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."

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

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little