• Recall tops list of "dos and don'ts" from the Taxpayers' Alliance ahead of Today's speech
• Other proposals, including a bill to merge Income Tax and National Insurance, are designed to create more transparency in local and national government
• Coalition must resist the urge to pile further taxes on over-taxed homeowners
At the Queen's Speech on Wednesday, new laws will be proposed for the last year of this Parliament. The Coalition has a golden opportunity to set out a vision of the legacy they will leave for taxpayers.
The TaxPayers' Alliance's proposals for what should – and should not – be in the Queen's Speech are designed to create a more transparent government, in which taxpayers know exactly how much tax they pay and exactly how their money is spent. These proposals include the merger of Income Tax and National Insurance and a bill to enshrine spending transparency in law. More detail can be found below.
Taxpayers will particularly hope that the Coalition will enshrine the right of recall in law. Voters must be able to hold their representatives accountable all the time, not just when an election is called. Allowing voters to petition for a ballot would not create “kangaroo courts” but would reinvigorate Westminster and help restore ordinary people's trust in the political system. Recent scandals have shown the desperate need to reform our antiquated democracy, and the Coalition must press ahead with implementing Zac Goldsmith MP's proposals. Watering the proposals down would allow Parliament itself to institute recall – which, far from putting power in the hands of voters, would only strengthen Westminster's grip on our democracy.
• DO: Give voters the right to recall MPs who have let them down
• DON'T: Introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol or plain packaging for tobacco
• DO: Claw back generous redundancy payments when public sector workers are re-hired
• DON'T: Blow Britain's budget on HS2
• DO: Introduce a tax reform bill to abolish National Insurance
• DON'T: Pile new taxes on already overtaxed homeowners – nor institute a Mansion Tax in whatever form
• DO: Enshrine spending transparency in law
• DON'T: Weaken the Freedom of Information Act
Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:
“Establishing the right of voters to petition for a recall ballot when they feel their MP has let them down would be a powerful tool to keep our representatives on their toes. If the policy is abandoned, despite being in the Coalition Agreement, it will only serve to distance the political elite even further from the voters they are supposed to be representing.
“The Coalition must be brave and put voters in charge. In doing so it would go a long way to restoring the public's trust in the political system."
On the European Commission's recommendation that the UK institute higher taxes on high-value properties, he continued:
"Government must resist the temptation to chase headlines with a wealth tax. Higher taxes on high-value properties will only strangle much-needed supply further. The Coalition must liberalise planning restrictions and reform stamp duty to solve Britain's housing shortage."
DO: Give voters the right to recall MPs who have let them down
The Coalition Agreement promised "early legislation to introduce a power of recall" but, after four years, no such bill has emerged. The Government should now introduce a robust bill that would give voters the power to trigger a recall ballot if enough of them felt that their MP had let them down.
DON'T: Introduce minimum alcohol pricing or plain packaging for tobacco
These new proposed regulations would create significant legal risks – ultimately borne by taxpayers who would pay for any compensation to industry – and penalise poorer people and smaller stores. They should be rejected.
DO: Claw back generous redundancy payments when public sector workers are re-hired
The public sector merry-go-round – when executives leave a job with a huge redundancy package only to be rehired in similar roles just months later – has hit taxpayers in the pocket. The practice is rife in local and national government, as well as the NHS, and must be stopped. These golden handshakes must be clawed back if "redundant" executives are hired back with a new job title.
DON'T: Blow Britain's budget on HS2
Proposals for a new high speed rail line would mean spending well over a thousand pounds for every family in Britain and do not represent value for money. Many towns would see a worse service under the current plans and the economic case is based on flawed assumptions. Realising the promises for the effects of the line will create further significant costs for taxpayers. The TaxPayers' Alliance has undertaken a number of research projects that have studied the likely effects of going ahead with the proposed new line: High Speed Rail, HS2 Capacity Analysis and The Hidden Costs of HS2. Government must look again at whether the business care for HS2 justifies the remarkable cost.
DO: Introduce a tax reform bill to abolish National Insurance
The Single Income Tax, the final report of the 2020 Tax Commission convened by the TPA with support from the Institute of Directors, called for strategic reforms to create a much simpler, fairer and more competitive tax system. An early step that would ease the administrative burden on employers and make the tax system more transparent and honest would be to abolish National Insurance and merge it with Income Tax. Our paper How to Abolish National Insurance shows how that can be done.
DON'T: Make home ownership less attractive with new taxes and ever higher stamp duty – nor institute a Mansion Tax in whatever form.
The Government must resist calls for new taxes on property. Property taxes are already twice as high – as a share of GDP – in the UK as they are on average in other OECD countries (see page 12 of our Fiscal Factbook). Stamp Duty creates particular problems for first time buyers and growing families (for more detail, see The Single Income Tax, Section 6.2.3). The Government should resist the temptation to pile on a Mansion Tax – in whatever form – as no amount of headline-grabbing wealth taxes will solve Britain's housing shortage.
DO: Enshrine spending transparency in law
If Britain is to reduce a £1.3 trillion debt burden, it will have to wage war on waste across local and national government. The Coalition's insistence that government at all levels publishes spending detail online has meant that waste is more obvious, and easier to identify. This transparency is vital if we are to hold politicians to account for how they spend our money. However, the Coalition won't be in power forever, and a future administration may not share its commendable commitment. A short bill, to enshrine in law that all departments, quangos and local authorities have to continue publishing how they spend our money, would guarantee that transparency in the long-term.
DON'T: Weaken the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act
There has been unwelcome speculation that the Coalition might curb the use of Freedom of Information requests. In the long run, all public bodies would do well to adopt a culture of transparency rather than simply paying lip service to the law to regain taxpayers' trust, so notably eroded in recent years. FOI may incur costs for the public sector, but the twin benefits of transparency and increased accountability outweigh them. The FOI Act has undoubtedly strengthened our democracy and laid the foundations for a more accountable and open public sector; any weakening of it would be a damaging move.