We write as faith leaders, humanists and scientists united in our commitment to the eradication of child poverty in the UK. In our current economic crisis, moral leadership is needed to rebuild an economy in which values come before markets, paying attention to the poor, the marginalised and the vulnerable. An end to children growing up in poverty must be a founding principle.
Economists argue that targeting resources to poor families quickly stimulates the economy, as they immediately spend to keep a warm home, put food on the table and shoes on feet (Our tax system is a mess, 11 April). While we hope that the chancellor will consider the economic argument, our primary concern is the moral imperative we have to help the country's poorest children. It is their need that is greatest in this crisis.
Taking the final steps to halve child poverty by 2010 is far more affordable than the bailouts for failed financial institutions and will deliver so much more in return by safeguarding the health of our children, the quality of their education and the joy of their play. We therefore add our voices to the 110 MPs and thousands of campaigners who have called on the chancellor for action in the budget to "Keep the Promise" on child poverty.
Rev Dr Martyn Atkins General secretary, Methodist Conference
This letter, which of course follows the letter from 110 MPs which appeared in the Observer a couple of weeks ago, much along the same lines and organised by yours truly, contrasts neatly with a letter in the Guardian earlier this week from Compass and some others.
We write to highlight personal tax avoidance by some of the wealthiest in our country, and to urge the chancellor to take action to close in on personal tax avoidance in the budget. Over 15 times as much is lost through tax avoidance at the top than to benefit fraud at the bottom. If those at the top choose not to pay their fair share, it has grave consequences for everyone. It robs our society of the funds that could end child poverty, or the money needed to increase welfare benefits and help alleviate the conditions which drive the most vulnerable to commit things such as benefit fraud in the first place.
We call on the chancellor to close in on tax avoidance, close in on tax loopholes and deliver greater tax justice. Measures could include: abolishing the domicile rule; abolishing tax havens; taxing investment income equally to income earned through labour; introducing a new wealth tax for all those earning over £250,000; introducing a new tax on bonuses; adopting a general anti-avoidance rule; removing secrecy from all British-controlled tax havens and increasing the number of tax inspectors to allow more thorough investigation.
It is time to close in on tax avoiders, recoup public money and ensure everyone in society pays their fair share - we urge the government to act.
I entirely endorse where Compass is coming from, in spirit if not down to the very last detail, (some of which is more deliverable than others) but I think it's a shame that they don't give equal emphasis to how the money would be spent. Their campaign is for 'Tax Justice', and yes, of course rich people shouldn't be able to avoid paying tax altogether by exploiting tax loopholes or tax havens, although a passing acknowledgement of just how much Gordon Brown has already done to close the former would have been appreciated.
But to isolate the issue thus, with only a passing reference to child poverty and welfare benefits, and running polls on 'taxing the wealthy' runs the risk of creating the impression that this is more about a desire to 'tax the rich till the pips squeak' than it is about ensuring we have sufficient funds in the public purse to meet social objectives.
I'd also question whether it was judicious to mention increasing welfare benefits in such a letter; I know why it was done, to juxtapose benefit fraud and tax avoidance, but again there's a risk that the suggestion is that the rich should be taxed simply to pay other people to do nothing. It would have been better to focus on childcare/ nursery provision, extended schools, tax credits, skills training - all elements in helping people move from welfare into work.
Whenever we make the case for increased taxation, which is what Compass is doing, even if it's just increased taxes for a relatively small proportion of the population, we have to justify not just why it would be 'equitable' to take the money, but also why we need it and how we think it should be spent. Yes, Compass are right to say about tax avoidance that 'it's not fair', but child poverty isn't fair either, and I wish the left of the Labour Party would throw their weight behind the End Child Poverty campaign in the same way that so many others across the political spectrum have done.
*The first of what may become a regular feature.