Monday, 28 March 2011

A Walk in the Park

This is an extract from a press release by the European Commission:
The European Commission today adopted a comprehensive strategy for a competitive transport system that will increase mobility, remove major barriers in key areas and fuel growth and employment. At the same time, the proposals will dramatically reduce Europe's dependence on imported oil and cut carbon emissions in transport by 60% by 2050.

To achieve this will require a transformation in Europe's current transport system. By 2050, key goals will include:
- No more conventionally-fuelled cars in cities.
- 40% use of sustainable low carbon fuels in aviation; at least 40% cut in shipping emissions.
- A 50% shift of medium distance intercity passenger and freight journeys from road to rail and waterborne transport.
- All of which will contribute to a 60% cut in transport emissions by the middle of the century.
[My emphasis]
I'll be 93 if this ever happens so it won't affect me too much but I still think it will make me angry. If you want to raise your own blood pressure, the press release is here.

Friday, 25 March 2011

It is really quite simple

As regards MPs expenses it is really quite simple, they should be subject to the same rules that any employee are subject to. There should be no special treatment for them.
The history of remuneration for MPs is quite interesting and it would appear to have been a contentious issue for a very long time. However, salaries for MPs only started in 1972 when they were paid £4,500 per annum. According to the Bank of England that is the equivalent of £46,307.46 in 2010 terms. The salary for an MP in 2010 was £65738 which means that their salary has increased by 41%* in real terms in 38 years. Can you think of any other job where the remuneration has increased by 41% in real terms for doing the same job?

* That is an increase of 0.926301% above inflation every year for 38 years.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Taking Us For A Fuel

Let's agree one thing, companies do not pay tax, they collect it. They charge their customers extra to cover the tax that they will have to pay and, ultimately, it is you and me, the public, who have to pay. I cannot emphasise this statement enough, it is always the public who end up paying for a tax whatever it is called.
So when I heard that the Chancellor had announced a £2 billion-a-year windfall levy on North Sea oil to fund an immediate cut in fuel duty of 1p per litre, I laughed. Did he really think that we would be taken in  by this prestidigitation? Now, I am sure that if you go out to a petrol station today then the price of the petrol they are selling will be less than the price were selling it for yesterday but it won't stay that way. I assure you that the increased cost of extraction due to this windfall levy will work its way through the system and we will end up paying for it in the end.
I don't know whether to admire the man for his chutzpah or to bemoan the fact that politicians apparently think we are collectively so stupid that they can get away with tricks like this.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

What a State We Are In.

Very little time for blogging at the moment but I did want to share this which is a quote from A. J. P., Taylor in the book English History 1914 - 1945, published 1965.

“Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission. He could exchange his money for any other currency without restriction or limit. He could buy goods from any country in the world on the same terms as he bought goods at home. For that matter, a foreigner could spend his life in this country without permit and without informing the police. Unlike the countries of the European continent, the state did not require its citizens to perform military service. An Englishman could enlist, if he chose, in the regular army, the navy, or the territorials. He could also ignore, if he chose, the demands of national defence. Substantial householders were occasionally called on for jury service. Otherwise, only those helped the state who wished to do so. The Englishman paid taxes on a modest scale: nearly £200 million in 1913-14, or rather less than 8 per cent. of the national income. The state intervened to prevent the citizen from eating adulterated food or contracting certain infectious diseases. It imposed safety rules in factories, and prevented women, and adult males in some industries, from working excessive hours. The state saw to it that children received education up to the age of 13. Since 1 January 1909, it provided a meagre pension for the needy over the age of 70. Since 1911, it helped to insure certain classes of workers against sickness and unemployment. This tendency towards more state action was increasing. Expenditure on the social services had roughly doubled since the Liberals took office in 1905. Still, broadly speaking, the state acted only to help those who could not help themselves. It left the adult citizen alone.

All this was changed by the impact of the Great War. The mass of the people became, for the first time, active citizens. Their lives were shaped by orders from above; they were required to serve the state instead of pursuing exclusively their own affairs. Five million men entered the armed forces, many of them (though a minority) under compulsion. The Englishman’s food was limited, and its quality changed, by government order. His freedom of movement was restricted; his conditions of work prescribed. Some industries were reduced or closed, others artificially fostered. The publication of news was fettered. Street lights were dimmed. The sacred freedom of drinking was tampered with: licensed hours were cut down, and the beer watered by order. The very time on the clocks was changed. From 1916 onwards, every Englishman got up an hour earlier in summer than he would otherwise have done, thanks to an act of parliament. The state established a hold over it citizens which, though relaxed in peacetime, was never to be removed and which the second World war was again to increase. The history of the English state and of the English people merged for the first time.”