Tag Archives: capital gains

Tax the rich? Hardship payments for benefit claimants? Sorry Nick – we believed you once before

Nick Clegg: He must have had his forked tongue in his cheek when he wrote the Liberal Democrats' latest list of pledges.

Nick Clegg: He must have had his forked tongue in his cheek when he wrote the Liberal Democrats’ latest list of pledges.

The Liberal Democrats have launched a desperate attempt to win back voters, packing their General Election manifesto with meaningless pledges.

Why are they meaningless? Because the Liberal Democrats, under the same leader (Nick Clegg), made pledges to us before the 2010 election – having already hammered out an agreement with the Conservatives that meant they would not be able to honour those commitments.

There is evidence that teams representing the Tories and Liberal Democrats negotiated what would be in a coalition agreement on March 16, 2010 – and abolishing student tuition fees, a principle Liberal Democrat pledge, was not part of it.

In this light, how can we believe Liberal Democrat plans to push for higher capital gains tax, bringing it more closely in line with income tax? How can we believe they would change tax relief for entrepreneurs, so it does not provide a tax loophole for the super-rich – or even the modest plan to cut tax relief on pensions from £1.4 million to £1 million? And how can we believe they will restrict access to “non-dom” tax status for foreigners living in Britain who do not pay tax on their earnings abroad?

The BBC has an even more hard-to-believe report that the Liberal Democrats will cut the Winter Fuel Allowance and free TV licences for better-off pensioners, in order to pay for a 66 per cent discount on bus travel (in England only) for young people aged 16-21.

This is doubly insulting to our intelligence. Firstly, a concession on bus fares is no consolation for the tripling of student tuition fees in which the Liberal Democrats participated after promising to abolish them instead – and don’t they know that means-testing benefits to discover who deserves them is not a simple matter? It is complex and costly – as Alex Little told us only a few days ago.

This comment of his is particularly apt: “Old Tories are often popping up to say they don’t need their £250 winter fuel allowance. It may be true that they don’t need it, but their motives for mentioning it are so these things will be means tested, the budget will be slashed and then they think they can ask for lower taxes, or more ‘contributory benefits‘ (code for benefits not available to the ‘undeserving’ who’ll need to rely on charity).”

The Liberal Democrats are being more than a little disingenuous with that promise, then.

And does anybody really think the plan to decriminalise possession of restricted drugs for personal use will ever happen? The Liberal Democrats know their performance in the Coalition means they won’t win any elections soon and are hoping to be part of another hung-Parliament alliance. This means they would be sharing public office with one of the other parties who, they state, have “blighted” UK drugs policy with “kneejerk prejudice and the wish to appear tough”. This is another pledge they can make safely, knowing it is never likely to happen.

You’ll notice, also, that the Liberal Democrats say next to nothing about the National Health Service – that foundation stone of British fair play and decency that they allowed the Conservatives to sell off to private companies (in which many of them are shareholders) in order to make a profit from the suffering of the sick.

They will increase its budget in line with inflation so the private companies leeching off of it won’t lose profit. How caring of them.

To cap it all off, Clegg repeated what has become the Liberal Democrat mantra ever since he first used it in December 2012: “Liberal Democrats are committed to building a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling people to get on in life.”

It’s the ‘party message script’, you see. Back in 2012, he added: “We will stay the course on the deficit. We will cut income tax bills and help with childcare bills. We will invest in boosting jobs and we’ll reform welfare to get people into work.”

Considering his party’s record on those matters, there is certainly no reason to buy any of what he’s peddling today.

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Divisions in Coalition as MPs demand independent inquiry on poverty

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Calls for a ‘commission of inquiry’ into the impact of the government’s changes to social security entitlements on poverty have won overwhelming support from Parliament.

The motion by Labour’s Michael Meacher was passed with a massive majority of 123 votes; only two people – David Nuttall and Jacob Rees-Mogg – voted against it.

The debate enjoyed cross-party support, having been secured by Mr Meacher with Sir Peter Bottomley (Conservative) and John Hemming (Liberal Democrat).

Introducing the motion, Mr Meacher said: “It is clear that something terrible is happening across the face of Britain. We are seeing the return of absolute poverty, which has not existed in this country since the Victorian age more than a century ago. Absolute poverty is when people do not have the money to pay for even their most basic needs.”

He said the evidence was all around:

  • There are at least 345 food banks and, according to the Trussell Trust, emergency food aid was given to 350,000 households for at least three days in the last year.
  • The Red Cross is setting up centres to help the destitute, just as it does in developing countries.
  • Even in prosperous areas like London, more than a quarter of the population is living in poverty.
  • According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, for the first time, the number of people in working families who are living in poverty, at 6.7 million, is greater than the number of people in workless and retired families who are living in poverty, at 6.3 million.
  • Child poverty will rise from 2.5 million to 3.2 million during this Parliament, around 24 per cent of children in the UK. By 2020, if the rise is not stopped, it will increase to four million – around 30 per cent of children in the UK.
  • The use of sanctions depriving people of all their benefits for several weeks at a time, had increased by 126 per cent since 2010 and 120 disabled people who had been receiving jobseeker’s allowance had been given a three-year fixed duration sanction in the previous year.
  • There are now more than 2,000 families who have been placed in emergency bed-and-breakfast accommodation after losing their homes.
  • The per cent rise in the overall homelessness figures last year included nearly 9,000 families with children, which is the equivalent of one family losing their home every 15 minutes.
  • A third of families spent less than £20 a week on food and that the average spend on food per person per day was precisely £2.10. That is a third less than those families were able to afford three months before that.
  • The proportion of households that had to make debt repayments of more than £40 a week had doubled and the average level of debt was £2,250.
  • A third of families had council tax debt.
  • 2.7 million people had lost out through the Government’s changes to council tax benefit – many of them disabled people, veterans and some of the most vulnerable in our communities.
  • Households were having to spend 16 per cent more on gas and electricity.
  • There are 2.5 million people who have been unemployed for the best part of two years, and there were 562,000 vacancies when the debate took place (Monday), so four out of five of those who are unemployed simply cannot get a job whatever they do.
  • Cuts to local authorities mean many home care visits are limited to 15 minutes.
  • The 10 per cent of local authorities that are the most deprived in the country face cuts six times higher than those faced by the 10 per cent that are the most affluent.
  • 60 per cent of benefit cuts fall on those who are in work.

Mr Meacher said the biggest cause of absolute poverty was the huge rise in sanctioning, often for trivial reasons such as turning up five minutes late for a job interview or the Work Programme:

  • A dyslexic person lost his Jobseekers Allowance because his condition meant that in one fortnightly period he applied for nine jobs, not 10. He was trying to pay his way and already had work, but it provided only an extremely low income.
  • The jobcentre didn’t record that a claimant had informed them that he was in hospital when he was due to attend an appointment and he was sanctioned.
  • A claimant went to a job interview instead of signing on at the jobcentre because the appointments clashed – and was sanctioned.
  • A claimant had to look after their mother who was severely disabled and very ill – and was sanctioned.
  • A Job Centre sent the letter informing a claimant of an interview to their previous address, despite having been told about the move. The claimant was sanctioned.
  • A claimant was refused a job because she was in a women’s refuge, fleeing domestic violence and in the process of relocating, but I was still sanctioned.

Mr Meacher also quoted what he called a classic: “I didn’t do enough to find work in between finding work and starting the job.”

The latest DWP figures suggest that more than one million people have been sanctioned in the past 15 months and deprived of all benefit and all income. “Given that the penalties are out of all proportion to the triviality of many of the infringements, and given that, as I have said, four out of five people cannot get a job whatever they do, the use of sanctioning on this scale, with the result of utter destitution, is — one struggles for words — brutalising and profoundly unjust,” said Mr Meacher.

Other reasons for the rise in absolute poverty included:

  • Delays in benefit payments.
  • The fact that it is impossible for many poor and vulnerable people to comply with new rules – for example a jobseeker who asked to downsize to a smaller flat who was told he must pay two weeks’ full rent upfront before getting housing benefit. He does not have the funds to do so and is stuck in a situation where his benefits will not cover his outgoings due to the Bedroom Tax.
  • The Bedroom Tax, which applies to around 667,000 households, and two-thirds of those affected are disabled. More than 90 per cent of those affected do not have smaller social housing to move into.
  • The Benefit Cap, imposed on a further 33,000 households.
  • Mistakes by the authorities; up to 40,000 working-age tenants in social housing may have been improperly subjected to the Bedroom Tax because of DWP error (although Iain Duncan Smith claims a maximum of 5,000).

Mr Meacher said: “The Chancellor’s policy of keeping 2.5 million people unemployed makes it impossible for them to find work, even if there were employers who would be willing to take them, and the 40 per cent success rate of appeals shows how unfair the whole process is.”

Responding to a comment from David TC Davies (Conservative) that those who are not looking for work must realise there will be consequences, particularly when a million people have been able to come to the UK from eastern Europe and find work, Mr Meacher said, “Those who come to this country are more likely to be employed and take out less in benefits than many of the indigenous population.”

He asked: “Is all this brutality towards the poor really necessary? Is there any justification in intensifying the misery, as the Chancellor clearly intends, by winding up the social fund and, particularly, by imposing another £25 billion of cuts in the next Parliament, half of that from working-age benefits?

“After £80 billion of public spending cuts, with about £23 billion of cuts in this Parliament so far, the deficit has been reduced only at a glacial pace, from £118 billion in 2011 to £115 billion in 2012 and £111 billion in 2013. Frankly, the Chancellor is like one of those first world war generals who urged his men forward, over the top, in order to recover 300 yards of bombed-out ground, but lost 20,000 men in the process. How can it be justified to carry on imposing abject and unnecessary destitution on such a huge scale when the benefits in terms of deficit reduction are so small as to be almost derisory?”

Suggested alternatives to the punitive austerity programme of cuts came thick and fast during the debate. Challenged to explain what Labour’s Front Bench meant by saying they would be tougher on welfare than the Tories, Mr Meacher said: “As the shadow Chancellor has made clear on many occasions, is that we need public investment. We need to get jobs and growth. That is the alternative way: public investment in jobs, industry, infrastructure and exports to grow the real economy, not the financial froth, because that would cut the deficit far faster than the Chancellor’s beloved austerity.”

He asked: “How about the ultra-rich — Britain’s 1,000 richest citizens — contributing just a bit? Their current remuneration — I am talking about a fraction of the top 1 per cent — is £86,000 a week, which is 185 times the average wage. They received a windfall of more than £2,000 a week from the five per cent cut in the higher rate of income tax, and their wealth was recently estimated by The Sunday Times at nearly half a trillion pounds. Let us remember that we are talking about 1,000 people. Their asset gains since the 2009 crash have been calculated by the same source at about £190 billion.

“These persons, loaded with the riches of Midas, might perhaps be prevailed upon to contribute a minute fraction of their wealth in an acute national emergency, when one-sixth of the workforce earns less than the living wage and when one million people who cannot get a job are being deprived of all income by sanctioning and thereby being left utterly destitute.

“Charging the ultra-rich’s asset gains since 2009 to capital gains tax would raise more than the £25 billion that the Chancellor purports to need. I submit that it would introduce some semblance of democracy and social justice in this country if the Chancellor paid attention to this debate and thought deeply about what he is doing to our country and its people.”

Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley, Lab) suggested that the Government might save a lot more if its members “showed the same energy and enthusiasm for getting those who evade their taxes and run to tax havens as they do for going after the poor, the sick and people on the dole”.

Against this, David TC Davies offered insults and distortions of the facts, quoting the Daily Mail as though it provided an accurate account of current events: “Members of the shadow Cabinet might need a boxing referee to sort out their disputes at the moment, as we read today in the Daily Mail.”

He said: “We took office with a deficit of £160 billion and a debt that was rising rapidly to £1 trillion. That was after years of overspending in good times, as well as in bad, by Labour, a cheap money supply and lax banking regulation under the former Government.” Labour’s spending, up until the financial crisis, was always less than that of the previous Conservative administration; Gordon Brown and Tony Blair both ran a lower deficit than John Major and Margaret Thatcher, and at one point actually achieved a surplus, which is something that the Conservatives had not managed in the previous 18 years. While Mr Davies here complained about the “lax banking regulation”, Conservatives supported it at the time and in fact demanded more DE-regulation, which would have made the financial crisis worse when it happened.

“We had disastrous economic decisions, such as that to sell gold at a fraction of its real rate,” said Mr Davies. Yes – the UK lost around £9 billion. But compare that with the disastrous economic decision by George Osborne to impose more than £80 billion worth of cuts to achieve a £7 billion cut in the national deficit. The UK has lost £73 billion there, over a three-year period.

And Mr Davies said: “Worst of all and most seriously, we had a welfare system that allowed people to get into a trap of welfare dependency, leaving them on the dole for many years, but at the same time filling the consequent gap in employment by allowing mass and uncontrolled immigration into this country, which completely undercut British workers.” The first assertion is simply untrue; the second is a legacy of previous Conservative administrations that agreed to the free movement of EU member citizens, meaning that, when the eastern European countries joined in 2004, citizens migrated to the UK in the hope of a better life. Labour has admitted it should have negotiated for a delay in free movement until the economies of those countries had improved, making such migration less likely, but the situation was created before Labour took office.

Challenged on the Coalition’s record, Mr Davies fell back on the Tories’ current trick question, which is to counter any criticism by asking: “Is he suggesting that we are not doing enough to pay down the national debt? Is he suggesting that we should cut further and faster? If so, and if we had the support of other Opposition Members, that is exactly what the Government could do and, indeed, possibly should do. I look forward to seeing that support for getting the deficit down.” This disingenuous nonsense was batted away by Labour’s Hugh Bayley, who said “investing in the economy, creating jobs and thereby getting people off welfare and into work” was the way forward.

Mr Davies’ Conservative colleague Jeremy Lefroy took a different view, agreeing that increasing numbers of people are finding it impossible to make ends meet, and that job creation and apprenticeships were a better way out of poverty than changing the social security system alone. He agreed that sanctions were applied to his constituents “in a rather arbitrary manner”. He spoke against George Osborne’s suggested plan to remove housing benefits from people aged under 25, saying this “would have a drastic impact on young people who need to live away from home and who have no support from their families”. He spoke in favour of councils increasing their housing stock. And he admitted that disabled people faced severe problems when unfairly transferred from ESA to JSA: “A lady in my constituency says, ‘I am simply not fit for work, but by signing on for JSA I have to say that I am available and fit for work.’ She does not want to tell a lie.”

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool Walton, Labour) spoke powerfully about the effect of being on benefits: “Lots of people in my city are on benefits for the very first time. Far from being in clover — it beggars belief what we read in the right-wing press — they are struggling to make ends meet, and the problem that thousands of Liverpudlians are facing is new to them. For many, the idea that they might miss a rent payment is totally alien. They have not done that in the past 20 years, but since May 2010, their individual household incomes have been on such a downward trajectory that they now find themselves in rent arrears, seeking advice on debt management and unable to afford the daily cost of travel, food and energy. Figures suggest that 40 per cent of the adult population in Liverpool are struggling with serious debt problems.”

And he said poverty had health implications, too: “David Taylor-Robinson of the University of Liverpool and his fellow academics have highlighted the doubling of malnutrition-related hospital admissions nationally since 2008.”

John Hemming (Birmingham Yardley, LD) raised concerns about “the interrelationship between the welfare cap and victims of domestic violence, and whether there are situations that need more attention. I believe that people can get discretionary housing payment to leave a violent home, but it is important that we ensure that there is a route out of domestic violence for women. I am worried about that issue, just as I am about some wrongful sanctioning that I have seen. That does not help at all, because it undermines the whole process.” He also called for “a substantial increase in the minimum wage, because as the economy is improving the Government should look at that, rather than maintain things as they are”.

The vote gave huge endorsement to the call for an independent inquiry into poverty under the Coalition.

But with an election just 15 months away, how long will we have to wait for it to report?

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Another Tory ‘bait-and-switch’ scam – shares-for-rights scheme is employers’ tax dodge

shares-rights-tax

“This government is taking action domestically on [tax] avoidance and evasion,” wrote George Osborne in an article for The Observer, back in February. How right he was.

The Tory-led Coalition has done everything in its power to facilitate tax avoidance and ignore evasion, it seems, including the latest wheeze, which is to link it with a feeble attempt to get working people to throw away their rights in exchange for a few shares.

The BBC has reported that the new status of “employee shareholder” has come into force, allowing working people to claim shares in the company that employs them, if they give up the rights to claim unfair dismissal and statutory redundancy pay, the right to request flexible working (except in the case of two weeks’ parental leave), and some rights to request time off for training.

Nobody in their right mind would do this and expert opinion is that take-up will be small. So why do it?

Well, it’s not about the workers at all. It’s about helping company bosses avoid paying their taxes. Even the right-wing-leaning BBC was unable to cover up the facts (although it left them until the end of the article):

“Companies can also claim some corporation tax deductions on the issuance of shares to employees.”

Yes – it’s a tax dodge!

Here’s how it works, according to the Mirror: “New analysis show[s] it could also allow executives to avoid paying revenue on company shares. Tax experts commissioned by the TUC believe ruthless bosses could classify themselves as ’employee owners’ to escape Capital Gains Tax. And the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates the scheme could cost up to £1 billion, mainly due to tax avoidance.”

This will, of course, involve a drop in tax income to the Treasury, meaning increases in the national debt and deficit, which the Tories will no doubt use to justify further cuts to public service budgets as part of their ‘Starve The Beast’ agenda. Remember, this country has a chancellor who, for ideological purposes, actually wants to harm the British economy.

Meanwhile, as our friend at Another Angry Voice has put it: “If you’re thick enough to cash in your labour rights for a few grand worth of shares in the company you work for, then in a couple of years time when people are calling you ‘feckless’ for being unemployed, you’ll be one of the minority that actually deserve it (and your shares might well be worth only pennies in the pound compared to the value they had when you scrapped your labour rights to get them).”

Employee ownership: Has the government actually done something right?

Long live co-operatives: At long last, it seems the government (or at least the Liberal Democrat side of it) is offering support to the most successful and supportive business model available - and we can hope that Labour will do the same. But where are the Conservatives in all this?

Long live co-operatives: At long last, it seems the government (or at least the Liberal Democrat side of it) is offering support to the most successful and supportive business model available – and we can hope that Labour will do the same. But where are the Conservatives in all this?

Today, July 4, is officially Employee Ownership Day – did you know that?

Employee ownership means all employees of a business have a significant and meaningful stake in it. This could include financial participation but must include provision of access to organisational structures. Where financial participation does take place, there is currently no set rule on what percentage of issued shares is a significant and meaningful stake, and this is something that I believe should be changed to ensure it is worthwhile.

Employee ownership can generally take one of three forms:

  • Direct employee ownership – employees become individual owners of shares in their company;
  • Indirect employee ownership – shares are held collectively on behalf of employees, normally through an employee benefit trust; and
  • Combined direct and indirect ownership – a combination of individual and collective share ownership.

The Employee Ownership Association estimates that UK-based employee-owned companies had a turnover of more than £30 billion and employed more than 130,000 people in 2011. Employee-owned businesses enjoy greater staff retention, innovation and motivation than non-employee owned businesses and, in turn, these deliver wider economic benefits including increased productivity, profitability and more resilience to economic shocks.

The sector has grown by more than 20 per cent since the start of the recession in 2008; while 65 per cent of conventional businesses survive their first three years, 90 per cent of co-operatives remain in business; and 37 per cent of directorships in co-operatives are held by women, compared with 13 per cent in leading UK companies (this last point should not be relevant in this day and age, but the gender gap is quite clearly still there, so it is).

All of the above is from a government press release issued today, but eerily resembles comments made on this blog in the past – like this one or this.

According to the government, not only will this successful model of business be easier to understand and quicker to set up after Vince Cable publishes new guidance today, but the government is also consulting the public on the possibility of providing two new tax reliefs to help indirect employee-owned businesses get themselves set up.

To my way of thinking, this seems spectacularly useful, but this is the Coalition government so there must be a catch. Right?

It seems the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will be publishing:

  • Guidance for employees who want to request a move to employee ownership;
  • Model documentation on a move to employee ownership with accompanying BIS and HMRC guidance;
  • Guidance from the Employee Ownership Association explaining the different models of employee ownership; and
  • Guidance from Co-operatives UK on how co-operative principles and ways of working can be implemented into employee-owned businesses.

“The government is committed to supporting this business model and will today launch a consultation on providing two new tax reliefs to encourage employee ownership,” according to the press release.

“This sector has the potential to benefit the wider economy, therefore the government is seeking views from people both inside and outside the employee-ownership sector to ensure the reliefs are supportive and effective.

“The Employee Ownership Association, in conjunction with the government, has helped to organise a number of events in the UK where employee-owned businesses are opening their doors to showcase the benefits of their business model.”

Nick Clegg actually said something I can support: “The benefits of employee ownership are clear. Staff who have a stake are more motivated and are rewarded for thinking in the long-term. That’s good for business and good for families, as it means lower absenteeism and lower levels of staff turnover.” This is something I have been saying for many months; it’s as though he has been reading this blog.

He said the government has set aside £50 million per year, starting next April, to give businesses and employees an incentive to adopt employee-owned models, and will be providing Capital Gains Tax relief for those who sell a controlling stake in a company to their staff.

It will be interesting to see how many firms take up the offer; from that information we can work out whether the greed that increased bosses’ pay by 700 per cent over the last 10 years – while employees got a miserly 27 per cent rise – is still rampant.

There is also a question over whether this is the right time – the middle of the longest economic slump in recent history.

It could be!

Cable reckons “there has never been a more important time to support different ways of running a business”.

He said: “The evidence is clear that employee-owned businesses not only help us build a stronger economy, but boost the retention, innovation and motivation of their employees.”

Co-operatives UK Secretary General Ed Mayo said his organisation would be supporting today’s events by launching its own publication, Simply Buyout – an essential guide to employee buyouts and becoming a co-operative employee owned business.

The consultation on the two new tax reliefs can be found online here. This stage of it will run until September 26 this year. The government will publish a summary of the responses in the autumn, and they will help to inform draft legislation.

The first is a Capital Gains Tax relief which would apply when the controlling share of a business is sold into an indirect employee ownership structure, and the government hopes it will encourage individuals wishing to sell their business to consider it.

The second tax relief is an Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs) exemption, that would allow indirectly employee-owned companies to pay employees a certain amount every year that is free of Income Tax and NICs. There would also be an employer NICs exemption for the company.

The government announced in the March Budget that it would provide £50 million annually, from 2014-15, to support employee-ownership models and to incentivise growth of the sector.

The press release features a quote from yet another Liberal Democrat – Danny Alexander – who said: “We want to encourage greater use of employee ownership in UK businesses and want to ensure that we provide reliefs that are supportive and effective. Views are invited from both people inside and outside the employee ownership sector.”

So that’s three high-ranking Liberal Democrats speaking up for it, and no Conservatives. Interesting. Do the Blue Meanies have nothing to say in favour of the proles part-owning the firms where they work?

And what about Labour? Does the Party of the Workers support this activity? This Party member hopes it does.

It will be hard to tell from the press coverage, however.

At the time of writing, there hasn’t been any.

Tory insanity outbreak: Now disgraced Liam Fox wants to harm pensioners

Do not approach: Another Conservative goes feral. Pensioners - guard your assets!

Do not approach: Another Conservative goes feral. Pensioners – guard your assets!

There seems to be an increasing willingness among politicians to give high regard to disgraced ex-colleagues.

Only last weekend, Nick Clegg praised Chris Huhne, who faces sentencing today after being convicted of perverting the course of justice regarding speeding points on his driving licence.

Now Liam Fox has weighed into the debate on future Conservative Party policy. Dr Fox had to resign after being asked why a man who was not a part of the government had attended more than half of his official engagements including trips abroad, at the public expense.

His ideas are just as appalling as Theresa May’s plan to take away all of your human rights, as detailed in this blog yesterday.

He wants to freeze public spending for the next five years – that’s well into the next Parliament, no matter who wins.

He wants to spend the money this will allegedly save on tax cuts, notably capital gains tax – in other words, another nice little earner for the very, very rich. Odious, aren’t they?

Like Vince Cable of the Liberal Democrats, he wants departmental budgets that are currently ring-fenced to lose that protection – including the NHS, schools and international development.

The NHS is already the subject of controversy over its spending because the government has claimed budgets have increased, while the UK Statistics Authority stated categorically that they have dropped.

Most schools have been under-funded by Michael Gove, in favour of his ridiculously expensive ‘free schools’ project. Under Dr Fox’s plans, unless your child is privately-educated or has been cherry-picked to go to one of these new institutions, their education would suffer and their chances in life would be hugely reduced.

International development is hugely controversial as well. At a time when the UK is struggling to pay for itself, critics say, the country should not be giving cash away to foreign nations.

And he wants to end protection for universal benefits – such as the pensioners’ winter fuel allowance.

Pensioners: This Tory wants to take away the extra money you get to heat your home during the winter, and the Liberal Democrat Vince Cable wants to means-test or tax the pension for which you have spent your entire working life paying. Do you really want to vote either party back into power to do these things to you?

Fox is a leading member of the Tory right-wing, and this is clear from his demands. But his own past actions make his current intervention laughable. He wants to cut public spending by – according to his own calculations – £345 billion over five years, yet he himself is an expenses cheat who has overspent taxpayers’ money on himself and his friends.

In 2009 it was reported that he had claimed £19,000 on expenses for his mobile phone bill over the previous four years. He said he was looking for a cheaper tariff.

He overclaimed £22,476 in mortgage interest payments, which he was forced to pay back in 2010. Fox said he had decided to remortgage his second home to pay for redecorations, and claim the higher interest repayments on his expenses because this represented value for money – he could have charged the taxpayer for his decorating bill directly. This was not true, according to the judge dealing with the case.

A study of Parliamentary records in the Daily Telegraph showed that he was receiving rental income from his London home while simultaneously claiming rental income from the taxpayer to live at another residence.

And then there’s the big one, for which he lost his job: Fox’s relationship with Adam Werrity, who had lived rent-free in Fox’s flat, had accompanied Fox on 40 of his 70 official engagements, attended meetings with foreign dignitaries and had used official-looking business cards which stated his was an “advisor” to Fox.

Fox resigned in advance of publication of an official inquiry’s report into the matter.

What a shame he can’t keep his mouth shut.