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Tuesday 13 December 2011
Letters: Wanted – a rich taxpayer with morals
Many of the really wealthy make arrangements to avoid paying taxes. They seem to think of themselves as "global citizens", with houses in many different countries – and they don't pay enough tax in any country. Giving more to charity is excellent, but not an alternative to tax.
Our taxes pay for education, roads, police, health emergencies, waste disposal, border controls, defence, foreign policy, pensions, care services – and these facilities benefit everyone. If you don't pay your rightful taxes, you are not paying for your ticket to live here. We need a national effort to make people realise that the UK is worth paying for. It should be a cause for personal shame not to pay sufficient tax.
We need some of the really rich to trail-blaze by announcing publicly that they enjoy living in Britain and that they are acknowledging this by paying the proportion of tax that they should. After all, if you have £50m and pay 40 per cent tax, you still have £30m left.
And if the richest paid the same proportion as the rest of us, the Government budget would be transformed.
Alison L Willott
The debate on how to restrain self-rewarding directors of companies appears to ignore the existence of the taxation system.
Why should we need special legislation for this, as proposed by Nick Clegg? If we had a properly progressive taxation system, and the willingness on the part of government actually to prevent tax evasion and avoidance, excess remuneration could be readily captured for the Treasury.
Does anyone really need to be rewarded with millions of pounds a year, and more millions going into their pension funds, when the pension funds of their employees have been shut down? Does anyone need more than £150,000 a year on which to live (about 10 times more than the take-home pay left from my pension after tax)?
As for the threats that "skilled people" will leave these shores in droves, let's call their bluff: there are plenty of people of talent around to fill their places – and they know it.
Perhaps a reasonable guideline for bankers' salaries should be the salaries of the vice chancellors of our leading universities. Surely they work as hard and need as much talent to reach their academic positions?
In turn perhaps junior bankers' salaries, currently around a million pounds a year, could be equated to the salaries of the heads of secondary schools who have hard and responsible jobs.
Youths entering educational careers do so to help others learn. Youths entering banking do so presumably to help themselves earn.
But why should there be a huge discrepancy between monetary rewards? Neither schools nor banks actually produce any tangible products such as making computers or growing food.
As Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says (5 December), we are most definitely not "all in this together".
The Sunday Times Rich List for this year showed that the 20 richest people in the UK have access to around £120bn. They could make unnecessary the £81bn spending cuts and tax rises of £29bn proposed by the Government, preventing untold misery – and they would still have half a billion pounds each to scrape by on.
Don't drive oldies off the buses
Nick Clegg thinks the senior bus pass should be means tested (report, 5 December). But the extension of the bus pass to cover the whole of England was not intended to be a financial benefit, but to reduce congestion by enticing us oldies out of our cars.
I started travelling by bus again when I got my bus pass, not because I could not afford the fare, but because it meant there was no longer the hassle of understanding how bus fares are paid. Do you need exactly the right fare or can you get change? If you need the exact fare, how much will it be? What is the name of the stop where I want to get off?
Of course you can quickly learn the answers to these questions for your local service and your regular journeys but every time you go to a different town the answers are different. If they take my bus pass away, I shall have a quick argument with my conscience, my conscience will lose, and I shall be back in the car.
Michael A Isserlis
Changes to DLA
The figures you quoted about 200,000 disabled children missing out on DLA top-ups from next April are incorrect (report, 12 December). There are no changes to DLA in April which would cause this to happen.
At present the system of disability support is a tangled mess of elements, premiums and add-ons which fail to target support to those most in need, is highly prone to error and baffling for disabled people themselves.
Our reforms will create a simpler and fairer system. More importantly there will be no cash losers at the point of transition to Universal Credit, and disabled adults in greatest need and some disabled children will actually receive more support than now.
Minister for Disabled People, Department for Work and Pensions
This morning I went into my local branch of HSBC to pay some Christmas money into the Child Trust Funds of two of my great-nephews. I filled in the paying-in slips, presented them to the cashier with two £20 notes (one for each). Response? "I'm sorry, we don't take cash."
Have we finally found ourselves in Looking Glass Land?
Cameron right not to join club whose rules we can't obey
Criticism of Mr Cameron for refusing to join the rest of Europe in a treaty to stabilise the euro ignores a few uncomfortable truths.
Had we joined the euro in 2000 we would most certainly have had to leave in order to devalue our way out of the banking crisis. We are too big to bail out, and we would not have been. The euro crisis would have come earlier, and the euro might already be dead.
Just because the other EC members give notice that they intend to sign a stabilisation treaty does not mean that they will all sign it, that they should all sign it, or that it will work even if they do. Several countries may find it impossible to embrace German frugality, certainly not with the speed and enthusiasm required to stabilise market confidence and save the currency.
There is no obvious reason to believe that a commitment to prudence and financial rectitude by Greece or Italy would carry much weight with lenders, but that seems to be all they are being offered. There is every chance the treaty will make no difference. The euro may fail despite it.
Cameron had the decency not to sign up to join a club whose rules the UK could not observe. Others might usefully consider following his example.
Nicholas Faith's sentiments in "The selfish city won't repay a national sacrifice" (10 December) were echoed by Tom Keene, US anchorman of Bloomberg News TV channel. He asked his European correspondent "Did the UK use its veto to save the jobs of Goldman Sachs employees?"
Salen, Isle of Mull
The City accounts for 2.5 per cent of GDP, the financial services sector as a whole accounts for 10 per cent. To safeguard this, we have mortgaged our children's future and gambled away our leadership over the direction of Europe.
The manufacturing sector also contributes 10 per cent of GDP. What would they have achieved with even a fraction of this kind of political and financial backing?
The Government exercised no veto when the EU's ultra-free-market procurement rules led to the Thameslink train contract being awarded to a German company rather than Bombardier in Derby. But it has marginalised Britain in order to protect the banks from regulation.
The concept of "nation" is a relatively recent one, and David Cameron's decision in Brussels seems to have taken us back to the rule of "dynasties", not this time the dynasty of a ruling royal family, but the new dynasty of ex-Etonian, landed gentry and heads of financial services. They can only be expected to serve their own interests.
To prevent errors of judgement in the middle of the night, doctors' duty hours are restricted by law. Shouldn't the EU Working Time Directive apply to the masters as well as the servants?
Dr John Doherty
Milly's phone was hacked; by whom?
Stephen Glover writes that our July story about the hacking of Milly Dowler's voicemail was not true (12 December). He is wrong about that.
We reported that the News of the World had hired a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, to hack into the voicemail of the missing girl; he had succeeded; reporters had listened to her messages; Surrey police had known this at the time and taken no action; some messages were deleted; as a result the Dowlers were given false hope that Milly was still alive.
New evidence has now confirmed that the police were right to believe all of that, and we were right to report it. But one element has shifted. The police can no longer be sure exactly who caused the particular deletions which led to that "false hope" moment. In July, all parties agreed that it was the News of the World. We had that confirmed directly or indirectly from Scotland Yard, Surrey police, the Dowler family, and even by Mulcaire who apologised for what he had done.
The police now say that they believe Mulcaire had not been tasked when those deletions occurred. He was surprised but delighted to be told that. Police have looked at various alternative theories. There is evidence that a senior News of the World journalist at the time claimed to have been hacking the girl's voicemail without Mulcaire's help. But as things stand, they cannot be sure how it happened.
The police have updated the record. We have updated our story. It is simply misleading to take this development and to pretend that that means our story was not true. The hacking of that abducted schoolgirl's phone was, as the Prime Minister said, "disgusting", and there are serious questions about how the police failure to deal with it at the time. As a paper, The Independent has done its bit to expose the hacking saga. It is a shame that Stephen Glover still wants to play the denial game.
'The Guardian', London N1
A modest proposal for budget airlines
Ryanair seeks to change passenger behaviour (report, 10 December) by raising the costs of checked-in baggage. Surely with a sliding scale for the combined weight of each passenger and his baggage, which is the decisive factor in terms of determining the maximum payload for an aircraft, they could change our behaviour in more ways than one.
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