I believe it was Charles Dickens who said “the law is an ass….” and I believe it was written about the time he wrote Oliver Twist. Those words continually resonate with me as I come across ridiculous examples of legislation on a regular basis.
However, the latest example of such legislation has been brought home to me in a very personal manner.
I was talking to my daughter who is currently at Cambridge University and she was recounting an incident that occurred in the University library tea rooms when she went to buy herself a cup of tea. Being a typical student, she didn’t have a great deal in her purse and went to pay the 90p (does tea really cost that much?), in copper, (for those of you unaware with such a term, that is pennies and 2p pieces).
Having counted out her 90p, the person at the till then refused to accept the money explaining that he could only pay up to 20p with such coins. Arguing with the man who she thought was just being a pedant, he said that it is not his fault but it’s the law. Anyway when she told me this, I also said that it is ridiculous and he must have been just asserting his authority, but she told me as a good student, she had researched the matter and it is in fact true. A visit to the Royal Mint website does in fact confirm that 1p and 2p coins can only be used for payment for any amount not exceeding 20p. In fact, the law relating to legal tender applies to other coins as well. For instance, for a 20p coin, you cannot use them for any amount over £10 and for 10p, over £5.
Now I fully appreciate that this is probably a pointless posting and there may well be practical issues as to why such legislation was introduced in the first place. Nevertheless, it does seem a little ridiculous. As an ignoramus, I would have thought that money either is or isn’t legal tender. To be told that it is, but only up to a certain point is another great cause of concern for me. Like many people, I have a jar where I put all my 1p and 2p coins. To be truthful, I have actually got 5 jars as I have never got round to changing them. Now if I go into a bank and ask them to change them, are they going to tell me that the amount is too great and I can’t use them in this way. This being the case, I would have to go back each time with 20p’s worth of change it and then go back again. Now I assure you that I am a busy person, but just for the hell of it, I am going to give it a go and go to my bank with my first jar and see how they respond. I am particularly looking forward to the queue that builds up behind me so I’ll probably do it at a busy lunchtime.
I will of course report back and I may well be starting a campaign with a petition to get the law changed. Incidentally, I am not expecting many of you to join me in support, but any donations to support the campaign, (please do not send 1p and 2p coins) will be gratefully accepted.