By now the election campaign is behind us and we might even have a new government, but there is some unfinished business. Am I alone in this world in wondering why three ex MPs and a Member of the House of Lords were able to persuade the Legal Aid authorities that they were worthy of support? I know they will have to repay the money if they lose their case but why do we have to support them in the first place? And they have the effrontery, or so I read from the popular and no so popular press, to base their defence on something called the Bill of Rights.
You might have thought that this piece of 1689 legislation was something to protect the public rather than defence mechanism for potential criminals. No doubt all will soon be revealed although the latest I heard was that there was an argument that the case ought to be conducted in camera which goes somewhat against the concept of open justice.
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My understanding is that the extra privileges given to Members of Parliament and Members of the House of Lords by the Bill of Rights is so that they are able to speak and act freely in Parliament. Quite what this has got to do with mortgage interest and private residencies is at the moment unclear to me.
No doubt there will be more twists and turns to this story. However, the gentleman concerned will take no part in any new legislation passed after 6 May 2010.
A new beginning?
And just what will that legislation contain so far as it affects trust and estate practitioners? Will we really have a nil rate band of £1m? If we do then we can all get back to the drawing board and work out fresh plans for estate planning and Will drafting. Or will the £1m nil rate band become merely an aspiration rather than a reality? Could it just be that when the next government takes a look at the books they find them in such a bad state that what was promised may have to be delayed gratification? I was told the story that occurred in October 1964 when Harold Wilson won the election. His Chancellor of the Exchequer, James Callaghan, was passed on the stairs of No. 11 by the outgoing conservative chancellor with the comment, “Sorry, Jim, the position is worse than you think!”
Trusts rule OK
But if we do end up with a £1m nil rate band then this is going to take out of charge to IHT large numbers of estates and even for the rich, or at least those whom certain members of the popular press regard as rich. Everyone will be able to create lifetime settlements three times the value than they can at present. Coupled with 100% Business Property Relief this would result in a significant amelioration of the worst effects of Finance Act 2006. In perpetuity speak we will have to wait and see.
Whatever some people may think our life is never dull and is always intellectually interesting. It might become even more so over the passage of the next few months?
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