LETTER: Paying for the public good

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From Mr Graham Watson, MEP

Sir: Andrew Marr's article ("Why Paddy can spend, spend, spend", 20 September) suggests that the UK cannot afford the tax rises Liberal Democrats fear may be necessary to improve public services. He writes that the British electorate "is very heavily taxed".

Figures released this month by Eurostat show that in terms of GDP share, UK citizens paid less than anyone else in the EU in taxes and social payments in 1994. The UK is bottom of the list, with a 33.8 per cent share, lower than Spain (35.8 per cent) and Ireland (37.6 per cent). The EU average is 41.7 per cent.

Liberal Democrats have made clear that raising taxes would be used only as a last resort. While it may be true that "ordinary Britons already feel overtaxed and cheated by the Conservatives", it is mistaken of Mr Marr to dismiss as "tosh" the claim that people are prepared to pay for the public services, such as education, on which the future of the country depends.

Yours sincerely,

Graham Watson

MEP for Somerset and

North Devon (Lib Dem)