Tax breaks for families
Sir: Hugo Rifkind is wrong to imply (6 July) that the current income tax system is indifferent to family structure, and thus the Conservative party’s attempt to give tax breaks to married couples is ‘a blatant attempt at social engineering’.
Is it not social engineering when the current system demands more tax from a single-earner family than a dual-earner family, even if the total income is the same? Milton Friedman once said: ‘We tend to talk about an individualist society, but it really isn’t, it’s a family society.’ Hugo makes the mistake of seeing society as a collection of individuals, but in the real world most important financial decisions are taken by families or households. It is right that the tax system should reflect this.
Sir: Charles Moore was absolutely right (The Spectator’s Notes, 6 July); parliament’s evasion of its responsibility to set its own salaries is evidence of political cowardice which has resulted in an undemocratic absurdity. If members of parliament cannot be trusted to act responsibly in this matter, how can we trust them with anything else?
Regaining public trust will require parliament to show that it can exercise a modicum of self-restraint. Members should set the levels for the following Parliament as part of a dissolution. Members seeking re-election would know that electors could easily identify those who had supported or opposed a settlement that was deemed excessive. Furthermore, having known in advance the levels of salaries and allowances, candidates who were elected would have no grounds for complaint.
Ruby and Berlusconi
Sir: Nicholas Farrell (‘In defence of Berlusconi’, 29 June) describes the Italian judicial system admirably. Most serious lawyers in Italy would agree with him. However he barely mentions Karima El Mahroug, the young woman Berlusconi was said to have paid for sex. I happen to have met Karima, in Vienna. She was invited to the Opera Ball by a naff but respectable septuagenarian who each year asks a celebrity to his box. She received a haute couture dress, a week in one of the most luxurious hotels in Vienna, car, hospitality and perhaps some pocket money as part of the deal.Why must we assume that such a young woman had an affair with Berlusconi or anyone else? The fact that he protected her from the police? Ruby was arrested for sleeping on a park bench, which in Italy is forbidden. Given the way the law operates there, Berlusconi’s could have been a simple humanitarian intervention. Yet here we have a triumvirate of self-important female judges being allowed to condemn with no proof whatsoever of anything.
A dog’s life
Sir: James Delingpole’s contemplations on the essence of a successful marriage sounded strangely familiar (6 July). I’m allowed off the leash for several annual jollies, usually of a sporting nature, but I invariably overdo things and am promptly installed in the doghouse on my return.
Sir: Many husbands will sympathise with Mr Delingpole’s problem over his wife’s obsession about leaving dirty washing up. My solution is to wash up and then ‘put away’ the washed items. It is extremely difficult to find the right places for everything, and when they have to be retrieved from the wrong places at a later stage, the confusion means the husband is banned from the kitchen. I hope this helps.
Hook Norton, Oxfordshire
The trouble with Mr Rich
Sir: While totally sharing Martin Vander Weyer’s disapproval of the late Marc Rich’s blatant lack of ethics (Any other business, 6 July), I fail to see much evil in his and his followers’ love of making ‘nothing but money’ per se. The trouble with capitalism, or indeed any other economic formation, only starts when their ilk does that while unaccountably appropriating and spending other people’s money.
The third way
Sir: Bravo to Rory Sutherland (The Wiki man, 6 July) for identifying the prejudice against those with third-class degrees. For over 20 years a third has been a bar to institutional employment, making it irrelevant where you studied. At least we weren’t the beneficiaries of grade inflation — or among those fine minds behind the war in Iraq and the financial collapse.
Sir: Martin Vander Weyer is more correct than he might think to identify Montagu Norman as a fan of public transport (Any other business, 6 July). Legend has it that Kemsing station was built in sight of his study window at St Clere, so he could put a call through to the stationmaster when he saw his train had arrived, and have it held while he was driven down to board it.
Sir: The late Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk long anticipated Andrew O’Shaughnessy’s conclusions about the American war of independence (Books, 29 June). In the hallway of Easter Moncreiffe he displayed a full-length portrait that he described as ‘The man who founded America’. It was of George III.