Green Budget moves fail to take off

Chancellor Alistair Darling\'s efforts to cut airlines\' carbon emissions and reduce consumers\' reliance on single-use plastic bags could have unforeseen negative results, says Katie Tucker

I had a terrible time at the airport on my flight to and from a skiing trip to Geneva recently. When departing I arrived two hours and 10 minutes early, only to be told I was on standby. It is British Airways’ policy to overbook all flights wherever possible and this is the shape of things to come.

So when you log onto the internet and part with hundreds of pounds for a flight, you’re no longer booking a flight, you’re booking the chance to be considered for a flight and that too only when you arrive at the airport.

And in this year’s Budget, chancellor Alistair Darling picked up on the idea first proposed by the Conservatives last year that airlines should be taxed per flight, not per passenger.

The idea is that this will encourage airlines to run fewer flights and to fill them as often as they can. The rule change will come into force in November 2009.

Refreshingly, unlike much of the Budget, this ostensibly green move might affect behaviour and deliver lower carbon emissions, so I can’t criticise it too much. But it will mean hardship for passengers.

I also support Darling’s move to tax single-use plastic bags. But I was dismayed to read a report by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stating that 80% of Britons reuse them in the home and that the plastic bag tax in the Republic of Ireland has led to a 300% to 500% increase in the sale of plastic refuse bags and bin liners.

And bags for life, which are far more difficult to dispose of, are only good when reused indefinitely, which most are not. This is another area where a tax might be a disincentive. Without a government campaign to illustrate the facts, the alternatives to single-use bags could cause more harm than good.

In terms of mortgages, this year’s Budget was disappointing. Apart from a token Stamp Duty break for shared ownership properties of up to 80% LTV, home buyers were overlooked by Darling.

My firm’s online petition to raise the Stamp Duty threshold to £250,000 has now gathered more than 10,000 signatures. But so far the government has failed to heed it.

So as you relax this evening, perhaps with a bottle of wine that costs 14p more than it did a few weeks ago and maybe a cigarette for which you paid an extra 11p per packet, you might be forgiven for dreaming about booking a standby one-way ticket to a sunkissed tax haven.