Perhaps Vince Cable wasn't listening to the bit in George Osborne's speech at the Tory conference last week where the Chancellor ruled out a mansion tax. The Business Secretary has just sent an email out promoting the idea and calling for signatures on a petition for 'fairer tax'. The email, which is signed 'Thank you, Vince Cable MP', says:
Our system of taxation is both unfair and inefficient. People on modest incomes are paying their fair share of tax while the super rich can too easily avoid paying their share. It is a particular scandal that some of the world’s wealthiest people who own property in the UK worth millions pay virtually the same council tax as owners of a modest family home. I want to change this – I want a new ‘mansion tax’ on the most valuable properties – we propose 1% of the value of over £2million. This will be paid by the wealthiest 0.16% of property owners. If you agree, add your name to our campaign now. Unlike taxes on income, it is impossible to dodge a mansion tax. After all, a mansion can’t be hidden offshore. There is plenty of opposition from top investment bankers who would have to pay more tax. And the Tories don’t like it either; it will hit some of their friends. Polls show that this idea is very popular. The public want fairer taxes, as we do.
The petition is hosted on a FairerTax website created by the Lib Dems. There's nothing wrong, of course, with an internal party campaign on a policy which its members hold dear. But what is odd is a member of the government publicly lobbying his own government on a policy that the Chancellor has already said very clearly he won't adopt. This, in case Cable really wasn't listening, is what George Osborne said last week in Birmingham:
'Nor am I going to introduce a new tax on people's homes. It would be sold as a Mansion Tax. But once the tax inspector had his foot in the door you'd soon find most homes in the country labelled a "mansion". Homes people have worked hard to afford and already paid taxes on. It's not a Mansion Tax, it's a Homes Tax and this Party of home ownership will have no truck with it. When it comes to the richest, the first place I will look is to those who are still not paying the taxes we expect them to pay today.'