Christmas is cancelled


As Santa Claus sets off to drop presents down the chimneys of innumerable households on Monday night, let's hope that he has got the right paperwork.

Claus, of course, is just an alias. He's really Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, on the southern cost of Turkey. The EU (foolishly) isn't admitting Turkey to the Union, so Claus needs a visa and a work permit to run his Christmas delivery service in the UK.

His elves, of course, would be bound by the child labour regulations. And Claus would need the right documentation to prove it. In some counties (as a Cambridge newsagent discovered to his cost) children must have a work permit issued by the council and signed by the child's employer, headteacher and parents; they can't start until 7am and must be over 13. Working at midnight on 24 December would be right out.

Claus would have to be vetted by the Criminal Records Bureau in order to work with young people. Since that can take up to three months, he's way too late for this year anyway. The education authorities might wonder why the elves aren't in school. And if the elves are paid, then they need to be registered under Pay as You Earn, and Claus would have to sign them on to the new Personal Accounts pension scheme and make sure that the right amount of National Insurance was paid, so he'd need a good accountant.

Because he drops presents (and himself) down chimneys, he is covered by the Working at Heights regulations. He would need training on how to use a ladder, or would have to hire a cherry-picker (with professionally qualified operator) or erect scaffolding. This might require road closures for health and safety reasons.

The fact that Claus uses reindeer to draw his sleigh would of course bring him under animal welfare regulations. The sleigh itself must qualify as an aircraft, and as such has to be licensed by and have a certificate of airworthiness from the Civil Aviation Authority. If the presents that Claus drops off have their origin outside he EU – Lapland, say – then VAT and customs forms have to be filled out, and some tariff duties may be payable.No toys with parts small enough for a child to choke on would be permitted, which is why you don't see Kinder Surprise any more. If Claus claims that his purposes are purely charitable, he would have to register with the Charities Commission.

Of course, like other successful and innovative businesspeople, he might decide not to bother coming to Britain at all.