Shropshire Star

Peter Rhodes on loopholes, land prices and why a tap may tell us something about the economy

The original meaning of the word “loophole” was a small opening in a castle wall from which bullets and arrows could be fired at attackers. As any old castle builder could tell you, loopholes don't just happen. They have to be made and built in to the fabric.


And the same applies to loopholes in the law. What may look like a careless oversight is likely to be a deliberate construction inspired by vested interests and persistent lobbying.

Rishi Sunak promises to crack down on the loophole in the law that allows retailers to give free samples of vapes to children. The implication is that this is an unfortunate slip of the pen in drafting the law. I doubt it. And I'd be interested to see a list of politicians who have been wined, dined and generously entertained by the vaping industry over the past few years.

Expect much lobbying, too, over Labour's plan to give councils the power to buy land cheaply for new homes, thus keeping house prices low. You may consider it an admirable aim. At present, a landowner sitting on five acres of unwanted meadows might sell them for agricultural purposes for about £70,000. But if that land has planning permission for a housing estate, it could be worth £3 million. Why should a council and its taxpayers have to pay such inflated prices, making a rich person even richer, in order to provide new homes for the poor?

Now the tricky bit. If it's serious about turning pious hopes into law, Labour will be taking on some of the biggest, richest and most influential land owners in England, and their lawyers. So don't be surprised if the new law on land prices looks at first sight like a game-changer but turns out to be positively riddled with loopholes.

I suggested last week that a sky jam-packed with airliners hardly indicates a country on the verge of recession. However, another little indicator suggests the economy may be slowing. Our kitchen tap developed a leak. We called a plumber and he fixed it, for a reasonable price, the very next day. Run for the hills.