30 JUNE 2001, Page 26

ONLY three weeks into the new Parliament and already some

of our legislators are off to a flying start. None more so than Bob Russell, Lib Dem MP for Colchester. As if anybody needed reminding that the Liberal Democratic party is no laissez-faire outfit of which Gladstone would have approved, the enthusiastic Russell has tabled no fewer than five early-day motions, two of which demonstrate a basic intolerance of the idea of freeborn Englishmen doing business with each other.

Target number one is the car-boot sale, that unlovely institution of modern times at which the nation's Dereks and Veras offload unwanted possessions, fresh from the boot of their Lada, to human magpies who live for their next bargain. Harmless, one might have thought, and, since such events are often held on behalf of charity, of considerable benefit to the community. But not according to Mr Russell. He wants car-boot sales subjected to the full force of consumer legislation. Those holding them would be obliged to take out insurance, to keep a daily register of names, addresses and vehicle-registration numbers available for inspection by officers of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, trading standards, environmental health, the Benefits Agency and the police. Woe betide you if the Abba LP you sold for 25 pence turns out to have a little scratch on the 'B' side.

Target number two is footballers' agents. 'This House believes the involvement of agents for professional football players is not in the best interests of the game', reads his motion, and 'considers that there should be a public register detailing the names of agents, their clients and the fees and commissions paid'.

May I suggest a further piece of legislation: a public register of bureaumaniacs — those with an obsession for keeping lists and registers, and generally trying to introduce rules and regulations which society hitherto has managed quite happily to do without?

Ross Clark