SARAH VINE: If we wanted death taxes, we'd vote communist

Chancellor Philip Hammond, it seems, believes ‘it’s unfair for wealthy people to build up assets, sit on a huge property waiting to pass that to their children, then expect the state to pick up the cost of their care’

This Conservative Government has given its core constituency a kicking by introducing cripplingly unfair new business rates rises that disproportionately favour big companies over small private enterprises.

Now we hear whispers of an even more worrying kind: the potential introduction of death taxes to pay for social care, as part of reforms to help plug the funding gap.

‘Should someone be able to pass their house on to their children without paying the cost of care or can you get access to some of that money?’ is the question being asked in Whitehall.

Chancellor Philip Hammond, it seems, believes ‘it’s unfair for wealthy people to build up assets, sit on a huge property waiting to pass that to their children, then expect the state to pick up the cost of their care’.

If that were, indeed, the case, I would agree with him. But that is a grotesque distortion of reality.

First, no one ‘passes their house on to their children without paying the cost of care’.

We all contribute to that already, via tax and National Insurance. The question is whether we all need to pay more and, if so, how.

Second, the number of people with huge wealth is tiny. Mr Hammond is, in fact, one of them, with an estimated net worth of around £9 million — much of it acquired, ironically, from businesses in the care sector.

That is not a criticism. He is exactly the kind of Conservative I admire: someone who has worked hard and achieved great things.

But the truth is the vast majority never get anywhere close to making that kind of money.

They slave away to pay off their mortgages in the hope of enjoying a few years at the end of their lives before passing on something, however small, to their children.

If that were, indeed, the case, I would agree with him. But that is a grotesque distortion of reality

The desire to provide for the next generation is a fundamental human instinct, part of what gets us up in the mornings.

Making out it’s unfair or immoral simply because that suits the government of the day is pernicious. It also runs counter to everything a Conservative government should represent. 

That is to say, standing up for hard-working, conscientious individuals who pay taxes, don’t exploit the system — and who ask only that in return they should be allowed to enjoy some of the fruits of that labour: a bigger house; a new bathroom; a leg-up for their children.

If we take that away from people, we’ve had it. And state-sponsored grave-robbing is a sure-fire way of killing aspiration.

If the only reward for a lifetime of diligence is to have your one asset snatched from your dying grip by a rapacious state desperate to compensate for years of under-investment, wastage and mismanagement, then what’s the point?

Why not just live life on the never-never? Spend every last penny before you die and let someone else clear up the mess.

John Major has been lecturing Theresa May on the question of judgment in office

These plans, if they go ahead, will send precisely that signal. That the thrifty are just mugs to be mugged. Worse, that there is no such thing as an individual right of ownership. That the state can sequester assets when it wants.

The fact a Conservative Chancellor seems to be considering such a move is profoundly depressing.

If people wanted to live in a communist collective where the rights of the individual are subsumed by the needs of the state and property is theft, they’d have voted Labour at the last election.

But they didn’t, Mr Hammond — they voted Tory. Perhaps you should start acting like one.

NHS's shocking waste 

I got an email last week from a friend whose mother had sadly passed away. She had in her possession various items — a wheelchair, a walking aid, a commode — that she was looking to donate. 

Despite being pristine and in perfect working order, her local NHS trust refused to take them — on health-and-safety grounds (of course). Isn’t this extraordinary, given

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