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Showing posts from November, 2007

SELLING A KIDNEY: LET’S HAVE A GROWN-UP DEBATE

This morning the Sunday Times reports that in the Netherlands a proposal is being considered to pay – or, more accurately, to bribe – citizens to encourage them to donate one of their kidneys for transplantation. The plan, being considered by the Dutch health minister, is to ‘reward’ donors by giving them free-for-life health insurance – calculated by the Dutch Health Council to be worth around €50,000 – say £35,000. The background to this proposal is that there is in the Netherlands, as in the UK, a chronic shortage of healthy kidneys for transplantation, partly because advances in medical science mean that there are fewer cadaver-derived kidneys from – for example – road accident victims. Meanwhile, patients suffering from kidney failure are dying while on dialysis. Currently, in the Netherlands as in Britain, the sale (as opposed to the simple donation) of organs is illegal. The British legislation was rushed through parliament in 1989 without any public debate (there was, it is

Power to the People

The Conservative party – of which I am neither a member nor supporter – will today unveil a plan to give local-government electors the right to vote down large council-tax rises. Apparently, a threshold will be set, and any rise above this threshold will automatically trigger a local referendum. Of course the devil will lie in the detail, but no-one concerned with the present moribund state of local democracy in England can do other than welcome this idea – as I do. In response to the Tory proposal, the Local Government Association has said that “Local authorities should have the power to determine, without interference, the appropriate levels of council tax for their areas." Presumably, however, the words “without interference” do not include local electors. Of course it seems unlikely that local councillors will welcome these proposals, because the power of these councillors will – in effect – be usurped by the voters whose interests they are supposed to represent – but rare

REPRESENTATION WITHOUT TAXATION

Lord Ashcroft is a multi-millionaire, whose fortune is said to amount to some £800 millions. He is a major donor to the Conservative party (of which I am neither a member nor a supporter). He is said to reside in Belize. It is not clear whether he pays any UK income tax. The Guardian of 9 November 2007 ran a front-page story on him, alleging that prior to the conferment of his life peerage pledges were made by the Conservative party that he would return to the UK and pay UK income tax. The Guardian quoted David Heath, Liberal-Democrat spokesperson on constitutional affairs, as declaring that “No one should take a place in the legislature of this country who doesn’t pay taxes in this country.” Why not? There are plenty of people living in this country who don’t pay any taxes. Are they, for that reason, to be barred from sitting in either House of Parliament? And what about voting? You don’t have to pay taxes in order to exercise the right to vote. The linkage between voting and pay