Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Tax and toasters

There seem to be discussions going on ahead of the Pre-Budget Report next Monday about cutting VAT to boost consumer spending and thus reflate the economy. Seems to me that the ideal solution would be to cut VAT on 'goods' but not on 'bads' - ie. on environmentally-friendly or healthy products, and also on essential items, but not on what could be termed 'useless tat'. So we'd encourage spending, but not mass consumption on a hugely wasteful scale, and achieve certain social objectives too (e.g. on obesity, fuel efficiency, etc).

But I suppose this would just end up being hugely bureaucratic, with companies falling over themselves to prove in court that cheesestrings, Poptarts and Sunny Delight are in the fact the cornerstone of a nutritious diet, and that the average household really cannot exist without Teasmades and electric carving knives and George Foreman grills.

Speaking of household items, I've had my oldest nephew staying with me on occasion lately. He was amazed when he saw me making toast for him. "You cook your toast?" He had never, at the age of 18, seen toast cooked under a grill before. He kept burning it when he tried, so I have now relented and spent £3.92 on a toaster from Sainsbury's for him. (How on earth can a toaster be £3.92? I almost spent £20 more just so that I didn't feel I was contributing to the disposable, throw-it-away-when-it-breaks as it no doubt will, society... but then that seemed a bit silly too.) I am happy to report that he toasted a muffin this morning without any problems.


Old Holborn said...

I believe you are trying to register 20,000 Somalis in Bristol to vote.


They aren't EU citizens are they?

Old Holborn said...

Sorry, YOUR quote:

"'The key thing that fascinated me was the mobilisation of people who had been completely disenfranchised,' she said. 'In my constituency, we have a lot of minority communities that have arrived fairly recently - for example, up to 20,000 Somalis in Bristol. They've never really been involved in politics and there's a real issue about getting such people on the register.' Kerry McCarthy MP Bristol East

I'd hate to think any of them are illegal immigrants. I mean, we've just found out that YOUR party has let MILLIONS of illegal immigrants in to Britain.

Care to guess how many of the 20000 Somali's in Bristol are amongst that number?

Kerry said...

I'm not trying to do anything of the sort. I am trying to encourage all those people who are entitled to vote, but aren't on the register, to sign up. This includes young people, people who tend to move from one address to another, as well as people from BME communities.

About 100 people per month in Bristol become British citizens, from all over the world. Quite a lot of the Somalis are EU citizens - not necessarily British, but from Scandinavia and Holland in particular. It's important that those who can, do become involved in the political process.

Old Holborn said...

Thank you for your courteous and prompt reply.

I'm very much involved in the Political Process myself and agree with you that everyone who can be, should be.

So you won't mind me sending this to Guido Fawkes, will you?

Kerry said...

I thought your preferred method of 'political engagement' was stringing people up from lampposts when they don't agree with you.

Old Holborn said...

Not at all.

Libertarians believe as long as what you are doing is not adversely affecting anyone else, then feel free to do what you want. It's not anarchy, it's just freedom.

We could get into an argument about how what YOU do adversely affects millions, but I'll save that for another time.

Kerry said...

So when you say on your site:

"Give me a lamp post, give me the rope and i'll hang the f***ing b*** myself!"

that's just a bit of harmless fun, is it?

Old Holborn said...

If you mean do I hold the 646 Elected responsible for their actions, I most certainly do. They have enormous power in an enormous state machine, capable of killing millions.

People and politicians have been hung for less than New Labour has achieved in the last 11 years. Maybe your next jaunt should be to Helmand province or Baghdad, to "leverage synergies" with the locals, like you did in Florida.

I suspect they have a very special rope there for New Labour politicians.

Any sign of those pesky WMD yet?

Guthrum said...

for example, up to 20,000 Somalis in Bristol. They've never really been involved in politics and there's a real issue about getting such people on the register.'

I have received a communication from the Electoral Commission, that clearly states eligibility, recently arrived Somalis are not in that category.

What you are proposing is illegal and carries a hefty fine. As a lawyer you will understand the consequences of inciting people who have no right to vote to do so for party advantage. There is no 'real' issue- it is illegal end of story

Kerry said...

Recently arrived means in the last decade, which is the period during which Bristol has seen a significant increase in the size of its Somali community.

Many of them have arrived recently from places as far away as London, Sheffield, Cardiff - or the EU. They are entitled to vote, and should be encouraged to do so.

Quite a lot of them were born in the EU and will be entitled to vote when they reach 18. Some are British citizens dating back from the days when Somaliland was a British colony.

And even those who aren't entitled to vote are entitled to engage in politics in other ways; for example, contacting their MPs or councillors. A few MPs won't represent anyone who isn't on the electoral register. I think that's wrong.

It would also be quite wrong to suggest that the majority of them are illegal immigrants. Some will be asylum seekers whose cases haven't yet been processed - so they are in the UK legitimately. Some will have been granted refugee status or leave to remain, but have not yet been here long enough to qualify for British citizenship - so they are in the UK legitimately too.

You're trying to make an issue out of something which councils across the land, and the Electoral Commission are already promoting. And it's pretty pathetic.

Guthrum said...

Yes, you are a lawyer and it shows.

Recently arrived Somalis, and by this you meant from Cardiff or the EU ??

I am not stupid and whilst you and the rest of your ilk continue to treat us as such, you will not get anything but disengagement and abuse.

You did state that they were recently arrived Somalis, not EU citizens or Welsh of Somali ethnicity. You now say within the last ten years as 'recently' arrived Your administration has allowed 300 000 non EU foreigners into this country, this by your own admission. You have mused on getting Somalis on the register.

This is illegal and should any evidence arise of your incitement to get people on the register that are proscribed by Law from doing so, I for one will lodge a fomal complaint with the Electoral Commission.

DaveA said...

As someone who works in recruitment I am aware of the immigration procedures in this country. O to British Passport in 7 years or less. It used to be 6. The process is either an HSMP, (now Tier1) visa which gives the migrant the same employment rights as European nationals. They are issued purely on education and work experience criteria and in theory unlimited in number. A work permit or an inter-company transferee work permit. Once you have completed 5 years continuous work you then get permanent residency. Then you can apply for a British passport and is granted in about 18 months. The only reason residency and a passport will not be issued is in exceptional circumstances like a major criminal offence. Getting residency 10-16 years ago was a lot harder and many people were turned down. I had to write letters of support for their application for "Permanent Leave to Remain" and/or involve their MP.

When you add in European nationals, illegal immigrants, central government incompetence the adjective "swamped" is apt.

When it comes to Somalis I saw Darcus Howe interviewing an Afro-Carribean lady aged about 50 on Channel4 . She was disgusted by their violent and criminal behaviour, having kicked down her door for no apparent reason. Darcus Howe asked "what should be done about them" and the Afro-Carribean lady replied "sent back home".

Possibly a bit extreme for me but this is a country that freely practices and promotes female oppression and female circumcision.

I don't think I am a well of sympathy for their presence.

Kerry said...

Dave, you're talking about economic migration, which is now governed by the new points-based system; only highly-skilled migrants or those in sectors where their skills are in short supply will be allowed into the UK. And actually it's very difficult for someone who is not 'of good character' e.g. with criminal convictions to become a British citizen.

Very few Somalis will have come to the UK on work permits; they are seeking asylum. There are kids in my constituency who have seen family members killed in front of them, or raped, or tortured. I met one kid at a school recently - not a Somali, but from another African country - who still bore the scars from when he had a machete buried in his head.

I just think the tone of this debate is really offensive. Let's face it - your problem is with BME communities being in the UK, having rights in the UK, being entitled to vote in the UK - all this stuff about the legalities of them getting on the electoral register is just a smokescreen for you to hide what are basically racist rants.

DaveA said...

Kerry, thank you for your reply. Yes, economic migrants, mainly from India who I have supported and found work for, hardly racist is it? I have written letters to Sheffield asking them to be granted HSMPs as their skills are in demand.

With regards to your "racist" allegation, sorry for being blunt, but this is childish name calling and cheap abuse.

You are typical of NuLabour's 3 wise monkeys aproach. You won't debate immigration at a sensible, mature level and anyone who dares question the "liberal" orthodoxy on immigration is immediately branded a "racist". Cheap abuse and name calling.

Is there any evidence that there is a groundswell of opinion in the electorate of the levels of immigration in the last 50 years?

I came to my desk today having placed an ad on the internet sites and my 10 replies, all were Indian born and had HSMPs. I am happy to use them and will be processing their applications.

Now for the liberal bit. This job is paying up to £65,000 the package is £10,000 too. I would treat equally any British person's application. Having lived for 20 years in East London, I know how hard it is to get an education and keep your values and discipline. Also one of my skills is working out somone's background from the CV, accent and demenour what their ethnic background is. Often I interview face to face too.

I don't like positive discrimination, but with Jermaine's, Leroy's and Winston's CV, I'll spend a little more time preparing their CV, send it down first and in my interview comments be a little more effusive. However the client's decision is final. I would love them to get the job.

In conclusion I am quite offended by being called a racist. A former girlfriend of mine who is British but from a family from Ghana and is a medical doctor admitted to me privately that if she was white she would be a member of the BNP. My reply was the BNP are an obination who deny the holocaust. So just because we want to debate immigration numbers, cheap abuse merely inflames any potential hard line feelings I have and is counter productive.

Kerry said...

I think tarring all Somalis with the same brush could be construed as racist, couldn't it? Which is what you do.

Hookers And Gin said...

Many wise people tell me VAT cannot be cut - not unless the other 26 EU members agree. Can it?

Northern Lights said...

I’ve heard more coherent arguments from a class of school children than I’ve heard from some of the recent posters on this blog. I’m not too au fait with netiquette – but I would’ve thought that ‘people and politicians have been hung for less than New Labour has achieved’ is taking it a bit too far.

Kerry said...

VAT can be reduced to 5% without EU agreement but can't be scrapped altogether. This is what we did with VAT on fuel after it had been introduced by the Tories. Couldn't scrap it altogether, but cut it to 5%.

Bristol Dave said...

With the levels of unemployment within the Bristol Somali community as they are (I've seen 90% mentioned in some sources), it seems the Somali community seems more interested in chewing khat than getting a job. If they can't even be bothered to work what chance have you got of convincing them to vote?

On a more general note, I think a lot of people are disillusioned by the voting system in general. I live in an area which due to mainly socio-economic factors has always elected the Labour candidate with a large majority. Since I don't want to vote Labour, what is the point in me voting? I know that it will be completely wasted due to the voting habits of my neighbours. Other than moving house to another area, my vote is completely and utterly meaningless.

The joys of the FPTP voting system.

All this time growing up you're taught how important the vote is, now I'm able to vote, I beg to differ.

And even with a 45.9% share of the votes in your constituency in the 2005 Local Election you're hardly going to advise people to vote for anyone other than yourself are you? Come on, "encouraging people to vote" means "encouraging people to vote for you". A little honesty wouldn't go amiss.

Guthrum said...

Very few Somalis will have come to the UK on work permits; they are seeking asylum. There are kids in my constituency who have seen family members killed in front of them, or raped, or tortured. I met one kid at a school recently - not a Somali, but from another African country - who still bore the scars from when he had a machete buried in his head.

I work in Africa on housing projects, amazingly enough real asylum seekers under international law should seek refuge in the first country they get to afelt, that does not include a twelve hour flight to London.

I work in very very difficult parts of central africa, where life is cheap and female life cheaper still

So I think that I can do without the six form racist taunts from somebody who know very little about Africa and just sees it as another right on issue

Kerry said...

Guthrum, if you're going to quote me, at least make it clear you're doing so - otherwise people might actually draw completely the wrong conclusion about what kind of person you are.

pagar said...


Glad to see you're back. Have you re-read the book yet?

I know we'll not convince you of our viewpoint but I assure you it is sincerely held. There is a sea- change of opinion in this country and, if you don't believe me, please refer to the previous responses on your blog. There was no coordinated response from members of the Libertarian Party- the vast majority of responses were from ordinary members of the public (many your constituents) who are very concerned about the direction in which your government is taking us.

Please pause and consider before you cast a vote that will further impact on how we live our lives.

That is all we ask.

No it's not. Don't do it!!!

Kerry said...

"Many your constituents"? Who?

alex24 said...

Old Holborn:

At best you are confused, at worst you are an ignoramus.

Confused? How? Because you do not understand what a libertarian is. I mean how can you rally against illegal immigrants if you dont believe in a state? what defines them as illegal in the first place?

And by the way you ARE racist. When you prejudge a whole race of people as being of a certain type that makes you racist.

Why are you an ignoramus? Because you think that you are a powerful voice on the crest of a wave that is sweeping the nation.

The truth is your rants are so inane and of so little import that they are similar to a dog jumping in a puddle and splashing water on the side of a mountain.

Reading your blog is like reading a 15 year olds homework. I particularly like your piece on the undeserving poor - where you mistakenly confuse your own life with everyone elses.

Lets get this straight - while you have gone on to be a roaring success, some people fall behind, more often than not through no fault of their own.

Most people think that, rather than giving up on those people we should help them, but as charitable donations are not that reliable, it is better to pay for a system that supports them. How do we pay, with that dirty word - TAXES.

"I shall never again think that all tramps are drunken scoundrels, nor expect a beggar to be grateful when I give him a penny, nor be surprised if men out of work lack energy"

Who said that? Was it NU-Labour?

Im not sure if you imagine yourself to be a reincarnation of George Orwell but you are obviously too stupid to grasp anything he talked about.

Would George Orwell support hanging people from lamp posts? Would he support discrimination on account of someone's race?

And by the way you are not offensive, your just a hypocrite. I cherish the right to be offended thats why I dont want to string people up to lamp posts who have a different point of view to my own.

The Penguin said...

Alex24 etc.,

Please could you explain what is this thing you refer to as racist / rascist etc.?

So far as I am aware, we are all of us the SAME race, i.e. HUMAN - even the best and the worst of us, from the Somali Criminals who killed PC Berenevsky and who we probably can't deport once they have done their porridge to Sister Teresa, ALL HUMAN. So racism seems to be to be nonsense.

Perhaps you mean xenophobia?

It would be so helpful if you could use the correct terminology in your arguments, otherwise folk might think you don't know what you are talking about.

The Penguin

MikeHorsley said...

Kerry. You said:

"VAT can be reduced to 5% without EU agreement but can't be scrapped altogether. This is what we did with VAT on fuel after it had been introduced by the Tories. Couldn't scrap it altogether, but cut it to 5%."

You are either incredibly uninformed or you are not telling the truth. No member country is allowed to reduce VAT below 15% as detailed in Directive 2006/112/EC.

Quote: "States, combined with the mechanism of the transitional system, ensures that this system functions to an acceptable degree. To prevent divergences in the standard rates of VAT applied by the Member States from leading to structural imbalances in the Community and distortions of competition in some sectors of activity, a minimum standard rate of 15% should be fixed, subject to review."

Any comments?

Kerry said...

Nicotine patches were reduced to 5% when the smoking ban was introduced in July 2007. And the smoothie manufacturers (i.e. people who make smoothies) were campaigning for something similar.


And in last year's CSR (Oct 2007), the Chancellor said this:

"Mr Speaker, I want to see European-wide agreement to a lower rate of VAT, in Britain of 5 per cent, for the most energy efficient products. So with the French government, I am writing to the Commission and other European countries today, and asking them to support our proposal."

So... it can be done.

MikeHorsley said...


The only reason why Nicotine patches were reduced to 5% VAT is because they belong to the "Reduced Rate" items which must be taxed at 5% or more.

The full list of these items together with "Zero Rated" and "Exempt" items is to be found here: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat/rates-goods.htm.

The UK government can not tax any items at a rate less than the minimum set in Brussels unless the EU Commission agrees to such a reduction which is then passed, unanimously, by all 27 member states.

Note that member states are entitled to charge VAT at a higher rate than the EU minimum but not at a lower rate (hence the 17.5% in the UK and 19.6% in France).

The idea of reduced rate VAT on energy efficient products was initially discussed by Brown and Sarkozy in July 2007. The first finance ministers meeting where this was discussed was in November 2007. After initial reticence, EU heads of state discussed the proposal further in March 2008 but at the meeting in July 2008, where reforms to EU VAT rates were discussed, they refused to add these items to the lower rate preferring to wait until the autumn 2008 meeting. The proposal was again discussed in October this year with no agreement reached.

How much longer will it take for Brown and Sarkozy to prevail?