Peter Rhodes on banning fags, charging cars and the creeping menace of justice behind closed doors

Told you so. I suggested some months back that electric-car owners expecting to charge their vehicles for a pittance were living in Cloud Cuckoo Land. No authority on earth is going to kiss goodbye to the massive income it gets from petrol and diesel duty without demanding some sort of electricity surcharge. Sure enough, councillors in Brighton are hiking their rates on public charging points from 26p to 39p per kilowatt hour.

No end in sight
No end in sight

A spokesman for the council's charging operator says: “It remains cheaper than running a petrol or diesel-power vehicle.” Well, maybe it does. But this first generation of electric-car drivers were expecting ultra-cheap motoring in exchange for producing no emissions and putting up with the hassle of vehicles that need recharging every couple of hundred miles. I dare say the word on their lips is betrayal.

The latest wheeze from Whitehall should stop a lot of wheezing elsewhere. The plan, being considered by ministers, is to raise the minimum age at which people can buy tobacco products by one year, every year. Thus, if the law was introduced in 2026, nobody who is now aged under 15 would ever be able to buy cigarettes legally. Clever, eh?

But then what are the chances of any government getting that sort of law past the lawyers and lobbyists of the global tobacco industry? I would risk a small bet on people dying of cigarette-related diseases well into the 22nd Century, proving once again that tobacco kills – and money talks.

The Daily Telegraph reports that 80 per cent of TV licence-fee prosecutions are heard in secret, by a lone magistrate under something called SJP, the Single Justice Procedure. How this gross violation of open justice came to be passed by Parliament is anyone's guess. If it were happening to any other group of people, or in any other country, Auntie Beeb would be spouting outrage. Her silence is deafening.

Meanwhile, some of the protesters who attended the London vigil for the murdered Sarah Everard have also been prosecuted under SJP, behind closed doors at a Westminster court. That's also how they do things in a place recognised only by Vladimir Putin's Russia. So that's Westminster: twinned with the Donetsk People’s Republic.

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