Monday 29 September 2008

Inheritance tax: will Labour take a stand for fairness?

At today's ippr fringe event on poverty policy at the Conservative party conference ('Can the Conservatives be the Party of the Poor?'), Martin Narey of Bernado's criticised the Conservatives for proposing to raise further the threshold at which inheritance tax is paid. If ending child poverty is truly a Conservative aspiration, then why give up this crucial stream of revenue that could make all the difference between hitting and missing the child poverty target?

Richard Reeves, of Demos, argued that while this proposal doesn't necessarily undermine their anti-poverty credentials, it does throw a question-mark over the Conservatives' wider claim to be a party of 'fairness'. Invoking the radical liberal, John Stuart Mill, Richard argued that it is obviously very unfair to tax transfers of inherited wealth to a much lesser extent than labour incomes.

It is a year since George Osborne turned the political tide against Labour with his speech announcing the Conservative intention to raise the threshold at which inheritance tax is paid (back then, only to £1m). Labour's response then was one of panic and retreat. This time round, as the Conservatives call for further cuts, will Labour be willing to take a stand for fairness?

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