Monday, 4 February 2008

Remember the Hamiltons?

Remember Neil and Christine? That's right, those two. Well, Derek Conway and his devoted wife are digging themselves further and further into exactly the same hole: We've done nothing in the least bit wrong, oh and by the way MPs are grossly underpaid...'

And now Nick and Ann are at it too. No, not that couple from TV AM all those years ago, but a singularly unpleasant pair of Tory MPs, who have some nice little tax-avoidance scheme up and running all funded through their parliamentary expenses. They're in the club too, the we've-done-nothing-wrong club.

What chance they'll start handing out MPs' expenses as cash stuffed in brown paper envelopes?

Actually the Winterton tax-dodge is something that needs addressing beyond the straitened circumstances our MPs seem to all be in these days. Inheritance tax is one of the few taxes that should enjoy widespread support; it should redistribute the excesses of the wealthy among the rest of us over a period of time. But the really well-off don't pay it. A good lawyer and accountant soon render it unnecessary. At the top end of the market, the royal family are a good example of how it works. The queen pays tax, or so we're told. But when she dies, you can be jolly sure that her private wealth won't trouble the taxman one iota, and exactly the same goes for the early retirement pension scheme her son belongs to (the Duchy of Cornwall, isn't it?). But you don't need that level of wealth to benefit from such wheezes, just the sort of sums a couple of MPs are able to winkle out of their pay and allowances over a few years.

There's only been one beneficiary of this latest bout of Tory sleaze, and it certainly isn't that cuddly Mr Cameron. So come on Gordon, take the initiative for once and act now - make these 'trusts' subject to the same tax rules as the rest of us; or better still, just make them illegal full-stop.

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