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Named and shamed: France's craziest laws

Dan MacGuill · 27 Mar 2013, 10:07

Published: 27 Mar 2013 10:07 GMT+01:00

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A cross-party team headed by Jean-Claude Boulard  the Socialist mayor of French city Le Mans, and UMP senator Alain Lambert has called for a major cutback in France’s rules and regulations to save money, naming and shaming the country's three most stupid laws.

The team, tasked with auditing the country's estimated 400,000 rules and regulations, handed a report to Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Tuesday recommending action on which rules need to be broken.

In an interview with television station TF1, Boulard put the problem of red tape in historical perspective to stress how it was time for a clear out.

"The last time we had a repeal of rules and regulations was on July 4th 1789. Since then, we've just been accumulating more and more.

Lambert said the rules were threatening France with "paralysis" and that a "Copernican revolution" was needed. Lambert stressed the introduction of new decrees had cost the country €2 billion between 2008 and 2011.

So without further ado, here are the top three most absurd French laws, according to Boulard and Lambert.

1. “A hard-boiled egg? Certainly. May I see your birth certificate?…”

When it comes to food, the French are real enthusiasts, and can be sticklers, as we all know.

But according to Tuesday’s report, the state’s guidelines for what to serve in the cafeteria of a public school, hospital, or prison extends to a staggering 80 pages.

Among the nutritional and dietary recommendations – for a child attending a crèche, one quarter of a hard-boiled egg is appropriate. And no more than a half should be served to little Jacques or Marianne, if they’re in a nursery school.

The same 80-page document also stipulates that a portion of paella for nursery school children must weigh 180g and 250g in primary schools.

2. "Is it just me or is it warm in here?"

From time to time, French regulations mean public establishments must conduct an air quality ‘audit’.  Agents will move from building to building, room to room, counting windows, noting their location, and recording whether or not they’re closed. 

Hence this radical proposal from co-author Boulard: “If you’re hot, open a window.”

3. An earth-shattering new idea

Since 2011, according to the report, anyone hoping to construct certain kinds of buildings in France has had to meet ‘earthquake safety standards'.

And that's just one of a raft of construction regulations that all told, adds one to five percent on to the cost of construction every year, according to the report.

What’s the problem with that? The regulation applies to “areas that have never experienced any kind of seismic shocks”, according to the report.

Story continues below…

Boulard and Lambert's solution - "Get rid of 'earthquake safety' restrictions in places where the earth has never moved".

The politicians' report also gives a 'certificate of merit' to two additional rules about dying, and getting married.

Firstly, a 2008 law requires that anyone authorized to conduct a funeral must have a 'national diploma' or general certificate, involving eight hours of coursework on "the psychology and sociology of mourning."

Finally, Boulard and Lambert denounce the mouthful that mayors and local officials are now required to utter when conducting a civil wedding ceremony.

The almost two-minute long list of marital 'terms and conditions' compares with the short, simple and almost poetic words contained in the original, 1803 marriage ceremony.

Separately, The Local reported just last month that France had finally lifted a 200-year-old ban on women wearing trousers in Paris.

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

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