no fruit at all; 8.5% of 6-year-olds and 15% of 15-year-old children are obese.

Brainless

Or perhaps the Government of Tony Blair has it all wrong. Perhaps George Bush, after all, has the right approach to children's diet.

The US Government has objected to new draft guidelines from the World Health Organisation on combating obesity. US spokesperson William Steiger, replying to the WHO's call for governments to limit the marketing of fatty, salty, sugary food to children, called instead for greater "personal responsbility". In the guidelines, he said: "There is...an unsubstantiated focus on 'good' and 'bad' foods, and a conclusion that specific foods are linked to non-communicable diseases [such as heart disease]. The assertion that the heavy marketing of energy-dense foods or fast food outlets increases the risk of obesity is supported by almost no data."

Be a good boy, now, and eat your E numbers!

The WHO is answering back. A letter from the chair of the WHO working group that issued the draft guidelines said: "It is significant that resistance from business interests, which included the sugar industry and soft drinks manufacturers with US government support, was also demonstrated when a previous WHO expert report...made similar recommendations." There is "grave concern that the United States Government has delivered a submission which appears, in effect, to seek to stall the development of a global strategy on diet, activity and health."

More childcare! More sharing!

The Labour Force Survey on working parents, spring 2003, Office for National Statistics, and the UK Time Use Survey, 2000, Office for National Statistics, reveal:

  • 55 per cent of mothers of under 5s are in the labour force; 73 per cent of those whose youngest child is aged 5 to 10 and 80 per cent whose youngest child is aged 11 to 15
  • Around 76 per cent of working age women without dependent children are in the labour force.
  • Men with dependent children are more likely than those without to be in the labour force. The age of their children has no impact. Around 93 per cent of men with dependent children are in the labour force, regardless of the age of their youngest child.
  • Women are more likely than men to work part time, particularly if they have dependent children. Nearly 40 per cent of women with dependent children work part time, compared with 23 per cent of those without. Only 4 per cent of men with dependent children and 9 per cent of men without dependent children work part time.
  • A smaller proportion of lone mothers are in the labour force than mothers who are married or cohabiting. In spring 2003, 56 per cent of lone mothers were economically active, compared with 72 per cent of married or cohabiting women with dependent children.

This last statistic implies the need for more childcare options for lone mothers: where women have more economic and logistical options available to them - where they have a partner - it shows that they are more likely to choose to work.

  • Women, including full-time workers, spend more time caring for their children than do men. In 2000-1 women living in a couple and working full time spent nearly four and a half hours on childcare and other activities with their children on a weekday. For men in the same circumstances the comparable figure was just over three and a half hours.
  • Both men and women working full time spent just over six and a half hours a day with their children at the weekend. Women spent around two hours on housework while with their children, compared with 1 hour and 20 minutes spent by men. In contrast, men spent around 1 hour and 20 minutes watching TV with their children, compared with around 50 minutes by women.

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