Thaddeus Tremayne explains why we may soon have to find a way to put Santa Claus back into Christmas.
"A frosty reception awaits Santa Claus in Britain this year. It seems that the much-loved benefactor of children everywhere is, in fact, suspected of being guilty of a number of illegal practices.
"Greenpeace UK has accused Santa of 'environmental terrorism' by encouraging crass global consumerism without any effort to dispose of packaging and minimise waste. They have also attacked Santa for his record of pollution output and have demanded that he take steps to lower the carbon footprint of his activities. The complaint has prompted officials at the Department of the Environment to investigate Santa for possible breaches of the EU Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment Directive, which makes the producers of goods responsible for their environmentally sound disposal.
"Further trouble can be expected from the Information Commissioner who has pointed out that Santa may be in breach of the Data Protection Act by keeping records of all the country's children. In particular, his lists of who has been naughty and who has been nice constitutes a behavioural database which cannot be kept without the unambiguous, specific and informed consent of the subject.
"The Equality Commission has also weighed in with concerns about Santa's employment practices. His policy of only working with elves is clearly discriminatory and leaves him open to prosecutions by pixies, faeries and goblins who are not being considered for employment due to their race.
"The Department of Work and Pensions is also investigating the work practices of Santa on the basis that, over the Christmas period, he demands that his elvish workforce work around the clock in order to meet the seasonal demand. This is a clear and unequivocal flouting of the EU Working Time Directive which limits the working week to 48 hours and could give rise to a further prosecution.
"Santa's time-honoured habit of stopping for a drink of brandy in every household (and there are 25 million in the UK) will also bring trouble. According the Civil Aviation Authority, the alcohol limit for any pilot is 20 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood. Police forces nationwide have been put on alert for an overweight, elderly, bearded man at the controls of a nine-reindeer sleigh and, if spotted, to apprehend him immediately.
"Santa was not available for comment but a spokeself has said that Santa is seriously considering whether or not to fly over British airspace this year."