Monday, February 11, 2008

Digby attacks Brown but Mr Cameron needs to develop his thinking too...

I had that Lord Digby in the back of my cab once,
left by the bleedin' windaw 'e did ...

I've always had a soft spot for the bombastic (Lord) Digby Jones, one time Director General of the CBI and currently working as one Gordon Brown's GOATS (non-political members of the "government of all the talents"), - unlike the hangers on, he has spent his time actually doing something useful in terms of leaving the usual politics aside and is banging the drum for British industry overseas. Apart from banging the drum for British industry, Jones tells an amusing story when he first entered the government; the trade minister recounts how, the morning after his promotion to the government, he was due to give an early-morning interview at the BBC. When he opened his front door at 5am, there was no sign of the car he had been promised. He called the BBC producer, who replied: "What do you mean? I've just spoken to the driver who's two minutes away from the studio, and apparently you're in the back." When the car returned, Lord Jones was confronted with the imposter: out stumbled a man wearing a filthy T-shirt, a baseball cap and carrying a can of beer. So, Lord Jones explained, when he attends grand state occasions, he quickly reminds himself: "Somewhere in London, probably sleeping under the arches near King's Cross, is a guy who thinks he's Digby Jones."
As a near independant, Jones has chosen to speak out on the vexed issue of 'non-doms', that is British citizens with interests abroad can register for "non domiciled" status, meaning they do not pay tax on earnings made outside the United Kingdom. In an effort to raise money to plug holes in public finances, the Treasury plans to make them pay up to £1 billion every year. Under plans due to take effect in April, anyone who has claimed non-dom status for seven of the past 10 years will have to pay an annual fee of £30,000. All sorts of estimates are flying around however with some commentators estimating that as the mega-rich rearrange their tax affairs or even leave the UK, that the tax take could be neutral or even fall!
One might conclude that all this has the hallmarks of a new Labour cock-up- and so it does...accept the Tories need to do some thinking too! George Osborne has unveiled a remarkably similar proposal (in fact he announced his before Darling) threatning to tax 'non-doms' £25k. Now thatcherite Michael Fallon, a senior Tory member of the Trasury Select Committee has gone public with his concerns.
Raising taxes is never popular (especially in Conservative circles) but Mr Osborne needs to be sure his figues add up- and then articulate his policies robustly. At the moment there seems to be something of a deafening silence...


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