Miles Kington: Specialist expertise, free from the burden of knowledge

Today, your questions are answered on inheritance tax...
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Q. I recently half-heard an item on the radio saying that Gordon Brown had changed the arrangements for inheritance, making the limits for the surviving spouse's inheritance much higher. What was all that about?

A. Well, it was about Gordon Brown raising the limit for the surviving spouse's inheritance.

Q. Right. Go on.

A. That's it. I only half-heard the item myself. Then it went on to talk about the nil-rate band scheme.

Q. What's that?

A. I'm not sure.

Q. I thought you were meant to be an expert!

A. Oh, no. I'm just the man they get in when the expert is off sick, like right now. In fact, he's not really sick at all. He's off chairing a three-day business seminar in the Midlands, for a lot more money than he gets here, but he has told the paper he's sick. So then they ring me up and get me to cover for him.

Q. Right... What's his business seminar all about?

A. It's about the implications of Gordon Brown's new ruling on inheritance.

Q. Ah ha! So I should really be in the Midlands listening to him!

A. You certainly should. Not that you could afford it... Incidentally, are you married?

Q. What's that got to do with you?

A. You had a question about spouse's inheritance. It's the sort of question which would make more sense if you had a spouse...

Q. I'm with you! Yes, I am married.

A. What is your wife's name?

Q. Hilary.

A. And your name?

Q. Pat.

A. Oh, that's excellent!

Q. Is it? Why?

A. Because they are ambisexual names. Hilary could be a man and Pat a woman.

Q. Y-e-e-s...

A. So, for instance, if it were financially advantageous for your wife to die first, then whichever of you did die first, you could always pretend it was the wife.

Q. You haven't done a lot of this, have you?

A. No. This is my first time out, actually.

Q. What do you do normally?

A. I'm a full-time second string expert. Ballet, basically. If the top ballet man is ill or, more likely, chairing a seminar on ballet injuries for the insurance industry, then I'm in like a shot. I'm also on stand-by for pub reviews, patisserie, pruning and political correctness.

Q. Patisserie? Who on earth would ever want to know about that?

A. You'd be surprised.

Q. Go on, surprise me.

A. The editor.

Q. You're kidding!

A. No. On Sunday Ronnie Corbett was on Desert Island Discs, talking about his father, a master baker, and all the black buns and things he used to make. The editor just happened to hear the programme and was curious to know what a black bun was, so he rang me.

Q. And you knew?

A. Of course not. But it's easy enough to look it up on the internet with one hand while playing for time with the editor with the other...

Q. I see. Thank you.

A. Not at all.

Do you have a question about inheritance, ballet, patisserie, pubs or pruning? Let us have them!

Q. Yes, I have a pub question. When papers do features promising half-price meals at hundreds of different gastropubs, who chooses these pubs? And if these pubs are doing so well, how come they need this sort of business?

A. No, no, you don't understand. We don't want serious question. We just want some stuff we can show the editor as evidence of readership response.