Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has noted the lack of elephants in Argyll and Bute after a new Bill which would compel online retailers to detail their delivery charges to the Highlands and Islands was blocked at Westminster - despite having the support of most of Scotland’s MPs.
Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? Well, it is - until you realise that Mr Russell was responding after the hypothetical use of elephants to deliver to the Highlands was raised by one MP opposed to the new proposal.
The Delivery Surcharges (Transparency for Consumers) Bill, brought forward by Sir Robert Smith, the Liberal Democrat MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, aimed to give consumers upfront information when ordering goods online, including surcharges for delivery to rural areas, but has been blocked in the House of Commons.
Mr Russell cited the words of Christopher Chope, the Conservative MP for Christchurch in Dorset, as evidence of the bizarre arguments put forward by opponents of the Bill.
Mr Chope said: “Are we really going to start penalising online retailers by saying that if they do not provide all the information upfront as soon as the customer clicks on to their website then they will be subject to a criminal assessment?
“Apart from anything else, common sense dictates that it is only at the end of a transaction that one knows the bulk and scale of the products ordered. The retailer may offer a range of different products, some of which can be delivered by Royal Mail and some that might need to be transported by an elephant.
“It is only at the end of the transaction that the online retailer will be in a position to say what will be a reasonable charge. The Bill, therefore, is completely over the top.”
Mr Russell said in response; “These comments show both arrogance and a complete lack of understanding of the issues faced by consumers in rural araeas.
“I am not aware of herds of elephants crossing the Rest and Be Thankful with deliveries, in fact I am pretty sure there are no elephants in Argyll and Bute. It is far from unreasonable for rural consumers to know upfront what charges they are facing when ordering goods.
“I am disappointed that this Bill has been blocked. My constituents raise this matter with me often and it highlights the disadvantage that rural communities sometimes suffer at the hands of the London-centric system.”