Sunday, 3 February 2008

Greedy Britain!!

In the past decade the gulf between rich and poor has widened.  Proportionally, the poor pay more in taxes than the rich and the super-rich.  It appears that we increasingly live in a society where 'to him that hath, shall more be given'.  After 'Cool Britannia', we now have 'Greedy Britannia'.  Is this a reflection of what the Tories call 'Broken Britain' and are we becoming an obese society in financially as well as physically?  The past few months suggest that this is the case especially in the ranks of parliamentarians who establish rules to deal with sleaze and then proceed regularly to ignore them...sorry it was an administrative oversight.  The Conway affair is only the tip of the iceberg and I suspect that some MPs are thinking 'there but for the grace of God...'

The issue of MPs' expenses can be easily dealt with by three measures.  First, they should not be allowed to employ any member of their family or extended family in their parliamentary or  political activities.  So no sons, daughters, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, nieces or nephews.  Employing people should be by open application and interview.  Secondly, their expenses should be audited annually and published and I don't mean a sample of MPs, I mean all.  This should also be extended to include members of the House of Lords.  Thirdly, any MP or peer found to be corrupt in their parliamentary activities, should be expelled from Parliament.  The question of party funding again can be solved relatively easily.  I am not in favour of public funding of political parties, perhaps the easiest solution.  Put simply, donations to political parties should only come from individual party members and should be limited to £10,000 per year.  No donations should be allowed from organisations at all: so nothing from business or the trade unions.  This should be backed up by punitive fines on political parties that ignore the rules: any party found in breach of the rules on party funding should be fined £1 million for each offence.  This may appear draconian but in the world beyond Westminster, individuals found to be corrupt in their employment would be sacked and probably prosecuted.  MPs and peers should be treated precisely the same.

Which brings me to the rich and the super-rich.  Taxing them at 40 per cent is obscenely low.  I'm not suggesting moving back to the punitive 90 per cent tax rates that existed in the 1960s.  However, taxing anyone who earns more than £100,000 a year at 50 per cent and 60 per cent over £250,000 does not seem unreasonable and might do something to reduce the yawning gulf between rich and poor as well as bringing in additional revenue.   Combined with raising inheritance tax, this would be politically popular as well as a move towards a financially fairer society.  You never now, it might lead to a sleaker and less greedy Britain!

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