Long Working Hours

This is rather something to celebrate, don\’t you think?

Under the European working time directive, workers are legally not obliged to work more than 48 hours, though under a special opt-out granted to the UK British employees are allowed to work longer if they explicitly agree.

So alone amongst the European Union nations the workers in the UK can work the hours they wish to. Not the hours that others think they ought to wish to, but the hours that they themselves actually do.

The latest figures reverse that trend for the first time under the Labour government, with 93,000 more people now working more than 48 hours a week compared with 2006, taking the total to almost three and a quarter million (3,242,000). The increase represents a rise from 12.8% to 13.1% of the workforce.

And it appears that some 13% of the workforce have different ideas about the hours they wish to work than the panjandrums think they ought to.

As ever, we need to distinguish between what people think others should do and what people actually do if left to make the decision for themselves. While the different EU countries are indeed different it would seem, from the UK example at least, that a possible 13% of the EU population (or workforce rather) are being denied, by law, the opportunity to balance work and family life as they would wish.

The solution to this is quite clear. We should lift the 48 hour limit on the working week for all Europeans, for as we are indeed all EU citizens now, it is only right that all of the others enjoy the same freedoms that the British do.

Eeeek!

Rowan, you been talking to too many management consultants or something?

There is one key fact that every maternity expert appears to agree upon: one-to-one, dedicated care from a childbirth professional is absolutely key to facilitating a positive birth experience.

Those Donations

Hmm, anyone want to comment on this?

Mr Abrahams used four go-betweens to hide his identity, in contravention of Labour Party donation rules on transparency.

That\’s a nice little get out, don\’t you think? We only broke our own rules, not the law? But, erm, aren\’t the rules on disclosure actually set by the Electoral Commission, ie, they are the law, not Labour Party rules?

Disclosure laws state that anyone donating money to a party on behalf of someone else must make it clear where the money comes from.

Ah, quite so.

Mr Brown – who admitted a donation on behalf of Mr Abrahams for his leadership campaign had been rejected by his team – said Labour would return all of the £673,975 involved in the scandal.

Erm, shouldn\’t it be forfeit, as the UKIP money was? And anyway, now that the planning permissions has been granted, what are they returning the fee for?

English and American

We all know that there are important differences between English and American as they are spoke. One that\’s rather amused me was a time (as a result of something I wrote for over there) I was called a hack.

Over there it\’s very definitely an insult, one who writes not just to order, but to an ideological order. One who spins the facts and arguments to their master\’s bidding, purely for money. When the editor of the piece alerted me to the insult I\’d been offered I simply smiled.

For over here it\’s become a term of approbation. Yes, one who writes to order, but one who is in fact a professional newspaperman. One who can write on any (or at least most) subjects and turn in a decent piece on time.

Lord Deedes, known to all as Bill, died in August aged 94. As Editor of The Daily Telegraph from 1974 to 1985, and a Cabinet minister under Harold Macmillan and Sir Alec Douglas-Home, he made the most successful jump from politics to newspapers. But Richard Ingrams, former Editor of Private Eye, who featured the fictitious “Dear Bill” letters in the magazine, said: “[Bill] would like to be remembered as a newspaper reporter, not anyone grand. He was what I would call a hack, and he was proud to be that.”

Lord Deedes’s journalistic career spanned eight decades, from cub reporter on the Morning Post to his last column for the Telegraph this summer. He was in Abyssinia in 1935, covered the abdication of Edward VIII and travelled with Diana, Princess of Wales, in her campaign to rid the world of landmines.

When I first had a book review published in The Telegraph one Observer journalist emailed to say that "we\’ll make a hack of you yet".

I\’ll admit that I flirted with hackery in the American sense and then drew back. I\’ll also admit to aspiring to hackery in the English sense, but I\’ve a long, long way to go yet.

George Monbiot on Housing

George really does rather miss one point in this (actually, for him, rather good piece):

Shelter took me to meet Jacqueline Pennant, who lives with her children in a tiny maisonette in south Wandsworth. Jacqueline has osteoarthritis and a hairline fracture in the spine, a prolapsed disc and sciatica in both legs. She should be confined to a wheelchair, but it won\’t fit in the house. She dragged herself from one piece of furniture to the next, then up the narrow stairs, clutching at the bannisters, her face gnarled up in pain. I saw this in Britain, in November 2007.

Our Glorious National Health Service, The Wonder Of The World, in action again.

Polly On Taxation

Highly amusing column today.

He did talk firmly of "the need to create a stronger sense that residence and citizenship means responsibilities too". Did he mean the responsibilities of the hyper-rich and non-doms to pay taxes? Did the name "Sir" Philip Green pass his lips? Of course not.

Well of course not. Sir Phillip Green is not a non-dom. He is, at least as far as I know, a resident of the UK for tax purposes. His wife is not a resident of the UK, let alone a non-dom, so invoking either of their names on this point is ludicrous.

Instead he boasted of Labour\’s deep cuts in corporation tax, which now at 28% is among the lowest in the west.

Let\’s leave aside the well known point that corporation tax isn\’t in fact paid by the company, that it, in reality, depresses the wages of the workers. Let\’s instead just have a look at those rates: Table II 1

 

Australia   30,0
Austria   25,0
Belgiumb   33.99 (33.0)
Canada   22.1(21.0)
Czech Republic   24,0
Denmark   25,0
Finland   26,0
Francec   34,43
Germanyd   26.375 (25.0)
Greece   25,0
Hungarye   20,0 (16,0)
Iceland   18,0
Ireland   12,5
Italyf   33,0
Japan   30,0
Korea   25,0
Luxembourg   22.88 (22.0)
Mexico   28,0
Netherlands   25,5
New Zealanda   33,0
Norway   28,0
Polandg   19,0
Portugal   25,0
Slovak Republic   19,0
Spain   32,5
Sweden   28,0
Switzerlandh   8,5
Turkey   20,0
United Kingdoma   30,0
United Statesi   35,0

Even with the new 28% I can\’t quite see that this is "among the lowest in the west", unless we\’re talkiing about a rather large definition of "among".

He didn\’t remind them that business interest costs are off-set against corporation tax.

Well, of course not. Only an insane taxation system would try to stop that. Look Poll, we might be talking about the CBI, we might be talking about Gordon Brown, but even so there\’s no reason to believe that we\’re talking to complete and total idiots.

Intellectually Labour has capitulated, for a decade using the language of "tax burdens", boasting of income tax cuts while letting the wealthy pay less than low earners.

Come along now, not even you actually mean that. There is no way at all that the wealthy pay less than low earners. Even at the 10% taper relief rate somone cashing in a £ 1 million in stock pays £100,000. That is, as you will note, rather more than a cleaner on £6 an hour will pay over the course of a year (leaving aside the point that someone on that low wage might well, after benefits and tax credits, actually have a negative tax rate rather than a positive one).

A generation of voters has never heard the basic reasons why they pay tax, and why it is the most necessary and honourable part of citizenship. Why avoiding, let alone evading, it is dishonourable.

It is to laugh. Dishonourable to avoid (ie, legally order your affairs so as to reduce your tax bill) the depredations of the State? Err, have you told your boss this yet? You know, Alan Rusbridger who took a tax efficient £175,000 addition to his pension fund as a bonus?

When you describe an 8% rise for some and a cut for others as \’an 80% increase\’, you conveniently forget that CGT was 40% when we came to power. Now it is to be a mere 18%. That is still lower than the lowest income tax,

True enough, fair point. Of course, the lowest income tax rate was just doubled by Gordon Brown in the last Budget.

Now it is to be a mere 18%. That is still lower than the lowest income tax, and in the immortal words of one private equity boss, less tax than your cleaners pay. When you complain that 18% is too heavy a burden on risk, enterprise and the sweat of your entrepreneurial brows, tell me why you think a care assistant or a dinner lady should pay more tax than you?

As above, you\’re getting very confused between tax rates and tax amounts. The care assistant or dinner lady does not, in any way, pay more tax. They might pay a higher marginal tax rate, but they do not pay more in cash, nor do they pay more as a percentage of total income.

The truth is, Britain is still one of the least taxed of the countries with stable democracies and well-regulated economies.

!?!?! With the Government swallowing 45% of GDP? Please…

Top income tax rates are average in the OECD, capital gains tax among the lowest, property taxes virtually non-existent.

And that is simply quite glorious. Howlingly wonderful.

Components of taxation > Property tax (most recent) by country

#1 United Kingdom: 11.9%

So, err, when does The Guardian hire a fact checker for our Poll then?

Ooooh, and a glorious gotcha in the comments:

Does Ms Toynbee find it at all ironic that her salary for writing this is paid by The Scott Trust, an organisation established specifically to avoid the payment of inheritance taxes.

 

Good Lord!

Opening of a Guardian Leader:

Northern Rock\’s big blunder was to borrow short and lend long.

That\’s it? That\’s the secret?

Err, does anyone at The Guardian actually know how banks work? All of them, every single one of them, borrows short and lends long. It is, in fact, the essence of banking. When you stick your money into an account that is a deposit that you can withdraw on demand. The bank then lends it out as, say, a mortgage. That mortgage might last 25 years. From the bank\’s point of view this is borrowing short and lending long.

Northern Rock may well have made blunders. Perhaps relying upon wholesale markets rather than retail deposits, perhaps not having enough equity, perhaps too fine a pricing on their loans. All of those are possible reasons for the troubles, but borrowing short and lending long simply ain\’t the point.

Tell me, are Guardian leaders written by the sociology graduates or something?

Quick Question

So:

The huge cost to the taxpayer of Labour\’s commitment to the private finance initiative since it came to power a decade ago is revealed by the Treasury in a report by MPs published today. It shows that Gordon Brown has committed future governments to pay back £170bn by 2032 to banks, investors and private entrepreneurs for more than 800 schemes for new hospitals, schools and prisons.

Does this number currently appear in the public accounts as a future liability? If not, why not? And will it be put into them in future?

Oh Dear

First flagged up by John B, used as an "And finally" item at the ASI, a little jokule that some have found not funny:

Amid the packed carriages, interminable delays and passengers listening to their MP3 players too loudly, her voice has been an oasis of calm, soothingly reminding passengers on the London Underground to "mind the gap". But the career of Emma Clarke, the voice of the tube, may have come to the end of the line.

London Underground has said it will not be offering the voiceover artist any more work, after she appeared to criticise the transport system in a newspaper interview.

If you didn\’t hear the announcements first time around, the G has transcripts of them all.

To prove the tube network was not devoid of humour, the spokesman added: "London Underground is sorry to have to announce that further contracts for Ms Clarke are experiencing severe delays."

Ho Ho.

Quite Right on the Euro

Ambrose Evans Pritchard isn\’t the only person who has been saying this:

My point is – and always has been – that launching the euro was the easy part. The test would be 1) whether countries with vastly different structures, trade patterns, wage bargaining systems, debt structures, sensitivities to interest rates, productivity growth rates, and historic inflation rates would diverge so far over time that this would threaten the viability of the system.

2) Whether EMU could weather a bad storm without single treasury and debt union to back it up.

3) Whether the eurozone bloc had the “solidarity characteristic of a nation” (the Bundesbank’s term) required for it to endure through bad times.

As Jon Livesey and others have pointed out on my last blog, the euro-zone is not an “optimal currency area” – OCA in the jargon.

I was saying it back in 2002 for example. Nothing\’s happened so far to make me change my mind.

Reinventing Welfare

So El Gordo has decided to have another stab at reinventing welfare.

Under the proposals, the detail of which was unveiled by Peter Hain, the Work and Pensions Secretary, those out of work and claiming benefits will be forced to undertake a"skills health check" after six months claiming Jobseekers Allowance to identify deficiencies in their basic numeracy, literacy or language needs.

Those who need further training but refuse to undertake it will face cuts in benefits.

The Government will also remove disincentives for Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants to study more than 16 hours a week. The so-called 16-hour rule – which restricts people over the age of 19 from claiming housing benefit if they study for more than 16 hours a week – will be scrapped.

I\’m not sure it\’s been all that carefully thought through. That last, for example, seems to open up housing benefit to university students once again, something abolished (from memory, at least) back in the early 80s.

But I have a feeling that the biggest wails will come from the likes of Polly T. How could anyone be so cruel as to reduce benefits?

At which point I would suggest she goes and talks to her mate, Richard Layard. When I emailed her about this a few weeks back she insisted that he couldn\’t be involved with anything as hurtful and cruel as the Wisconsin Reforms (which this quite closely parallels). The only problem here is that the entire idea of restructuring welfare in this manner, of forcing people back into the potential labour force, if not actually back into work, comes directly from Richard Layard\’s work in the 1980s.

People should not be allowed to fester on the scrapheap of long term unemployment: they need, with a mixture of carrots and sticks, to at least attempt to re-engage with the world of work and or training.

Now I agree that you and I, along with many others, would be a great deal more radical. But if Polly does start to criticise all of this it\’s going to be really rather fun. The social democrat criticising a social democratic (both Polly and Layard were SDP members) proposal to remove some of the disincentives of a welfare system with an unlimited times span for benefits.

I await developments with interest!

Update. Christ, that didn\’t take long. Polly:

This time his peace offerings were a third runway for Heathrow, nuclear power stations and docking the benefits of the recalcitrant.

Sigh.

Labour and Newcastle

There\’s been earlier problems for Labour in Newcastle you know.

Gordon Brown has been plunged into a damaging sleaze row as the party donations scandal threatened to engulf two Cabinet ministers.

Political donations in return for planning permissions (allegedly)?

Anyone remember T Dan Smith? John Poulson?

One of the echoes of this current scandal is that the father of David Abrahams, Bernie Abrahams, would certainly have known at least the former.

No, not massively important, just interesting.

 

Yes, She\’s Right…

She is indeed featured here.

The Oxford Union debating society have invited Nick Griffin and David Irving to speak, despite the concerns of our local police and the city council, the student union and the Jewish and Muslim societies. I fully intend to be joining the demonstration outside the Union on St Michael’s Street from 7pm this evening. Doubtless there are some who won’t agree with me (I fully expect to be featured on Tim Worstall’s or the Devil’s Kitchen blogs later today, which will inevitably be followed by an onslaught of disagreeable comments).

Now boys and girls, play nice here. If disagreeable means not agreeing with Ms. Bance, that is of course fine. But being disagreeable just for the sake of being disagreeable isn\’t. Not when we go and play on someone else\’s property it isn\’t.

Of course she\’s entirely correct in this:

But I would just point out that having the right to freedom of speech doesn’t mean having the right to be invited to speak at a private members’ club.

Indeed it doesn\’t, even I would insist that it doesn\’t.

I would insist however that freedom of speech absolutely includes the right of a private members\’ club to invite whoever they should wish to come and speak to them. Which would appear to be what Ms. Bance is off to demonstrate against this evening.

Ho hum.

CBI Climate Change Report

Idiocy:

Yet the carbon footprint of our economy is larger than that. After taking into account the carbon emitted to produce the imports we buy, as well as the goods and services we export, it increases by at least 10 per cent.

This is the level of logical thought our Titans of Industry are capable of?

We could, if we wanted, add in the emissions from our imports, as they are connected with consumption here. We could also, if we were so minded, add in the emissions of our exports, as they are connected with production here.

But what we can\’t do is add both in. The emissions in our imports are counted in the production budgets of elsewhere: similarly, the production emissions of our exports are counted in the consumption budgets of elsewhere.

One or the other, not both.