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Note:Francis Bennion sadly died on 28 January 2015.

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22/09/2004 - 1963.001

Animal Rights


It is well known that in England animals are more highly regarded than children. We have the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) but merely the National Society for the Protection of Children (NSPCC). In 1963, when I was in the Parliamentary Counsel Office, I drafted a spoof Bill on this topic. I have just come across it, so here it is.






To confer better protection on children, and proper protection on animals.

Be it enacted etc.


Protection of children


1. Any enactment now applying to animals shall from the passing of this Act instead apply to children.


Protection of animals


2. Any enactment now applying to children shall from the passing of this Act instead apply to animals.




3. In this Act-

“children” means the offspring under sixteen of human parents;


“animals” means the offspring of any age of any other parents.


Short title


4. This Act may be cited as the Children (Better Protection) Act 1963.


31/08/2004 2004.140

Why it was a mistake to topple Saddam Hussein

Times Letters 27/8/04 -


Iraq invasion seen as ‘backward step’


From Mr Daljit Sehbai


Sir, The invasion of Iraq, far from triggering modernisation (letter, August 24), has inflamed and emboldened the forces of religious fanaticism in a country that has been a secular state so far.


Saddam Hussein was not a religious fanatic. He was a cruel and ruthless dictator but, nevertheless, ran a secular state. He crushed those who wanted to establish an Islamic regime on the Iranian model. The forces of religious fanaticism led by Islamic militias, which had been dormant so far, have now taken over Najaf and other parts of the country and will pose a grave danger to the region.


International terrorism must be fought with maximum force and undivided attention. The war in Iraq was a diversion from the real struggle against terrorism, which is still alive and kicking in the border areas of Pakistan with Afghanistan.


If only half the number of American and British Forces employed in the invasion of Iraq had been sent into Afghanistan to fight the remnants of the Taleban and the fanatics led by Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants, there was a very good chance of defeating or at least crippling the forces of international terrorism.


I believe the invasion of Iraq was a backward step in the fight against religious fanaticism and international terrorism, and a gross error of judgment on the part of George Bush.


Yours faithfully,


c/o The Reform Club,
Pall Mall,

Letter from Francis Bennion 27 August 2004


Mr Daljit Sehbai,
c/o The Reform Club,
Pall Mall,

Dear Mr Sehbai,


I am writing about your important letter in today’s Times. You have certainly hit the nail on the head. I am sure you are absolutely right in what you say.


Of course your letter is written with hindsight, but I can’t help feeling that President Bush and his advisers (not to mention Prime Minister Blair and his) really should have grasped from the beginning the truth of what you say and refrained from toppling Saddam.


I supported the war, but I now see that Saddam acted as a stopper in one area of Islamist militarist activism. In the war against terrorism, that was more important than trying to introduce democracy into Iraq. I do not believe democracy will work in any country where the ayatollahs and imams are in political control. Turkey is different, but things are now going that way in Turkey too.


All the coalition can do now is try to uphold the new secular government under Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, and prevent the fanatical Islamists taking over. I fear it is a forlorn hope, though things may be better after the US and British elections. By then it may well be too late.


Yours sincerely,


Francis Bennion

23/08/2004 2004.139

Bad English by Cricket Commentators

On 21 August 2004 Francis Bennion sent the following three emails to the Channel Four programme broadcasting commentary on the Fourth Test, England v West Indies.

Mike Atherton made three errors when covering the last Test Match.

1. He used ‘criteria’ as a singular noun when it is a plural. The singular is ‘criterion’.
2. He pronounced ‘schedule’ as skedule, which is the American way. The English way is shedule.
3. He pronounced ‘debacle’ as debbakle. This word is of French origin, and is pronounced daybarkle.

1. Geoff Boycott has just talked about conditions ‘deteriating’. Surely he knows that the word is ‘deteriorating’.
2. Geoff certainly knows that the word ‘hand’ is spelt with four letters. Why does he constantly speak as if there were only three?

I wouldn't trouble to mention the above if it were not that there are thousands of impressionable boys watching him. Does he want them to grow up illiterate?

Dermot Reeve has just mentioned ‘latitude and longtitude’. The latter word is ‘longitude’.

20/07/2004 2004.133

Paul Foot is no longer with us

The previous Line criticised Paul Foot. Now I learn that on 18 July he died of a heart attack, aged 66. With any other person (saving a few exceptions such as Robert Mugabe or Sadam Hussein) I might express formal regret at such news. Here I’m not able to do that. The reason is partly expressed in my Oldie letter. For the rest I will just remark that the late Paul Foot’s virulent desire, from an early age, to inflict maximum harm on values which I and many others hold dear caused more hurt than would anything I might say about him now.


Read about Paul Foot and the thuggish Ricky Thomlinson


Judges         Bar

Week beginning 17/05/2004

This week’s Line is the Union Castle Line

I am too indolent, lazing in the sunshine on the Devon coast, to compose a proper Line this week. So I will just recall the day 45 years ago when I sailed away on a Union Castle liner to the Gold Coast, with my then wife and two little daughters aged 5 and 3, to take up, for a stint lasting two years, what used to be called the White Man’s Burden.

Week beginning 26/04/2004

Tony Martin anti-burglar Bill (drafted by FB) was debated by the Commons on Friday 30 April

Click here for the text of Bill and full story

Week beginning 19/04/2004

John Mortimer: a man who despises his profession

See Blog FBBB106

Week beginning 05/04/2004

The Arch-Priest of Multiculturalism stands on his head

See Blog FBBB103

Week beginning 29/03/2004

A lie in The Times

This week the House of Commons once again debates university top-up fees. Last time it happened I wrote Blog FBBB49. As a prelude to this week’s debate see Blog FBBB101.

Week beginning 22/03/2004

The Vandal of Downing Street

Will Blair prove any more right than the Bishop of Southwark did sixty years' ago?

See FB's Blog FBBB99

Week beginning 15/03/2004

Should England's cricketers tour Zimbabwe?

Get some ideas from the story of how FB got Peter Hain convicted for interfering with South African sporting fixtures.

Week beginning 08/03/2004

Revisiting Horizon

FB goes back 60 years to the wartime days of Cyril Connolly's literary and arts monthly, price one shilling

See Blog FBBB90

Week beginning 01/03/2004

Mr Toad takes the road

The light-hearted way Britain's drivers get behind the wheel

See FB's Blog FBBB85

Week beginning 23/02/2004

The Government takes up Sexual Autonomy

See FB's Blog FBBB82

Week beginning 16/02/2004

Do suicide bombers mean the end of fair trials?

See FB's Times letter of 13 February

Week beginning 09/02/2004

The Police Are Getting Above Themselves
(especially the North Wales Police)

See FB's Blogs numbers 28, 68, 69 and 71.

Week beginning 02/02/2004

Are Human Rights a Danger to Law?

See the recent article by FB in the University of New South Wales Law Review.

Week beginning 26/01/2004

The big question on university top-up fees

This week the House of Commons debates university top-up fees. They won’t be debating the big question, which is this. Why are parents expected to pay for the university education of their adult children? For the full argument see Blog FBBB49.

Week beginning 19/01/2004

Statute law reform - is anybody listening?

I was rather rough with poor dear Geoffrey Howe in my blog FBBB45. The article with the above title, though published in 1993, is still highly relevant. Some of the reforms it proposed have been brought in, but most have not. The wake-up call to the hapless Lord Howe of Aberavon has come much too late of course. (He is, after all, only four years younger than me.) But others ought to be doing something about them.

Week beginning 12/01/2004

Sexual Offences Act 2003

The Sexual Offences Act 2003, which received Royal Assent in November 2003, makes all children under 16 criminals if they engage in any kind of consensual sex with each other. Harmless petting, smooching, groping, even kissing, by under-16s with their age mates is criminalised by the Act, already held to be contrary to human rights. See Briefing