Wokingham Times

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks, despite Parliament once again packing up early for a seasonal break. I think Parliament should have met this week, given the wide range of problems people are raising. As I feared, the Coalition’s budget left many people feeling a bit bruised. The bills are coming in to pay for the large increases in public spending and borrowing in recent years. Understandably people are reluctant to have to pay higher taxes and public sector charges themselves to sort the problem out. There is general agreement the rich should pay more, but disagreement about which is the best way to get them to do so. The Coalition say their latest tax proposals will get more out of the richest 1%. The collapse of top Income Tax receipts this year with the 50% higher rate on income indicate they did need to find new ways to do so.

Different people also have different ideas over how much income or wealth makes you rich. On most definitions there is not enough money that can be taken from the rich to pay all the bills. That’s why all sections are being charged more, with the richest taking the biggest hit in cash terms and as a proportion of their incomes. I have to explain to some MPs that an income of £40,000 in Wokingham is far from making someone rich, when you look at the high house prices people have to manage.

I have received a number of emails about a possible further assault on our civil liberties. That is the last thing I want. I am keen that this government should restore and improve our freedoms, as they started to do by cancelling the ID card scheme and reconsidering detention without trial. Mr Clarke’s latest proposal to allow certain evidence from the Intelligence services to be heard in private by a judge to protect the individuals and sources involved has alarmed some. This, believe it or not, is intended to be a small improvement in our freedoms. At the moment some of this secret evidence cannot be heard at all, as it is banned from court use. The idea is to replace some of the present bans on intelligence material and allow a Judge to hear it in private so it can be used in a case. I think I welcome that as a small advance in the right direction.

The government also claims that its wish to make internet service providers keep more records about who we email and which sites we visit for a period of a year does not amount to a win for Big Brother. They say that the authorities will not be able to read our emails without a warrant. The Coalition has scrapped the outgoing government’s idea of a big government database recording all our communications. I will need to study the small print of this proposal. Most of us have no problem with the investigating authorities seeking to track down terrorism or drug crime being able to eavesdrop and monitor the communications of those under suspicion. This should require a independent Judge to issue a warrant to authorise such surveillance. We do have problems with the authorities wanting to keep tabs on millions of law abiding people, and spending public money on large registers and data stores to do just that.

There is a growing suspicion of the state, thanks to the intrusions it makes and the large demands it has on our incomes. All in public sector management have to work hard to ensure the state serves the public well for a realistic cost. There is more to do to bring this about.

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22 Comments

  1. Bernard Otway
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Having done so in South Africa for many years,because my step daughter was the main witness in the sensational Bribery allegations and trials of recent times,going right up to The Presidency,and because our phones were [Hacked I think is the stupid word used here]
    Tapped is the word I use.I shall now access sites and information plus send Emails and all manner of communications designed to completely CONFUSE the followers and listeners,I even sent agents on a wild goose chase of a couple of thousand miles.I urge all lovers of freedom to do the same A BLIZZARD of DISINFORMATION will completely confuse them,AND more importantly take up so much time and wasted effort that it has CONSEQUENCES which will tie them up in KNOTS. AND john before you YET AGAIN
    accuse me of encouraging breaking the law, what I do and shall do is completely legal
    as it would be for anyone who does it.It is sort of like counter intelligence in REAL spying.
    It is no different to GHANDI,S passive resistance,and he is a universally revered figure
    worldwide alongside Mr Mandela.

    • alan jutson
      Posted April 20, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

      Bernard

      I think our security forces are tied up rather well (probably too much if the truth were known) at the moment, dealing with possible real threats to the Country, given that the number of possible terrorists seem to be growing in number, as we do not seem to be able to get rid of them.

      We even seem to have a problem keeping/getting them in prison.

      Given it takes about 20 people just to keep one person under proper surviellance, if that person then contacts just 20 people, it is possible that 400 staff are then tied up if all of those contacts are followed, and if each of those contacts speaks to another 20 !!!!!!

      Our Security forces are in my view, in a nightmare situation already.

  2. Nick
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    It’s going to go tits up.

    When the Bernie Maddoff MP’s can’t admit to their debts because those debts are so large, you know that its full speed ahead into the Iceberg.

    Congratulations too for giving 15 bn to the World Bank. Another 15 bn we won’t see again.

  3. Nick
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    This should require a independent Judge to issue a warrant to authorise such surveillance.

    ==========

    So when are you going to ban councils from doing this?

    http://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/home/2011/09/councils-continue-to-use-ripa.html#.T5GT_qtqeds

    Such are the scale of the powers available under RIPA, these were measures intended to keep the public safe from terrorism and serious crime – where it is a proportionate. Yet time and time again they have been used for trivial and in some cases utterly ridiculous investigations by officials who may well have watched one too many episodes of Spooks.

    The only example Brighton Council could offer where these powers have been used successfully to secure a prosecution was a man accused of graffiti. This is despite Brighton & Hove Council using RIPA investigations 27 times between 2008-10.

    The Coalition Government pledged to restrict the use of RIPA to serious offences, and only where a serious crime was the subject of the investigation. This is an important and necessary change to protect the public from gross intrusions on their privacy that covert surveillance can involve.

    Yep, Laws passed by MPs.

    You can’t be trusted.

    • APL
      Posted April 20, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

      Nick: “You can’t be trusted.”

      They are looking after their own interests, not their constituents interests.

  4. lifelogic
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Never mind £40,000 even £100,000 (without any capital) will not, after tax, buy you a house and feed your family, especially if you have to pay for child care and a car in order to work in the South East.

    Child care, tax, NI, rent the car, council tax and food will tax nearly all of it about 50% will go to the state in all the taxes and your rent might well be £2,000 PM. Why bother say many.

    I have a friend living in Hong Kong who could earn perhaps about £150K in London but it would not let them even buy a house after taxes – so they stay paying 10% tax or similar there with a good standard of living. Why come to the UK to give half to Osborne or have him call you morally repugnant and send you children to probably rather poor state schools.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 20, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      If they want to tax the rich start with a tax on large state sector pensions to even out the iniquity that they are about 10 times the (Gordon Brown mugged) private ones. Then tackle the huge salaries, for all the lefty loons at the BBC, many of whom are paid ten times the going rate for spraying the population with pro EU green lefty tosh. Then sort out company shareholder democracy systems to sort out the over paid and often useless directors. Then the shareholders can get rid of them, and start the businesses expanding, making money and giving shareholders and pension funds value again.

    • lojolondon
      Posted April 21, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      50%?????? I would LOVE to pay 50% tax!!

      Your company has a budget of £100k to pay you (plus benefits).

      100k income tax at 38% = 62k
      62k NI at 14% = 53k
      53k Employers NI at 14% = 45k
      45k VAT at 20% = 36k (you pay VAT on NEARLY everything)
      Additional tax on petrol, alcohol, cigarettes ?
      Local (council) tax 2-3kpa = 33k.

      So from the 36k you have, minus 3k for council tax, a non-drinking, non-smoking, non-driver with no corporate benefits will pay AT LEAST 77% tax.

      • uanime5
        Posted April 21, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        Given that NI is 12% if you earn under £817 and 2% if you earn over £817 it can’t be as high as 14%.

        http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/paye/rates-thresholds.htm

        Also as employer’s NI is paid by companies if you want to represent a company paying their employees a lower salary because of employer’s NI you have to deduct it from the salary before you deduct income tax and NI.

        • Bazman
          Posted April 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

          Bear in mind that these are the same people that are against six quid as a minimum wage, but cry a river for people on 100k a year.

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 22, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        NI is capped other than the 2% is it not? But I agree in the main and you still missed out land fill tax, stamp duty, IHT, carbon tax, insurance tax & many, many others and all the time taken to comply with all these complex taxes and mad rules too.

  5. A Different Simon
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Quote “I have to explain to some MPs that an income of £40,000 in Wokingham is far from making someone rich, when you look at the high house prices people have to manage.”

    The problem is that MP’s seem to think the solution to this conundrum is increasing wages rather than providing affordable accomodation .

    Are your colleagues aware that those people earning £40,000 have to pay for their own pensions as well ?

    • A Different Simon
      Posted April 20, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

      (out of that £40,000)

  6. forthurst
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    “There is a growing suspicion of the state”

    For many people it has gone well beyond that. People should also study and be aware of how a criminal caucus, originating within banksterism and using its ill gotten wealth, which it originally used to finance the Bolshevik coup d’etat, has subverted the US Constitution in order to destroy the freedoms and safeguards it contains. As we appear to be jumping to the orders of the aforementioned criminal clique when it comes to foreign policy and in agreeing to co-operate with the revocation of legal safeguards including the treatment of prisoners that have existed for centuries, even whilst we were under kingly rule, whilst at the same time handwringing about the impotence wrought upon us by the ‘uman right act, every attempt at subverting the rights and freedoms of English people should be viewed with extreme alarm.

    Tim Berners-Lee, has been reported in the DT to oppose state snooping; his argument is unanswerable and should be studied by all legislators:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/9210576/Sir-Tim-Berners-Lee-email-snooping-plan-should-be-dropped.html

    He also has attacked laws designed to buttress the music industry’s obsolete business model; there again he is spot on. This also deserves study.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/9214095/Sir-Tim-Berners-Lee-criticises-the-music-industry.html

    Tim Berners-Lee is an extremely intelligent man who has given the world a lot; he deserved to be taken seriously, as opposed to those who drivel on about gay marriage etc.

  7. John C
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    “At the moment some of this secret evidence cannot be heard at all, as it is banned from court use”

    Why do we have this obsession with not allowing intercept evidence into courts?

    The US have done this for years and used it as a major tool to crack down on organised crime.

    With the NSA, the US are the eves-droppers in chief.

    The usual answer is that it would reveal our techniques. As a judge is supposed to authorise all “wire taps”, and every terrorist worthy of the name would be alert to standard interception techniques, does this mean that the real reason we don’t allow evidence is because we have obtained it via methods not covered by current legislation? (That is, illegally.)

    Personally, I believe that it is because the intelligence services are getting a lot of information from “illegal” intercepts. Illegal in that the method used is not strictly covered by current legislation, but, if it were known about, would probably fall under the “spirit” of current legislation.

    Our ancestors will know, long after all of us have gone.

  8. JimF
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure people are asking all the rich to pay more. I think people realise that there are many rich folk for whom it is in the country’s interests that their wealth isn’t confiscated by the government.

    There is much talk about the 1%. Dissecting this 1%, I think few people would deny rewards to talented self-made businessmen, sports stars, film or music stars who are gifted and passionate about their work. These people might have say between 10 million and several hundred million Sterling in property, businesses and investments. A considerable portion could be in their own business, and when it makes profits, Corporation tax is paid. Their time is by and large taken with their passion, and isn’t harming anyone. They employ people and enthuse them with their passion for their enterprise.

    Few people would resent the riches enjoyed by people who have risked their own money on a risky venture which has been successful – whether this is a business venture, the lottery or pools.

    On the other hand, there are the rich who enthuse more about their ability to milk the system than about using any skill or unique business or entertaining ability. Into this category fall those folk who work for an external organisation and are able to take it to the cleaners with pay-offs and compensation of one sort or another for not working. They might not have many millions or billions, but equally they’ve created nothing except aggravation and a black hole for the taxpayer. These people are normally politically adept, and able to influence those in government with taxpayers’ cash to part with it.

    Then there are the “skimmers”- bank employees, property, investment and insurance guys who earn commissions or margins based on a ponzi scheme or confidence scam. They’ve put no money up, and their only real skill is selling an idea thought up by somebody else to a naive public based on government backing in one way or another. They’re also the ones who throw their hands in the air when the house of cards falls down.

    I think the public separate the wheat from the chaff so far as the rich go, but it suits politicians to lump them together for confiscatory purposes.

  9. JimF
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    State snooping:
    When the Berlin Wall fell, we were unsurprised to learn that state snooping in the GDR happened, but most people felt that that was a symptom of a hostile political system which would never be seen again in our lifetime in Europe. We wondered what justfication the GDR could possibly have had for needing to intrude on peoples’ daily lives in the way it did.

    We’re now surprisingly close to what seemed so creepy then. It’s made less personal, because our neighbours aren’t being used by the State-they’ve been replaced by programs which pick up on our communications and whereabouts. It all adds up to the same thing.

  10. Trevor Butler
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Quote “I have to explain to some MPs that an income of £40,000 in Wokingham is far from making someone rich, when you look at the high house prices people have to manage.”
    You’ve got that right!
    We are living in Wokingham like paupers and are soon to be exiled further out as we cannot afford the current rental levels.
    You haven’t mentioned the cost of the daily commute into London or the dis -proportionate council tax (or should I call it tithe?).
    Sometimes I wonder why I get up in the mornings.

  11. oap
    Posted April 21, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    I agree with previous posters about the ever increasing powers of the state and its army of snoopers. The internet, and Berners-Lee knows this better than anyone as the man who invented the www, provides the 21stC equivalent means of snooping so brilliantly exposed in the German film The Lives of Others. This film revealed the communist E Germany`s approach to surveillance using 20thC technology.

    In the past I have had reason to believe that my phone was bugged. Indeed the business I then worked in took the precaution of installing elaborate phone scramblers as a precautionary measure. These days, it seems to me, that private individuals are even more exposed to intrusion. Too much of this is officially sanctioned.

  12. david
    Posted April 21, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Continual erosion of personal freedoms is the result of weak governance. Furthermore, it takes a pretty pathetic political party to fail to achieve a working majority after years of misery inflicted by Nu-Labour. Nevertheless, the current incumbents, despite pre-election assurances, have basically followed Nu-Labour’s lead regarding personal liberty, including that associated with lifestyle choices. And it’s not as though anyone actually voted for this government. It really does make one wonder who, exactly, is calling the shots. Certainly not traditional Conservatives who, like grass roots socialists, have been betrayed by their leaders.

  13. S. Donald
    Posted April 21, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    ” I am keen that the Government should improve and restore our freedoms ”
    Well said Mr Redwood however as a long standing conservative voter, I would have expected this to be the case but unfortunately it would appear that nothing,s changed.
    Minimum price for alcohol is not going to have any effect on Binge drinking . Tobacco display and now plain packaging will have no effect on youngsters smoking. Political correctness. Nothing less and is it acceptable for £500.000 to be used to advertise and promote plain packets using NHS funds?
    Then there is the plight of the pubs. Alcohol price escalator. Smoking ban. It would appear the Government is doing everything in their power to close them down. Why?
    The only thing this Government is doing is making more and more ordinary citizens extremely angry.

  14. ButcombeMan
    Posted April 21, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Those who have railed against the new proposals (details to come-so they would be wise to wait) or even the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), have just not understood enough of the history to comment with any wisdom.

    John Redwood is wise to say he will read the small print. I would just point out that currently Interception Warrants are not signed by a Judge but by a politician. A situation with which the Conservative Party has historically been content. What is ceratinly clear is that the variety of modern electronic communication methods are slowly degrading the ability of the Security Services and Law Enforcement in their efforts to keep us all safe. If the increased data retention requirements do not go ahead, that degradation will accelerate.

    There are four stages to the use of electronic contact data.

    1. Ensuring it is collected in a useable form and held for a reasonable amount of time.

    2. The creation of a proportional access authorisation system and mechanisms for CONTACT (but not CONTENT) data.

    3. A suitable, proportional accesss authorisation system for CONTENT data.

    4. An oversight mechanism that reports to parliament and public.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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