Travel companies should issue a simple warning
Your readers may wish to be alerted to a practice now introduced by the border officials of both this and adjacent countries concerning travelling with children not your own. For those of you who know of these regulations, there is no need to read on!
Recently, at half-term, my wife and I (in our 70s) took our nine year-old grandson to visit his cousin in Germany & arranged to travel on the Hull-Rotterdam overnight ferry. At passport control, in Hull, it was clear that our grandson was not our child, not least because the surname on his passport was different from ours. It was made clear to us that, to comply with border regulations, we should have a letter from the child’s parent authorising us to take him out of the country. This is seemingly to try to stop child trafficking.
This was news to me, but the control official was adamant that this was necessary. Fortuitously, my name and address were in the back of my grandson’s passport, as next of kin, so we were allowed to proceed, with the warning that, in future, we should produce such a letter. The official seemed non-plussed (or maybe just not interested) that there is no clear warning about this requirement on any documentation or website concerning cross-border travel.
We went though the same performance at Rotterdam and, again, at Rotterdam on the return journey. On arrival at Hull, things took a turn for the worse, despite my protestations that I was hardly likely to be trafficking a child with a British Passport back into the UK. Initially, I was asked if his mother was contactable, at which point my grandson looked up from his PSP momentarily (for those of you over 60, this is an electronic game) and said, “Oh it’s Saturday - yeah she will be”. Still this didn’t seem to satisfy the officer that our grandson was not being held against his will, so he insisted in cross-questioning him about the personal details of his grandparents (forename, date of birth etc.).
Happily, the answers seem to satisfy him, although it would have been interesting to see what he would have done if presented with wrong answers or (more likely) a look of indifference & no replies. Once it was clear that we were going to be re-admitted to the country and free to go, I protested in the strongest possible terms about a nine year old being given the third degree on a matter that was obviously not in contravention of any law. The only answers I got were “It’s probably on a website somewhere” - so I’m supposed to trawl through numerous websites looking for regulations of which I have no knowledge? and “We can’t MAKE you have the letter, but we strongly advise it” - in which case, if not obligatory, why all the fuss ?
On returning home, I did plough through the “Terms and Conditions” on P&O’s website and, low & behold, there on page 3 under section 10, sub-item 8 was the relevant item. Until we can rely on travel companies to give travellers a simple warning (say a pop-up box on their booking site if an under-age person is travelling with adults with a different surname), beware the border authorities & make sure that you have the requisite letter.....and, make sure you don’t wear a mask & have a Kalashnikov on your back seat !! (though, on second thoughts, you would probably be let through !!!)
Finally, if you ARE thinking of trafficking children out of this country, have an agreement letter and a forged passport with your surname on it and you should be OK !
New jobs will ease litter and dog mess problems
It was very reassuring to read that the ruling Labour group of Calderdale Council were out-voted at the recent Budget meeting and that the majority of amendments proposed were accepted - an important one being the continuance of the four Safer, Cleaner, Greener teams with no cuts being made.
Being a resident of Calderdale for many years, I am very concerned about the serious problems of dog fouling and the dropping of litter in parks and other areas.
With additional funding which will allow eight new jobs to be created between the four teams it will enable the Council to deal more effectively with these problems.
The Safer, Cleaner, Greener teams also handle the maintenance of parks, open spaces, street cleaning and the removal of graffiti.
For the Labour group to even consider reducing the budget of this vital service is beyond comprehension.
Helping children on the road
The Children’s Trust
I would like to encourage your readers to watch an inspirational television show I am delighted to be appearing in.
The BBC One’s charity appeal programme Lifeline – in which I visit The Children’s Trust – will be aired on the afternoon of March 16 at 4.30pm.
During my visit to the charity I met some courageous children receiving rehabilitation for a brain injury and sat in on a physiotherapy session.
I witnessed the expertise of highly-trained staff and the encouragement of mums and dads as they watched their children make precious steps in the journey of their recovery.
As many people know, I myself am living with a brain injury after a car accident filming Top Gear, and I can certainly relate to the experiences of these kids and their families.
Life suddenly changed for me after my accident in 2006. There was a long road to recovery for me and tough times ahead for my entire family.
While I was extremely lucky, some brain injuries can leave a person needing constant care and long-term rehabilitation.
Thankfully, The Children’s Trust is there to help children make the best recovery they can, and to help their families support them in the long term.