Geoff Hoon has come under fire for his rather tactless comment that people should stop whingeing about the snow, and that if motorists are so concerned they should buy snow chains. However, I have some sympathy with this viewpoint.
When I lived in Germany motorists always had snow chains. They had to. They would also have winter tyres fitted. Clearly the expense of this in this country would be ludicrous, unless your car was absolutely vital to you in all weathers. Councils do have a duty to grit roads, but there is a balance to strike. Should they really invest millions of pounds in grit, gritter lorries and snow ploughs when they might only be needed once every ten or so years? If I were a councillor I doubt whether I'd vote to spend money on that over and above providing new education facilities.
But one things which does annoy me about this weather is that people in Britain seem to take no responsibility for keeping the pavement clear outside their own houses. In Germany and Switzerland it is a legal requirement for people to do that* - and not only that, but to grit the pavement too, if I remember rightly. In this country we just moan about the fact that the council has failed to get the snow of every inch of our pavements. Surely it isn't too much to ask to get people to clear their own part of the pavement each time snow falls?
And I stand by every word. Today's Telegraph story demonstrates the kind of "it's not my responsibility, guv" society we have become. Apparently people are being warned that if they clear the pavements outside their homes they could be sued if someone slips on any resultant ice. This is perverse. You do your citizenly duty and and then risk getting punished. It's the compensation culture writ large. And it's got to change. Government cannot do everything for us. Where we can, we have to act for ourselves. As someone once said, we cannot go on like this.
But here's an idea. Why don't we just change the law? Why don't we render it impossible to sue someone if they have done the right thing and cleared snow outside their property? Indeed, let's go one step futher and adopt the same laws that they have in Germany, Switzerland, the USA and Canada? All we need is an MP to do it... (get my [snow] drift?!)