The Spectator

Barometer | 21 January 2016

Plus: how many police are armed, and how much we spend on furniture

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Roll out the barrel

The price of crude oil dropped below $30 a barrel. Why do we measure it in barrels?

— A standard barrel for the purposes of measuring oil is 42 US gallons or 35 imperial gallons. This was the size of a ‘tierce’, a unit for measuring wine in medieval England.

— When demand for kerosene provoked an oil rush in Pennsylvania in 1859, producers were so desperate for vessels that they used all kinds of containers.

— In August 1866, however, producers met in the town of Titusville to agree on a standard measure. A 42-gallon barrel of oil weighed 300lb:  just enough, it was found, for one man to manoeuvre on his own.

— The US Petroleum Producers Association adopted the 42-gallon barrel in 1872 and it has remained the standard measure ever since.

Not speaking English

David Cameron promised free English lessons for Muslim women who can’t speak English. How many people in England can’t speak English?

In the 2011 census 7.7% of the population said their main language was something other than English or Welsh.

1.3% ‘cannot speak English very well’.

0.3% said they can’t speak English at all.

The areas with the highest percentages who cannot speak English well are:

Newham

8.7%

Brent, Tower Hamlets

8.0%

Leicester

7.5%

Gun trends

An extra 600 armed police officers are to be deployed in London. What is the trend in firearms use in England and Wales?

No. of police firearms operations

2008/09

23,181

2009/10

21,337

2010/11

19,619

2011/12

16,857

2012/13

15,454

2013/14

14,864

Source: Home Office

No. of authorised firearms officers

2008/09

6,906

2009/10

6,976

2010/11

6,653

2011/12

6,756

2012/13

6,092

2013/14

5,875

Source: Home Office

Furnishing limits

The head of sustainability for Ikea said we have reached ‘peak home furnishings’. How has the market for home furnishing been going?

Average weekly sales

November 2011

£221,395

November 2012

£224,509

November 2013

£228,222

November 2014

£261,053

November 2015

£275,526

Source: ONS