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Could George Osborne declare war on himself over unpaid tax collection?


Could George Osborne be about to declare war on himself? Probably not. The idea doesn’t even really make sense. But if he wants to uphold the British values the Government seems so keen for us all to live by he should at least think about it.

It can’t have escaped your notice that ever since the apparent plot by Islamic extremists to take over schools in Birmingham, the Government has been very keen for us all to abide by British values.

We could argue all day over what they are, but the Government seems to think Magna Carta is a pretty good place to start.

Essentially a list of demands made of King John in 1215 for the ongoing loyalty of the Barons of the time, as the Government’s own website points out it defined the “limits on taxation and [paves] the way for trial by jury”.

The three clauses about families left behind by dead Barons not needing to pay off debts owed to Jews have since been repealed – I guess that bit wasn’t so British. But some clauses remain in force 800 years later.

With a hat-tip to the Daily Telegraph for pointing it out, one clause still in force could pose a problem for HMRC plans to dip into bank accounts for unpaid tax without the permission of a court.  

Article 39 says: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.”

As the Telegraph also points out, this most hallowed of constitutional cornerstones will not be repealed to allow HMRC to recover its debts. Instead the controversial move will be made legal through what is known as a Statutory Instrument, which cannot be amended by Parliament like most legislation, only accepted or rejected wholesale.

That may technically make it legal but it certainly goes against the common understanding of what Magna Carta is about: protecting the individual from the whims of those in power.

That same Government website says if King John refused to meet the conditions, the Barons would have declared war against him.

As heir apparent to a Baronetcy himself, albeit one that was established 400 years after Magna Carta, Osborne must be hoping his folks don’t expect him to keep that promise.

Steve Tolley is political reporter at Money Marketing



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