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The conference season is upon us

Posted by Helen Tuesday, September 13, 2005

One of the distinguishing qualities of the annual conference season, started this week with the TUC Conference, going on next week to the Lib-Dims, thence to Labour and, finally, the Conservatives, is the extraordinary amount of hot air emanating from assorted seaside resorts. I bet the indicators for global warming go up in this period.

Chancellor of the Exchequer and eternal Prime Minister in waiting (always the bridesmaid, never the bride, sob), Gordon Brown made a speech at the TUC Conference, in which he tried to explain how he was going to deal with the possible problems caused by rising fuel prices.

"Because we will never be complacent, the first action we must take is to tackle the cause of the problem, ensuring concerted global action is taken to bring down world oil prices and stabilise the market for the long term."

I guess this still goes down well with the Brothers but the rest of us find that as a policy statement somewhat inadequate. Maybe this is better:

“Lack of transparency about the world's reserves and plans for their development undermines stability and causes speculation. The world must call on Opec to become more open and more transparent.

"From the additional 300 billion US dollars a year in revenue Opec countries are now enjoying and the additional 800 billion US dollars available to oil producers, there must be additional new investment in production and global investment in refining capacity.

"The search for alternative sources of energy and greater energy efficiency is urgent to ensure both the maintenance of economic growth and tackling climate change.”

So what have we got that is even remotely like a practical suggestion? Well there is the incredibly “radical” idea that “the World Bank should set up a new fund to support developing countries, which were investing in alternative sources of energy and greater energy efficiency”. In other words more money pumped into the various unsatisfactory governmental “projects” in developing countries that have not, at this stage, adequate economic infrastructure for basic development.

What is it about Gordy’s mind? It moves along entirely predestined grooves.

Ultimately, one assumes that our wonderful Chancellor is proposing to put some kind of pressure on OPEC for it to pump out more oil (which is questionable in practical terms), presumably, in order for him to tax it to the hilt. After all, what with one thing and another, tax returns are going down, not an unknown phenomenon in economies that are over-taxed in an ever more complicated fashion.

At a recent discussion about flat tax and its advantages (not yet clearly perceived by any main political party in this country, George Osborne’s feeble murmurings nothwithstanding) I was particularly interested to hear Professor David Myddleton of Cranfield University School of Management, an expert on taxation, announce that despite being that and despite lecturing on it for forty years or so, he still could not understand his tax form.

No wonder the Chancellor is looking for another source of revenue.

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