All rise for approved carol 254(b), allaying a danger

Christmas is here again, costing the economy and the NHS billions – and Santa will need a safety harness for that hazardous flue descent

The readers of Marketing Week are busy people and cannot hope to keep up with all the regulations governing Christmas. That is why we have compiled this handy guide, and consider ourselves exceptionally fortunate in having persuaded the Rt Hon. Patricia Hewitt to provide an introduction:

“Christmas is a happy time and we want everyone to enjoy themselves. But, you know, we have to be absolutely certain, and I make no apologies for this, that the festive season is not unnecessarily marred by needless and avoidable accidents. That is why we have drawn up guidelines and an action plan to help you, the ordinary people. It is in everyone’s interest to read this carefully and to keep a copy handy over the holiday period. Be festive by all means, but remember it is important that we modernise Christmas in an exciting, new, progressive, forward-looking way that we as a nation can take pride in.”

Paper cuts. These cost the economy &£3m a year in lost hours. Follow a few simple rules when unwrapping gifts: wear safety gloves, but avoid scissors or knives and never use your teeth.

String. Before tackling string, consult the leaflet produced by the Parcels Advisory Bureau. Do not leave pieces of string, ribbon, or related wrapping material where they can be swallowed. Margaret Hodge says that where people of limited age have ingested string, the state has a duty to act in loco parentis and take them into care. Research shows that this is what the public wants.

Christmas trees. It is illegal to install fairy lights unless you are a qualified electrician. Once in place, lights must be inspected by your local authority. Failure to comply carries a penalty not exceeding &£5,000.

Food. The Food Standards Agency warns that Christmas lunches and dinners are minefields for the unwary. Unregulated brussels sprouts, for instance, cost the NHS &£3bn a year. If in doubt, ring the Sprouts Helpline (calls charged at local rates) or consult your GP. Other festive fare such as turkey, plum pudding, After Eight mints etc. are permissible if taken in moderation and followed by sufficient exercise. For advice on the correct dosage, pick up the Sensible Seasonal Eating leaflet, available from Citizens Advice Bureaux.

Drink. A real hazard. If you suspect anyone in your house of “being on the bottle” do not hesitate to call the police. Warning signs are evidence of happiness, lack of inhibition, irrational giggling and hiccups. “We are determined to stamp this out,” says David Blunkett. “Don’t listen to the moaning wet liberals who talk of personal liberty. It’s our duty to protect people from a threat when we see one.”

Christmas decorations. Under the Paper Chains and Tinsel Directive, it is an offence to hang such items in any room above a height of 1.2m, or to suspend such material using Blu-Tack, drawing pins, or sticky tape. Approved decorative fixatives and suspension brackets bearing the kitemark are available from reputable dealers. To be on the safe side, get an expert in to put them up for you and have the work inspected by your local Decorations Compliance Officer. Laptop computers. “These make acceptable gifts and have been proven to cause impotence in men,” says Patricia Hewitt. “And a jolly good thing too.”

Crackers. It is an offence to pull a cracker with a noise emission of 3dB or more. Contents – small plastic items such as key fobs, toothpicks, pencil sharpeners etc. – should immediately be retrieved from the floor, the raspberry trifle, or the baby’s ear (research by MORI having shown that these are the most common places in which they alight), put away in a safe place such as a drawer, and forget for a period of not less than three years. Under the Cracker Motto Directives (331), no motto should exceed 30 words in length, and each must elicit at least one low moan, groan or snort. Failure to comply may result in a fine of &£5,000 or a term of imprisonment. As regards paper hats: “Make no mistake,” says Patricia Hewitt, “we have the finest paper hat industry in the world and we are rightly proud of it. But I have made it absolutely clear that hats that fall down over the eyes, or otherwise make the wearer look ridiculous, are illegal. We have had very positive feedback.”

Arguments with the in-laws. “We all like a good row or ruck and, let’s face it, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it,” says Tessa Jowell. “But there is too much testosterone flying about, which is why we have introduced the Mother-in-Law Protection Act. This long overdue measure makes it a criminal offence to pull faces at female relatives by marriage, whatever the provocation. Anyone wanting to know how far the law permits them to go in insulting relatives at Christmas should call our ActionLine, pick up a leaflet, or log on to”

Carol singers. Despite recent cases where the police have been over-zealous, the Government wishes to make it absolutely clear that it is perfectly within a householder’s rights to use reasonable force to prevent carol singers from murdering Good King Wenceslas on their doorstep. Your local police community liaison officer will be happy to offer guidance on the most efficient way to silence the top C before it gets out of hand.


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