When I announced that the House of Commons would end its Summer Recess and sit again on September 6th, it was not, I suspect, the news my Parliamentary colleagues wanted to hear. Since the election was called on April 6th, there had been no break. The Whitsun Recess had been whittled down to a day, and the House sat late in July, rising on the 27th. MP’s may have been hoping for a Summer Recess of more than five weeks. But there is work to be done, with an ambitious legislative programme, and the Executive must be regularly held to account by the Legislature. And, whatever the views of colleagues, they kept them to themselves, realising public opinion is against long recesses.
Of course, as readers know, when the House is not sitting, MP’s are not “on holiday”. We are diligently attending to the problems of our constituents, which do not go away in August. Aircraft fly low over villages, playgrounds get vandalised, the A303 gets jammed, and dogs chase sheep. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs pursue folk for money which they either don’t owe or haven’t got; and the Child Support Agency never sleeps.
We are off for a week, and the constituency is on auto-pilot. The main objective of our holiday is some gentle relaxation and the ingestion of some culture. But there is a supplementary agenda; to get out of and back to this country without paying another penny to Cheapo Airlines, the carrier that has successful won the Young Holiday Transportation Contract for 2010. In accordance with EU best practice, this went out to tender and the lowest bid has won. But that is not the end of the story.
In the construction industry, once a contract has been signed, the builder then tries to add on extras. This is how he makes his profit. And so with Cheapo Airlines. The failure to tick the relevant box, not once but several times, means that unwanted insurance or priority boarding is purchased. Failure to print out one’s boarding card before arriving at the airport; or arriving with cabin baggage one gram overweight; or carrying a proscribed item likewise generates a fine -often higher than the original cost of the ticket. The name of the game is to get round the obstacle course without knocking over a hurdle. Television programmes have been made about those who fail.
Every precaution has been taken. The size of our cabin luggage is within the dimensions permitted. We have weighed it, and even an allowance in case it gets wet. There are no knives or darts or chainsaws inside. We will arrive within the allotted time, with the necessary documents that correspond with the names on the tickets. To the letter. We don’t mind where we sit and don’t want anything to eat.
We don’t know whether we will escape without paying a supplementary fare. But of one thing we are certain. We will not be responsible for any inflight childbirth – another proscribed activity not tolerated by Cheapo.