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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 08:18 GMT 09:18 UK
Would you pay more tax to ease poverty?
The Prime Minister, Tony Blair has reasserted the Labour Party's traditional belief in the redistribution of wealth, power and opportunity.

In a speech at a north London school on Wednesday to mark the publication of the government's annual child poverty report, Mr Blair also countered growing criticism of his government's commitment to tackling poverty.

The report estimates 1.4 million youngsters have been rescued from low incomes since 1997 and reveals teenage pregnancies have fallen by 6%.

Previously, Labour ministers have often steered clear of talking about redistribution because of fears it means higher taxes.

Do you feel that goverment policies have helped to reduce poverty over the past five years? Would you be prepared to pay increased taxes to improve conditions for Britain's poor?


This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


I would much prefer to stick to voluntary contributions

Linda, UK
I have always been actively involved in the charity world and have devoted much of my own resources and time to helping improve the lives of those in need. However, I would not like to pay extra tax to help poverty alleviation as I think that the present government would be too incompetent to spend it. In the aid world, we have ways of measuring what percentage of the donor's contribution reaches the target after overheads and administration. I imagine that if the government were to perform such a test, the results would be frightening. I would much prefer to stick to voluntary contributions.
Linda, UK

We've always known that Labour governments want to redistribute wealth - no surprise there. But what worries me is the suggestion that "opportunity" will also be redistributed now. Whose opportunities to do what will be taken away, and given to whom? Are able students going to be refused university places to give them to the less able? Isn't this the logical extension of our progressive tax system?
Jan Dawson, UK


Altruism is way down the list of priorities in human nature

Simon D, England
Nothing will change. It's not really the government's fault though. It's all down to human nature. Being a success is part of our psyche. The Selfish Gene will always win out. Altruism is way down the list of priorities in human nature. We are designed for survival this way.
Simon D, England

No, I don't want to pay more tax. As a middle income, single gay man I pay and subsidize too many people already. I live in S East where I can't afford to buy a flat so I simply do not want to give more. There are plenty of other sources where money can be collected by making this government spend less frivolously. There are very few poor in England anyway. Even the beggar on the street here is rich compared to a person living in Asian or South American shantytowns.
I Novakovic, UK


Tax the rich not those in the middle

Ian Grimley, UK
Any redistribution only ever seems to be from the middle classes to the poor. The wealthy always escape, perhaps because those in power are either wealthy themselves or because of the influence the wealthy bring to bear. Tax the rich not those in the middle.
Ian Grimley, UK

Labour and tax are like strawberry and cream. They go well together. Any excuses to raise taxes.
Al, UK

So I am meant to spend my whole working life bailing out the poor just so when I retire I can get a state pension that will hardly cover the cost of a pint of milk a week!
Julia, UK

We can talk about many issues concerning the proposed tax increases but my own feeling is that it would be pointless. This country is so frustrating to live in that I am going to emigrate at the first opportunity. I have absolutely no confidence in the future and have already told my children (both university educated) to also leave. Mr Blair and his cohorts can go shove it!
K. White, England


We need an overhaul of the benefit systems

F. Davies, UK
Where is all the tax going NOW? We need an overhaul of the benefit systems so that benefits ARE a stop gap and not a right or privilege that most people think they are entitled to on a permanent basis. Get more people into work, pay a decent level of wages and guess what - more income for the government without raising taxation level.
F. Davies, UK

What about corporate tax? Multinational corporations make billions in profit, and yet still get huge tax breaks at our expense. But our 'fearless' politicians are afraid of upsetting their big business pals to do anything about it.
Ben Drake, York, UK

To all those who say they wouldn't begrudge paying extra tax, I ask: what are you waiting for? There's nothing stopping you from writing out a cheque to the Inland Revenue.
Henry Case, UK

I'm amazed at all these people who feel they need to pay more tax. It's so simple: they can just write a cheque to "HM Treasury" for however much they feel they've short-changed Gordon Brown. No need to annoy the rest of us with all this political whining.
Mike Holmes, Scotland


The only way to reduce poverty is to increase benefit levels to the level where people can have a dignified existence

Neil Rogall, UK
The only way to reduce poverty is to increase benefit levels to the level where people can have a dignified existence. The money that Blair spends on armaments and war could be used to bring millions out of poverty and despair. In addition we need to go back to a situation where the rich (not the middle classes) are taxed heavily - those who have gained their wealth by profiting from others labour both here and abroad are forced to contribute to the society that has made them rich. If only Tony Blair would do that - instead he offers nothing but privatisation, neo-liberalism, and authoritarianism. And of course war.
Neil Rogall, UK

Neil Rogall, UK: Dignity does not come from money, it comes from working for a living. As others have said the key is education, a good education will get you a good job and good wages. High beneit levels just means your first job pays for the baby sitter and you are no better off at the end of the day.
Michael Pearce, UK

To Neil Rogall, what a genius idea that is, then all of us can give up work and live on the generous handouts you propose. None of us needs to ever work again!! On second thought, maybe there is a slight flaw in this plan? Bankrupting the UK, but I suppose as you obviously live in cloud cuckoo land that wont be a problem for you.
Tim , UK

When the various "stealth" taxes are taken into account (VAT, National Insurance - which is a tax by another name, tax on insurance, airport taxes, fuel taxes, alcohol taxes, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, stamp duty etc) are taken into account, we already pay around 65% tax. Let the Government look to its own inefficiencies and profligate waste before it tries to take still more from a population which is already one of the most heavily taxed in Europe.
Kate, England

The 40% tax rate should not be raised as it stands. People on little over 30K a year, just a few thousand more than the average wage, already have to pay almost half their salary in taxes and should not penalised any further. If anything tax rates for them should be lowered, as the jump from 22% to 40% is too high and a more progressive tax code introduced topping off at say 50% for those earning over 75K. Meanwhile "sin taxes" on fatty and unhealthy food should be introduced to help curb the appalling rates of poverty amongst the poor. It will take time to have an effect but will pay dividends in the long run.
LR, England

Compared to most of the other big economic countries we pay some of the lowest rates of Tax. Fact! So where will all our big earning bosses go and work if the UK raised taxes? Germany where the highest rate of income tax is 51%? France where the highest rate of income tax is 54%? I guess they could go to Italy where the highest rate is only 46%! In the Netherlands the highest rate is 60%. Plus most of these countries also pay higher rates of VAT! I wonder if all their government services are better than ours? Food for thought!
Steve, England

We have to be prepared to pay our fair share of tax to improve services and quality of life of the vulnerable. This means taxing the rich a little more and addressing their tax avoidance. Civilisation is expensive. The vulgar personification of the Inland Revenue as "the taxman getting his hands on your cash" perpetuates our miserly, short-sighted attitudes.
Tom Phelan, UK


How about some serious accountability before taking more of my hard earned cash

Antony, London, UK
I am pretty sick of managing government wastage and inefficiency with the "quick fix" solution of yet another tax hike. With 10% NI contributions, 17.5% VAT, stamp duty, petrol tax, death duty, etc. plus one third of my salary gone from source. Where does it all go? How about some serious accountability before taking more of my hard earned cash. They may as well incinerate half the money I currently pay over for all the good it does. I would never agree to higher taxes until those in power prove they are using it responsibly.
Antony, London, UK

One aspect of poverty in the South East is that salaries no longer buy homes, and whilst this poverty trap continues we will see an increasing number of public service strikes, fire service and tube strikes could just be the beginning. Increasing interest rates and preventing people buying numerous buy-to-let properties would help to ease the problem.
Tim, UK

The problem isn't so much as the more well off paying tax, but making many employers pay living wage salaries. There are too many companies out there expecting to pay 12,000 or less for what are quite demanding jobs. I'm sure such employers will bleat that they can't afford it, but why should the taxpayer subsidise them?
Phil Cattermole, United Kingdom

My husband and I work over 80 hours a week between us, we do not have a car, we have given up smoking and we made a conscious decision not to have children which we felt we could not afford. We do have a mortgage but we are considered well off because we are buying our own house. We are fed up of continually having to bale out the "poor" - most of whom spend a lot of money on cigarettes, take away food and cars. Why doesn't the Government not take away child benefit from the well off people and redistribute it to the less well off people with children. This benefit is the only benefit which is not means tested and it is given to rich and poor people alike.
Marlene Wodo, England

I would not trust the government to distribute the money generated from higher taxation to the poor, it would simply be used to pay for their next election campaign. So no way we pay far too much as it is for very little return, Britain is still a rip off!
Doug, London, UK

The idea that slapping taxes on the rich will solve all the UK's problems belongs in a Student Union, not in the real world!
Peter, UK

So apart from the 40% I pay on my salary, the %80 I pay on petrol, the 18% VAT, road tax, the tax on cigarettes and alcohol, how much more of my hard earned does this Government want? And I really want to know what they spend it all on? Rail Companies are privatised, greatly reduced support for students, miniscule police force, more and more people in private healthcare?
Duncan, UK

There is no need to increase the level of tax if you increase tax receipts by creating more wealth. Investing in Britain, through infrastructure improvements and helping businesses. Help the poor by providing the opportunities for them to earn a good wage.
Spencer Dutton, Brit in Germany


Re-introduction of the highest rate tax bands for very high earners would be a good starting point

Steve, UK
I think tax rises are a particularly grey area that most people agree are a good idea, if the money goes to the right places, and that the right people are taxed - as long as it's not me paying. Re-introduction of the highest rate tax bands for very high earners would be a good starting point.
Steve, UK

Does anybody realise that in the past 5 years since New Labour came to power that the total tax pot has risen from 286 Billion to nearer 500 Billion per year. We should all be asking where on earth all that money is going. And then they have the cheek to demand more of our money.
Gavin, UK

More taxes? Do we not pay enough already? I'm a single hard working man, and I struggle every month. I wouldn't expect anyone to help me out.
Louis Kabbani, UK


The idea of paying more tax to support poor people is abhorrent

James Fownes, England
The idea of paying more tax to support poor people is abhorrent, many of them are in the situation due to laziness and it would be unfair for the more successful elements of society to be expected to bolster them yet again.
James Fownes, England

James Fownes. I resent your charge that all people in poverty are layabouts who have not worked to better themselves. Bettering yourself is no guarantee of success today. I am a recent university graduate in IT, who spent over a year trying to find work. 395 (no exaggeration) applications later, I secured a job with a local authority on very poor wages considering my qualifications. Even now it is damn near impossible for me to save up enough money to afford a home of my own.

You thirty-something's just think when you sit back in your luxurious, more or less already made lives. Would YOU want to be in the position of someone just starting out nowadays? I think not. I expect lots of "the world does not owe you a living" comments from this post. I will pre-empitvely reply by saying we don't expect that. We desire nothing more than a level playing field.
Dan Cochran, Britain

Dan Cochrain, your reply to James just serves to strengthen his point. So you struggled to get a job? So did most of us "Thirty Somethings", do you expect money to be thrown at you? So you can't afford a house? Well neither could I until I had worked for over 8 years. Level playing field? There has never been a more level playing field, I fancy by "level" you actually mean nicely sloped in your favour so you have everything you could possibly want before you are 25. Oh and by the by, who forced you to become an IT specialist in the middle of an IT downturn? Bad judgement or just bad luck? It doesn't matter, be patient, put some effort into developing yourself and you too can be a comfortably well off Thirty Something writing to Talking Point!
Mark, UK

Education is how to prevent poverty. If every kid in the country has a good education, then they will find it easier to get work and pull themselves out of poverty. The other benefits of reduced crime and reduced welfare costs will mean more money to spare to improve education further. Education and the economy are linked in the long term.
Stu, UK

I am not an advocate of taxing the rich, but I believe that the 40 percent threshold should be raised to 45 or 50 percent. The lower paid cannot be expected to give more, without falling below the poverty line themselves. And the middle classes must not be hammered again, so those that can afford it should pay a bit more. I am sure that many would accept this providing the money was channelled to those in need, and not just lumped into the treasuries coffers.
Baz, UK

The redistribution of wealth is a great idea and should have been introduced a long time ago. However, to raise the issue to the public is quite risky as the nation already doesn't agree with his support for America, and the majority won't want their taxes raised. Especially since the NHS spending seems not to have made the slightest bit of difference.
Angela, UK


I think many people forget how well off they really are

CC, Scotland
I certainly wouldn't mind paying extra tax for a better standard of living for all. The common line of 'but I don't trust the government with my money' is a blatant excuse for those who are too mean and greedy to contribute a little more. These are usually the same people who whinge about long NHS waiting lists sub-standard public facilities!! I think many people forget how well off they really are - they should be ashamed!
CC, Scotland

The problems with poverty are in part due to the disappearance of the traditional manual labour industries. Tax money should be spent to create new jobs for this sector. Heaven knows the road and rail infrastructure in this country could do with more people maintaining it.
Euan Gregory, Scotland

I can't believe the amount of poor excuses on this page to cover up people's unwillingness to pay tax. We don't pay too much tax, in fact we pay a lot less than a lot of other countries. If you want a decent country with good public services and welfare you have to pay for it, and that includes everyone. I do think though that the super rich who avoid tax, illegally, should be locked up.
Ambrose, UK


I already pay far too much tax

John, UK
I work long hours in a high pressure job in the City. I earn every penny that I am paid and I already pay far too much tax. I grew up in a council house and my parents worked in a factory. I have worked hard to get to my present position. Why should I pay more tax to subsidise those who haven't got the will power and self discipline to do the same?
John, UK

As a VERY low paid council worker our pension is the only thing that keeps us going. At 31 I can't even afford to buy a house unlike some of those in this discussion. So how am I supposed to fund the poor if I'm already just above the poverty line myself?
Richard H, UK

To put it simply - yes. We all need to take some responsibility for those in out community who are less fortunate, for the most part through no fault of their own. For some this may take the form of practical help within local communities, for others it might be to help a little more through taxes if they can afford it. A penny on tax would not hurt anyone who is on average wage or above, provided the money was ring fenced only for handling poverty.
Ian McEvoy, UK


There is a huge body of evidence linking poverty and lack of opportunity with crime

Rich, UK
It seems ironic on 'Cracking Crime Day' that so many of the comments seem to view poverty relief as being a purely altruistic affair. There is a huge body of evidence linking poverty and lack of opportunity with crime, so any measures to alleviate the conditions of the poorest in society are of real benefit to us all. Tony Blair should be applauded for his ideals even if the implementation is somewhat flawed.
Rich, UK

Hell hath no fury like the middle classes being taxed.
Steve Perry, UK

Poverty is a scar on the UK left by 18 years of Thatcherite Tory government. Whilst the Government has done a lot to reduce poverty in the UK over the past five years, through the introduction of measures like the working families tax credit and the minimum wage, the only way to really tackle the problem is to increase taxes - something that I would welcome.
Malcolm Powers, UK


Poverty then was poverty

Eddie O'Riordan, UK
We pay enough direct and indirect taxation already - and what is poverty now? Colour TV, video and running an old banger. I came to this country from Ireland in the 50's and poverty then was poverty. Since then I have worked hard to get what I now own and I am not redistributing it to anybody.
Eddie O'Riordan, UK

The simple reason for poverty in the UK is that there are too many people out there who are out of work, who are being paid an unfair wage for a hard day's work or are merely pensioners. This is not related to taxation but to the gross misspending of the fiscal budgets by our elected and unelected officials, from councils to national government.
John, Scotland, UK

While it is tempting to think that tax can be made painless by merely taxing the rich, the trouble is that there are just not enough rich around. High taxes simply cause them to leave the country. The bulk of taxes have to be paid by the bulk of the population which means Mr and Mrs Average.
Patrick Stevens, UK


Make it possible for people to get rich

John Sinton, USA
It is always the suggestion that the way to help the poor is to tax the wealthy. But the truth is that taxing money is a root cause of the problem. Make it possible for people to get rich is the answer, like in the USA. If history has taught the US anything in the last 20 years, it has been to reduce government tinkering with the economy.
John Sinton, USA

By all means help but let's TAX those who can afford to pay. Years ago there used to be higher taxation for high earners. Let's see that system reintroduced as a starting point.
David Atkinson, England

We will all be living in poverty if we have to pay much more tax.
Dave, UK


Hopelessness is a very difficult cycle to break

DF, UK
I come from a poor background but, luckily for me, my family culture was to work hard to better your position in life. I am now what many might consider middle class (owning my own home is something my parents were never able to achieve). I realise that this 'redistribution of wealth' is likely to hit my pocket, but if it guaranteed that children from a less ambitious background might be able to believe they can make something of themselves, then I am prepared to pay. Hopelessness is a very difficult cycle to break.
DF, UK

The redistribution of wealth through taxation currently benefits the rich. Billionaires like Rupert Murdoch avoid tax in this country, effectively being subsidised by the rest of us. Huge subsidies go to arms manufacturers and dealers. We all pay plenty of tax. Just look at how it is spent and you find where the real problems of distribution lie...
Duncan Drury, London, UK

Perhaps Mr Blair can take the money he was going to spend on invading Iraq and instead spend it on something useful in the UK.
James, UK


Governments prefer quick fix solutions

Matt, UK
Money spent on tackling root causes of problems doesn't yield quick results. It may be years or even decades before the benefits filter through to society in general by which time someone else is likely to be in power. Governments prefer quick fix solutions to paper over the problems rather than address the real issues. Common sense tells us that prevention is better than cure but our government staggers on apparently oblivious to this.
Matt, UK

I was in a supermarket yesterday, stuck in a queue behind a young woman of about 20. She was chatting away to her friend while trying (unsuccessfully) to control a toddler and a baby. Part of her conversation was about the DSS refusing to pay for new shoes for the toddler. Her shopping basket included piles of frozen ready-meals, sweets and crisps - hardly the cheapest option. But the worst of it was that she also had a pack of 200 cigarettes in her basket! While I don't really care who smokes or not, I find it astounding that she believes the state should care for her children while she spends her welfare money on fast food and cigarettes.
Alan, UK

Sorry, I don't see the relationship between more tax to the government and less poverty. Ban advertising which persuades people to buy things they do not need and cannot afford.
Clive, UK


It might be a good idea to review how our existing taxes are currently spent

Hugh, UK
Do you mean more taxes on top of those I already pay to fund MPs' pay rises and final salary index-linked pensions? Perhaps it might be a good idea to review how our existing taxes are currently spent, without squeezing the poor taxpayer for ever-increasing amounts.
Hugh, UK

I already pay nearly 1,000 a month in tax. Is that not enough? The government should target people rich enough to hire accountants to hide money offshore.
Oliver Richardson, UK

Start taxing the super-rich fatcats before you pick on the people that do the real work in this county thanks. How about a 50% tax band for incomes over 100K? That would be a start.
Rob, UK

Very little of the billions gained from taxes on drivers ever get put back into the system. Why should we believe that an extra penny on the pound will be spent on poverty?
Chris, UK


It is not a long term solution

JM, UK
The question assumes that by paying more tax we can ease the problem of poverty. I have my doubts about this. Certainly it may alleviate some of the symptoms of poverty in the short run. However it is not a long term solution. I have worked as a mentor to a young man from a very poor family and I can tell you that his predicament was caused and is perpetuated by poor decisions made by his single parent mother. If the money is to be spent on anything it should be pumped into education, including sex education, so that young people do not have 6 children by 3 different (and absent) fathers.
JM, UK

I don't mind paying extra for essential services. However many welfare programmes actually keep people in poverty. Also I do not trust our government to redistribute my money fairly. Surely the best way would be to lower income tax for low paid workers.
Philip Shorter, England

Like a lot of people in this country I would agree with this in principle; the problem is that I cannot trust this or any government to target that money effectively and efficiently. And as Phil T alluded to, do we really want to spend 4.5 billion on a war to keep the rest of the world "safe"?
Andy, Scotland

There is no need to increase taxes to help reduce poverty in the UK. All we have to do is stop trying to play policemen of the world, invest the money spent on corrupt foreign governments back into our society, stop paying so much to Euro MPs, cut out all of the European bureaucracy, stop supporting white elephants like the Dome and give politicians a huge pay cut.
Phil T, Cornishman in Oman

 VOTE RESULTS
Would you pay higher taxes to ease poverty?

Yes
 26.35% 

No
 73.65% 

1351 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

18 Sep 02 | Politics
11 Apr 02 | UK
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