Are we getting our eye wiped? Yesterday, 02.06.08, the television newsreader gave a dissertation that the increased cost of oil was going to be passed on to air travellers now, and also sometime in the future, even though the purchaser had paid upfront for the contract of their journey, and would be further charged increased costs that could amount to anything up to £400. She also added that one could be stranded at one’s destination because the airline had gone out of business. I would have thought the Office of Fair Trading would have stamped on all this as soon as it was mooted. It appears that airlines want their cake and they want to eat it. They make offers to encourage us to fly, which I would have thought was a contract, and then they propose to put further surcharges on without any action being taken. Currently if you walk into a shop and an object has a price tag clearly written, the vendor, in all but extreme circumstances, is required by law to honour that statement and hand over the article for the price stated. I can understand that carriers of all sorts can no longer give long-term pricing when the cost of fuel is unstable. If this is the case, then they should not give long-term offers that they cannot sustain. People today have financial conditions that are totally outside their own control. It is therefore unfair to the unwary and the naive, that the government allows this situation to pertain. It is not sufficient to say ‘buyer beware’, after the event, the government should insist that once the contract is made it is inviolate, in common law a verbal agreement constitutes a contract and is inviolate, why should a written one be different?
The government itself is also playing ducks and drakes; in this case with taxes. Unless things have severely changed from when I worked with government contracts, the money to pay for them was budgeted annually, irrespective of the date on which the contract started and how long it would take. If for any valid or invalid reason, the assessed amount of money was not spent within the financial year, the surplus was taken back into the Treasury and had to be reassessed in the following year’s budget. This implies that the government at some point in one financial year is taking into account all the expenditure for the following year, presumably with a sensible sinking fund should anything go wrong. This in turn must mean that they have taken into account the amount of tax that they require, based on a yardstick, some weeks or months previous. How is it then that when the cost of fuel rises, which raises the cost of transport, heating, lighting and all the other dependent services, and these costs are then added to all our purchases, with the result that VAT has also risen, and thus tax income, that VAT is not modified? Some government expenses will unavoidably rise, such as school meals, but the overall assessment will no longer be valid and should be reassessed. It is noticeable that wages and many other costs have not yet risen accordingly. The government in effect has achieved a windfall-tax, which is totally unfair, and which it appears to have no intention of refunding, or reassessing. I always thought Westminster was populated by members of Parliament representing their constituencies and responsible for their welfare. Clearly I’m mistaken.