Opinion from Lord Digby Jones

A Miscellany of Contradictions

Published Tuesday 12 June, 2012

As I sit here, gazing out at the stair rods making this, "flaming June", the wettest one on record, I ponder an array of other contradictions facing us all.

First up, we have a Government running a Coalition, not a Country. Right in the middle of the worst economic crisis for 85 years, we are all enquiring as to when a pasty is a taxable pasty and when it's a tax-free pasty! Deep in the heart of necessary but painful cuts in public expenditure, the Government sought to disincentivise individuals helping charities to fill the gap left by the withdrawal of State assistance, by taking away tax relief on charitable donations made by "morally repugnant tax avoiders". The own goal of all own goals. Thankfully the inevitable U-turn has been made to save Mr Osborne from himself and restore some sanity. Interestingly, a senior member of the (elected) Treasury team in the previous Government told me "tax relief on charitable donations? The Treasury tried to get that one past us for years"! So who is running the Country Mr Osborne? Those we elected or those who are paid to serve them? And what about the contradiction coming from Miliband and Co? When the Government does something unpopular they scream for them to listen and change; when HMG does exactly that (caravans, pasties, charities) then they accuse them of U-turns and weak Government! Make up your mind Ed!

Secondly, we have a Secretary of State for Business who says he is very supportive of UK manufacturing … and then gets in his car built in Japan to go to his next appointment! Who allows our money to be spent on buying trains made in Dusseldorf not Derby? If we can't have a Department for Business supporting … er… Business then, in the time-honoured words of a certain Nicholas Ridley, one does have to wonder just what it's for. In fact this contradiction is further compounded by the sad and sorry fact that of the 17 cars used by our Embassies in Washington and Brussels only three are UK-built, and of all the cars used by all our Embassies across the World only 32% created jobs here at home! So the jobs that generate the tax that pays the people who work in our overseas posts are jeopardised by the very people who are championing them. So those potential customers of our Toyotas, our Nissans, our Hondas and our Minis, our Jaguars and our Land Rovers, our Vauxhalls and our Range Rovers across the globe look at what our own people drive in those markets and aren't exactly encouraged to buy British-made products. It really is too difficult to believe, but sadly it's a contradiction of the worse kind.

Thirdly, a story from the front line will serve to accentuate a contradiction. I chair a small software development business. The business plan shows a cash burn for some four years and then a move into profit. There is no bank debt. We employ fourteen people. We are losing money but we are absolutely where the plan says we should be and I'm actually feeling quite parental as we have had our first sale! We would love to employ three more people; yes, that's right, we want to do exactly what Messrs Cameron, Osborne and Cable want the small business sector to do and create three more jobs, reducing the number of unemployed along the way. We even have an apprentice! But we pay £60,000 pa in National Insurance Contributions for Employers. There goes the dosh we would use to employ three more people. We pay sixty grand a year in tax when we are making no profit at all! How crass is that! Tax me when I make money; not when I'm trying to create employment!

I could dwell on the contradiction of the land that gave the World Magna Carta and the writ of Habeas Corpus allowing its citizens to be banged up in a jail thousands of miles from home (indeed, forcibly removed from this Country so to do) without any form of trial or hearing on the facts of the case whatsoever and "encouraged" into a plea-bargained finding of guilt. Extradition to the USA? Shame on you Mr Blair, Mr Brown and Mr Cameron!

I could dwell on how a bail out to Spain of one hundred billion euros is evidently not a bail out at all but an investment in the Spanish banking sector! And they expect 520 million hard-pressed citizens of the EU to believe this do they?

But, dear reader, I shall end my "tour de contradictions" this soggy June morning with a glorious one that will get up and bite that wily old fox in Edinburgh every day until, for the people of Scotland, the (British) penny drops. Given that small economies from Greece to Portugal, from Ireland to the Netherlands which are in an economic union of sorts (and this is even more true if such a union develops into one of a more fiscal or political nature) basically have to do what the big boy on the block wants (be it the setting of interest rates or the timing and quantum of quantitive easing or the nature of any revaluation or devaluation of their currency), how on earth does an independent Scotland intend to enjoy independence over anything of economic importance if it will have to take it from Frankfurt or the Bank of … er … England! Over to you Alex … square that contradiction.