I’ve been stung!
I’d better declare my interest now, as I believe one should be open about one’s interests. A few weeks ago my wife and I bought two airline tickets to Cape Town. Gordon Brown has since announced that people like me – airline passengers who bought their tickets before this month’s pre-budget report – will be taxed. This gives us no option to change our behaviour to avoid the tax – unless we sacrifice the £450 ticket to avoid the £20 fee – so not only is it unfair and arbitrary, it will not in any way reduce carbon emissions.
The Times reports that “Airline passengers face long delays at airports from February because check-in staff will be required to collect the increase in departure tax announced last week. More than seven million people had already booked flights before the announcement in the Pre-Budget Report that Air Passenger Duty will double from February 1. Those passengers will have to pay the extra tax when they check in for their flights.”
This is a blatant violation of the legal principle that laws must be prospective. By applying this new tax ex post facto to airline tickets bought before the pre-budget report, it has denied purchasers to ability to make informed decisions knowing in advance how the Government would tax their activity. Those who have bought airline tickets in all innocence prior to the pre-budget report are now landed with extra fees that they could not predict – indeed, that they had every reason to assume would not apply, as ex post facto taxation violates the principle of the rule of law.
It is an excellent example both of the Chancellor’s lack of principle and of his mendaciousness. The alleged justification for this tax hike is to reduce pollution caused by rising air travel. But those who bought their ticket prior to the pre-budget report could not predict the new tax and so it can have had no impact upon their decision. Thus, in its retrospective application, it is merely another arbitrary expropriation of private wealth without justification on either environmental grounds or on the principle that taxes are applied generally.
Applying this new tax retrospectively is another example of the Chancellor’s arbitrary seizure of private wealth.It is an entirely unprincipled effort to make a seemingly randomly selected group of citizens help finance his public spending profligacy. That I am one of those caught in his web is my bad luck. I hope those more fortunate than I will nonetheless share my disgust.