The start of the tape

Business secretary Vince Cable announced another crackdown on red tape. But where did red tape come from? It seems to have been a product of the Holy Roman Empire.

— Spanish officials in the reign of Charles V (1516-56) would tie up documents relating to issues which had to be discussed on the Council of State with red tape; other, lesser documents were bound with rope.

— The tape was called Boldoque, after the Dutch city in which it was manufactured (S’Hertgenbosch in Dutch). The Spanish have retained the word for red tape.

— As for the Dutch, they have made amends by inventing the ‘one in, one out’ rule, now adopted by Cable’s department, under which for every new piece of legislation an old law must be abolished.

From the vaults

Some argue that the world’s biggest economies should go back to using the gold standard. Which countries have the largest gold reserves?

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China $3250 bn
Japan $1300 bn
Saudi Arabia $556 bn
US $537 bn
Russia $497 bn

The UK is 21st with $94.5 bn.

Source:World Bank

State of the unions

The TUC held its annual conference in Brighton. Union membership in the UK is now 26% of the working population, half the 50% it was at its peak in 1981. How does the UK compare with other countries?

Top three o.e.c.d. countries
Iceland 79%
Finland 70%
Denmark 69%
Bottom three
Turkey 5.9%
France 7.6%
Estonia 8.1%

Film schools

A freedom of information request revealed that there are 106,710 CCTV cameras in state schools, 825 in changing rooms or bathrooms. These schools have the greatest number of cameras in relation to the number of pupils:

— One for every 5 pupils: Christ the King Catholic and Church of England Centre of Learning, Knowsley; St Mary Church of England High School, Herefordshire

— One for every 6: Heartlands High School, Haringey; St George of England Specialist Engineering College, Sefton; Newall Green High School, Manchester

Source: Big Brother Watch

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated