Diary: Blame Thatcher for tax avoidance scandal

 

The startling revelation that some of the highest-paid civil servants have turned themselves into private limited companies to avoid income tax is the latest manifestation of something that began many years ago.

Margaret Thatcher, as we know, believed in inequality of income as a spur to ambition – but 1981, when the UK was in the grip of a recession worse than the current one, was no time to be upping the salaries of people who were already comparatively well paid.

Under pressure to raise MPs' pay, which was not keeping pace with inflation, the Thatcher government introduced the system by which their income was supplemented with generous expenses, thus laying the first seeds of the MPs' expenses scandal.

In yesterday's Yorkshire Post, Mrs Thatcher's former press secretary Bernard Ingham, who was a civil servant, not a political adviser, revealed that her government was also the first to introduce Whitehall mandarins to the bonus culture.

"During the Thatcher years, it was decided to motivate civil servants with filthy lucre," he wrote. "In No 10 they decided that I, as chief press secretary, ought to be incentivised. So I was given a bonus, subject to annual review. I have no recollection of how much it was – so it wasn't much of an incentive – or what it was paid for unless it was for not falling asleep on the job. They kept paying it until I retired."

From expenses that are salary top-ups in disguise and bonuses that do not have to be earned, it is but a short step to manipulating the system to avoid tax.

Jumping the gun on Scots independence

A classic typing error flashed up on screen yesterday as the BBC News channel gave live coverage to David Cameron's speech on Scottish independence. Summing up the Prime Minister's argument in a sentence, the caption read: "Scottish Independence: the United Kingdom is a previous thing." What a difference one letter can make.

Cornwall asserts its ancient rights

Legislation to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 at the next election has many opponents, but only one that argues its case by citing a law passed more than 1,000 years ago.

The legislation's rigid arithmetic makes it impossible for Cornwall to have an exact number of parliamentary constituencies, so it will have five and a half, the "half" being a new seat straddling the Cornwall-Devon border.

The Cornish Stannary Parliament, a pressure group claiming to be a revival of the body that administered Cornwall until 1753, has issued a statement warning that this is contrary to ancient law, giving the society no choice but to overrule Westminster. The statement claims: "The national border between Kernow (Cornwall) and Wessex was firmly established to be at the eastern bank of the River Tamar for all time by an agreement between Hywel (King of Kernow) and Athelstan (King of Wessex) in the year AD936."

Argue your way out of that one, Mr Cameron.

Time for PM to show who's boss

Brian Binley, a Tory member of the Commons Business Select Committee, is not pleased with Vince Cable's choice of Les Ebdon, a man he accuses of wanting "to sacrifice academic excellence for the sake of pointless targets and political correctness", as the man who will keep watch over how universities select their student intake.

But his anger, it appears, is aimed not so much at the newly appointed Director of Fair Access, or at the Business Secretary who appointed him, as at David Cameron, for letting them get away with it. "Every bone in David Cameron's body should be screaming out against this ridiculous and dangerous state of affairs," Mr Binley wrote on his blog yesterday.

Mr Binley also issued a press release which contained this ringing insult: "The Prime Minister needs to get a grip and cease leaving the impression that his agenda is determined by the imprint of the last Liberal Democrat who sat on him."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?