The Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee should be congratulated for announcing today that the Government’s commitment to an annual donation of 0 .7 per cent of our GDP as overseas aid should be dropped – and quickly. This has been a nonsense since it was first dreamed up in Blair’s time in response to a UN wish list. Of course, we should help impoverished and under developed friendly nations but funds have been going far further and wider than that – sometimes to aid those who are actively helping our enemies. My view has always been that if a country needs to improve food production, for example, you send a farmer, not a case-load of money, which normally buys a new fleet of Mercedes! The excuse that we are working from within feels somewhat threadbare when you realise that Pakistan (donation £665 million) is sheltering men who murder our soldiers, even allowing Osama Bin Laden to live there undisturbed until last year. Considering the fraud and corruption, rampant within the Department for International Development’s projects – and which the Lords do not consider have been tackled effectively - we should rethink our overseas aid contributions at once. We are in much too much trouble at home to waste money like this.
Posted on 30 March 2012 by Richard Drax
Yet again the integrity of the House of Commons and MPs are under fire. This time after our Party treasurer Peter Cruddas offered access to the Prime Minister and policy in exchange for vast sums of money. The question this has pushed to the top of the pile is how should Parties be funded. Personally, I am totally against using taxpayers' money. So, that leaves private contributions which should be capped, exactly at what level I am not sure. The point is the electorate bankrolls democratic Parties and clearly the Party they think will do the best job should, in theory, receive the most money. This would not always ensure victory at the polls but the war chest would be bigger to use on promotional literature, advertisements and the like prior to the period of purdah when expenditure is capped. Importantly, a capped contribution would ensure that the Parties had to pay attention to more of the electorate, rather than a handful of very rich donors. I do hope, though, that despite the uproar, there is no knee-jerk reaction. I would suggest that politicians from all sides count to ten before rushing, lemming-like, to the media.
Posted on 26 March 2012 by Richard Drax
Need to be bold
I know I am not alone in worrying about the National Planning Polic Framework, which is to be announced next week. It's aim, to simplify the planning process, is admirable, but the consequences for our over-crowded island could be disastrous. Immigration continues to run at an unsustainable rate. Despite Government promises to tackle the problem, it continues. In our national interest, we have to shut the door, introduce a visa system for everyone, quite apart from accounting for the hundreds of thousands of people who are here illegally. If we don't, the pressures on services and infrastructure will continue and the country will, ultimately, become unmanageable. The new planning policy does not solve this problem, it only attempts to whitewash it. We must be bold and radical and face this growing problem head on. It's called common sense: remember that phrase?
Posted on 25 March 2012 by Richard Drax
Understandably, there is an outcry at the Chancellor's announcement on Wednesday that he would end the 'age-related allowance' for pensioners. In simple terms, the allowance meant that pensioners started paying tax at a higher income level than those working. The move has been dubbed the 'granny tax' by the press. I have to say that I am distinctly uneasy at these plans, although I do see where Mr Osborne is coming from. The trouble is that with interest rates at a record low, and remaining there, many pensioners I meet are having to tuck into their precious capital because there's no income. In addition, this generation has been prudent, saved something for a rainy day and planned their retirement. Now they are being assailed, as they see it, by a Conservative-led government, no less. As I said in my post-budget speech - when I had not had time to fully comprehend the budget's implications - we should be finding savings by cutting state spending, not tinkering with pensioners' allowances or child benefit. There is no doubt Mr Osborne has been curtailed by the Lib Dems, who want to raise taxes, but if we are to win the next election, I can only suggest to Mr Osborne that he starts acting like a Conservative pretty quickly.
Posted on 23 March 2012 by Richard Drax
The night before the Budget and I await it with bated breath. All the preambles have not been encouraging. Calls for wealth taxes, the threat to child benefit, little acknowledgement that the cost of fuel is unsustainable for millions of people in this country and murmurs of attacking savings are all un-Tory, unreasonable and inequitable. How many times have I heard comments like the wealthiest must bear their share of the burden. They already do, paying punitive rates of income tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, national insurance, council tax; the list goes on. What I have not heard, even from senior Conservative colleagues, are calls to reduce public expenditure, cut taxes, reduce red tape and bureaucracy and take the state out of people's lives. George Osborne has a chance tomorrow to make his mark, ignore the Liberal Democrats, and galvanise business and wealth creators to generate the wealth we need to pay the bills. That's the proper and only sensible way forward. We shall see.
Posted on 20 March 2012 by Richard Drax
The Syrian situation
War makes strange bedfellows. Bashir Assad’s murderous regime is supported not only by Russia, Iran and Iran’s proxy, Hizbollah, in Lebanon, but also by the 10 per cent of Syrian Christians, who would rather have the devil they know than the extremists they don't. Israel would agree for the same reason. Meanwhile Saudi and Qatar are dedicated to wiping out the last secular regime in the Middle East. Qatari and Saudi Wahhabi extremists are supporting the Jihadi elements in the free Syrian army with arms and funds and there are reports of Al Qaeda operatives boosting their numbers. It’s all a far cry from the so-called freedom fighters portrayed in much of our media. And while I believe the civilians caught up in the crossfire deserve international protection, this is a murky world. There are suspicions that NATO would like to see Assad crushed as a precursor to any attacks on Iran. Certainly, there’s much to fear if this once stable regime falls, which must partially explain the West’s reluctance to act. One thing is guaranteed; there will be no Arab spring in Syria.
Posted on 13 March 2012 by Richard Drax
Israel and Iran
The war drums emanating from Israel are growing louder. Despite Obama’s confirmation that the USA is watching over Israel, Netanyahu has promised his country will act to protect itself from a nuclear Iran. He says he's not talking days or weeks, he's saying simply if Iran continues to develop the bomb, his country will act. That means some kind of pre-emptive strike, which, given that Iran’s nuclear facilities are buried deep underground, will be extraordinarily difficult and possibly unsuccessful. However, no one should underestimate Israel’s determination to snuff out any threats to its security.
Posted on 12 March 2012 by Richard Drax
Secret of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt was spot on when he said that Prince Harry was worth a thousand politicians. And so he is - doing more for Britain as he travels around the world than any amount of carefully targeted PR. He is young, infectiously good-natured and gets on with everyone he meets. And as an ambassador for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, he is hard to beat. How could any elected president, let alone the grandson of an elected president, ever generate such goodwill? Royalty works its own magic.
Posted on 10 March 2012 by Richard Drax
Six brave men
My heart bleeds for the six soldiers who died after their Warrrior fighting vehicle was blown up in Afghanistan. More than 400 young men and women have now been killed in this far-off land since 2001. It is a high price to pay. One of the six, Sergeant Nigel Coupe, aged only 33, from the 1st BN The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, had been an instructor at Bovington. The remaining five were Corporal Jake Hartley, Private Anthony Frampton, Private Christopher Kershaw, Private Daniel Wade, and Private Daniel Wilford from the 3rd BN The Yorkshire Regiment. One can only imagine the grief their families and friends are experiencing right now and our thoughts and prayers go out to them all. Having served myself, I know these brave, young men died doing a job they loved. This tragic loss of life reminds us all, yet again, just what an enormous debt we owe our brave servicemen and women.
Posted on 9 March 2012 by Richard Drax
Vince Cable's enthusiasm for a so-called mansion tax is typical of the man and his Party. It would be a tax of envy, targeted at people's home for no other reason than they are valuable. What's more, Mr Cable is happy to see the 50p rate of income tax reduced in exchange to what amounts to a wealth tax, which is totally contrary to Conservative philospohy. And, according to the Centre for Policy Studies, it would not raise much revenue, either. Government should be about less tax, less interference and less spending, not living extravagantly on the backs of all those who work hard and aspire. A home, of whatever size, is a home and should not be used as a pawn by an envy-driven political party like the Lib Dems. Labour is no better, with Mr Balls supporting the idea of a mansion tax. This from the man who, along with his government, took our country to the very brink of bankruptcy. Mr Balls should resign in shame, not strut about the country purporting to know what he is talking about.
Posted on 8 March 2012 by Richard Drax
Cable's Megaphone Politics
Vince Cable has leaked a letter saying that he believes the coalition “ lacks a compelling vision of where the country is going ” . From a member of a party, which, in the past week alone, has suggested a mansion tax, a tycoon tax and only dropping the 50 pence tax rate on condition some other wealth tax is imposed, this is hypocrisy in the extreme. The only policy which units the Lib Dems - if such woolly thinking could be called policy - is the desire to clobber aspiration. Mr Cable would do well to abandon his megaphone politics and focus instead on delivering results through the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which should form a crucial part of the coalition ’ s economic policy. That ’ s what he's there
Posted on 8 March 2012 by Richard Drax
I can't help thinking that the government has made a mess of this. And what worries me most is the inconsistency of the proposal which will see a family where two people are earning £80,000 keeping the benefit, while a single earner on £43,000 will not. This cannot be right and it clearly punishes mothers who stay at home; this when we always claim to support the family! I understand that we live in austere times and savings have to be made but I, personally, would not touch this allowance, which seems to work well, certainly until a workable alternative has been thought through. Peter Lilley said on Newsnight last night that he looked at this when he was a minister but could not find an answer. Interesting.
Posted on 6 March 2012 by Richard Drax