Letter: Cherie Blair's warning on poll tax jailing

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The Independent Online
Sir: Institutions such as ours exist to promote debate and study among professionals for the public benefit. Cherie Booth [Cherie Blair's professional name], a leading barrister in local authority cases, was invited by us to speak at our enforcement conference in Telford last March precisely for this reason, and did a very good job ("MPs back Blair's wife over legal advice", 23 January). She was particularly strong on the dangers involved in local authorities going too quickly to seek committal to prison for people who wilfully and deliberately evaded their local taxes. She gave a clear and authoritative paper on the proper procedures tobe followed.

Like all our speakers at conferences, whether representatives of anti-poll tax unions, bailiffs or others involved in the increasingly difficult and sensitive process of administering and collecting taxes, or making benefit payments associated with them,Ms Booth was paid a fee in recognition of the time taken to prepare her paper and her absence from her London office.

I cannot comment on any individual case in the courts as I have no detailed information; but there is nothing in Ms Booth's presentation for this institute which deserves censure, or indeed (had her husband not been elected leader of the Labour Party some three months later) the slightest comment.

Yours truly, COLIN FARRINGTON Director Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation London, WC1

23 January