1 April 2012
Sometimes you need to get in your retaliation early. The answer to anyone in government who thinks we need an email tax is No, No, No.
These things begin for the most plausible of reasons. The Business Department is saying emails are now doing huge damage to the public investment in the Royal Mail. As they grapple with the problem with higher stamp charges, the wish is to hit the free private sector rival with a tax to show that emails are not harmless or costless competitors.
I think maybe the idea started in the Climate Change department . Apparently regular use of emails and websites means people are keeping on their computers for many more hours, so much more power is used with all the consequent carbon dioxide effects that produces at the power stations.
Meanwhile the Treasury never needs much encouraging when someone suggests a new and very buoyant source of revenue, especially one where there is a clear record of use which you cannot erase unless you smash your computer hard drive. Even Number 10 is said to be considering it, despite the obvious downside of its unpopularity, because they hope it can be angled in a way which stops so much unhelpful blogging and comment. Wouldn’t people think twice before being rude about the government if there was a tax on it?
I guess Ministers know it would be unpopular. I expect they will deny it if asked prematurely. They will probably say it is the privileged who are digitally enriched and dominate in the email stakes. The very poor after all may be on the wrong side of the digital divide and will not have to pay a penny of this tax. They will also doubtless have some large figures for the amount of carbon they could save by getting the nation to ration their use of the email and websites.
Ministers will wish, of course, to keep quiet the growing pressure for an EU directive regulating email traffic on a cross border basis and endorsing a tax on them, as they appreciate this would get in the way of a fair hearing for this idea amongst Eurosceptic newspapers and voters in the UK.
I am afraid I am supporter of free speech in this case. Free speech should mean just that. I do not want to have to pay a levy every time I send an email or put out a blog entry. I invite my readers to join me in getting in our retaliation fast. Today’s the day to do it, don’t put it off til tomorrow. I am very grateful to a Parliamentary colleague for giving me the tip off about this idea.