Thank you for your excellent coverage of HSBC and tax evasion. I imagine the law firms will be pre-ordering their new Bentleys and Rollers in anticipation of the many libel suits that will be levelled by the tax evaders should they ever be named. The UK is the most profitable place on earth for that kind of litigation.
But beneath all this marvellous theatre are two fundamental truths. The first is that this is how England is run, has always been run, and always will be run. None of the many tax havens, Bermuda, Jersey, Bahamas etc, which the English set up a century ago, has been censured, or subject to any form of inquiry at all. Switzerland is just a big link in that chain. The great families who own the land and the money in England put their money there, and who is going to stop them? They are the real Government.
The second truth is that the UK government does not actually want the tax money. If they were to really go for the crooks to get it, they would then, coffers refilled, have to spend it on, ah, welfare, state education, the health service, a living wage, a legal aid system, a rehabilitative prison system, and the rest.
This is anathema. Nothing will change.
It used to be the case that if the Revenue suspected non-declaration of income they would make an estimate of what had not been declared and raise an assessment based on that. The taxpayer then had the task of proving the assessment wrong or paying up.
Trying to dispute the assessment would mean more declaration of income and probably produce evidence for prosecution. It would appear from what little we actually know that this system is not being used. Why is this so?
As I recall, this is the type of system that was used to put Al Capone away.
Maresfield, East Sussex
Court fees hike will hit small businesses
Your article on small businesses being driven to bankruptcy (11 February) is timely, as the number of insolvencies could well rise from April when the Government increases some court fees by 600 per cent for recovering debt.
Small and medium-sized businesses use courts to recover invoices from larger companies amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds. They do not have the funds to pay court fees of up to £10,000 when their cash flow and overdraft are stretched.
We have surveyed our member solicitors. Their overwhelming view is that small and medium-sized businesses may fold if debtors fail to pay monies due, knowing that they cannot afford to seek redress through the courts.
The UK prides itself on its entrepreneurs, but the hikes in court fees could cause problems for the small and medium-sized companies that play a vital role in our economic recovery.
In the 800th anniversary year of Magna Carta, a restriction on access to justice means an ineffective rule of law, affecting both the business community and us all.
President, The Law Society, London WC2
Ukraine: Russia is not the aggressor
The Western media and Western politicians like to present the situation in Ukraine as that of a country trying to defend itself against the foreign aggressor, Russia. There is a tendency to forget that the democratically elected pro-Russian president was forced to resign by pressure from pro-European protesters. The pro-Russian sympathisers were concentrated in the east and understandably Putin would support the people in the east rebelling against the new unelected president.
The West protested strongly at the annexation of Crimea and has used that as justification for crippling sanctions, despite the seriously overwhelming support for Russia by the Crimean population. The people in east Ukraine would, in all probability, be pleased if their area became integrated into the Russian Federation.
Before we see further escalation of the war, with the US joining in by proxy, the people in the east should be asked for their view. And we should not forget that Ukraine was part of Russia for many years before becoming part of the USSR. At one time, Kiev was the capital of Russia.
King’s Lynn, Norfolk
I very much agree with the points made by Stan Matthias concerning our armed services’ involvement in recent wars (letter, 11 February). Another, and, in my view, more telling, point, is that our entire army could be contained within Wembley Stadium, with everyone having a seat, and room to spare. Hardly a host to strike fear and trembling into the Kremlin.
Why this puny, cowardly approach of only wanting two wars at once: the Middle Eastern skirmishes and a major world war with Russia? I propose we enlist all the surviving disabled, jobless, single mothers and other scroungers and send them off to invade China.
That would put the Great back into Britain, and distract the electorate from collapsing NHS hospitals, continual revelations of abuse and corruption and the total failure of austerity to deliver.
No earthly penalty for blasphemy
It is not surprising that some British Muslims gathered in London to protest against the satirical depictions of the Prophet Mohamed in Charlie Hebdo. This belated assembly, that was deliberately gender-segregated not on the basis of the Holy Koran but according to the dictates of Indo-Pakistani and Saudi culture, was apparently designed to “protect the honour” of Islam’s founder.
However, these protesters and other Muslims need to be reminded that Mohamed does not require them to defend him, and nor is there any specified “crime” of blasphemy in the Koran. Indeed, the sacred scripture confirms that Mohamed was regularly mocked and ridiculed by his pagan opponents.
But it tells Muslims that they should shun offensive company and that ultimate judgment is God’s exclusive preserve in the Hereafter (74:11). There is no earthly penalty for those who deride and disparage either Islam or its Prophet.
It would have been far more productive in terms of community cohesion in this country for the protesters to have demonstrated against the unprecedented savagery unleashed by Isis and other Utopian-minded bloodthirsty fanatics like the Taliban, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda in the name of Islam.
Muslims attending the gender-divided gathering only confirmed that they are not integrated in British society by embracing the non-Koranic theology of headscarves, face-masking (niqab), bushy beards and pyjama-like male dress. These are all emblems of ultra-conservative Muslim fundamentalism that is often the pathway to violent extremism.
Dr T Hargey
Director, Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford
Let London count as a nation
The Welsh nationalist party leader Leanne Wood says that in the event of a referendum on EU membership, Plaid Cymru would submit an amendment that would “require that for the UK to leave the EU, each of the four constituent nations, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, would have to vote to do so, not just the UK as a whole”.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have devolved governments, but England does not. London, however, does have a devolved government and as big a population as Scotland and Wales together, and every bit as much of a desire to remain in the EU. London, too, should have a vote on the issue.
Ban this dangerous sado-masochistic film
Pornography is a powerful teacher of behaviours and beliefs. It can teach, as psychiatrist Mary Anne Layden has observed, “not only specific sexual behaviours, but general attitudes toward women and children”.
There is a widespread advertising campaign now in train for the film 50 Shades of Grey. We are told this features sado-masochistic sex, domination and submission.
Truly we need another Mary Whitehouse to inaugurate a new Festival of Light. We also need authorities who have the courage simply to ban films or other material which is potentially dangerous.
The Rev Andrew McLuskey
Charles is right about the arms trade
If Prince Charles really does wish to stop promoting our arms to the Arab world, and furthermore would have the authority to convince our foolish politicians of the wisdom of this act, then I think we would all rather warm to him as King, whatever his other failings.