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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower