INHERITANCE TAX: WE are grateful North Tyneside Labour MP Stephen Byers raised the issue of inheritance taxes with his suggestion that they be abolished, but we would take a different direction.

Presently, the really wealthy avoid paying any inheritance tax by devices such as gifting and buying exempt assets. Ordinary households without the tax avoidance knowledge pay a marginal rate of 40 per cent.

The solution must be a modest inheritance rate of, say ten per cent, taxed on all cumulative inheritances to any individual of more than, say £100,000. We should abolish all the exemptions.

With that, there would be a significant net gain of tax intake and we, as a country, could afford to make a grant of, say £10,000, to each young British citizen at age 25 or so to assist in paying for education, clearing debts, contributing to purchasing a home, or starting a business.

This Universal Inheritance could, at one swoop, break the vicious circle of poverty and social exclusion. Without it, the gap between rich and poor is growing.

The country needs to return to old Liberal principles of a simplified tax system. Reform of inheritance taxation and abolition of the exemptions would be a terrific way to start.

Steve Radford, President, The Liberal Party, Liverpool.


ONE in five elderly people live in abject poverty in this country because the UK's state pension is the lowest in Europe at just £82 a week, representing just 15 per cent of national average earnings.

As a result, the UK also has a high percentage of elderly people's deaths through the cold winter months and other cold weather spells. Across Europe, state pensions are much higher.

Link-Age/Countrywide is the only non-party political pensions pressure group in the UK with a manifesto campaign calling for UK state pensions to be brought into line with the EU.

Link-Age is calling for a state pension income for all British single pensioners of £250 a week, with a relevant increase for couples.

We are also calling for the abolition of the council tax, the abolition of the means test, the abolition of taxing pensioners on their income and/or savings, and an increase in the national income tax threshold to take Britain's low waged and many pensioners out of taxation completely.

Our manifesto is being sent by individuals to their MPs at the House of Commons. To receive a copy, ring (01803) 857020 after 6.30pm any evening.

Michael Thompson, Founder, Link-Age/Countrywide, Brixham, South Devon.


FURTHER to my letter about animal cruelty (HAS, Aug 24). Over the years I have approached various animal charities asking them to press for animal registration as in some other countries.

They did not feel it would be effective. Why not? We all have to register our cars, pay massive taxes and notify the authorities when we dispose of them. Woe betide anyone who does not. It is 100 per cent effective.

A system of compulsory animal registration coupled with micro-chipping would go a long way to stopping animal cruelty, including rabbiting with lurchers, as described by your letter writer (HAS, Aug 17).

Rabbiting with lurchers has always been a practice in the North-East. In the bad old days it was done to augment the dinner table. Today, it has deteriorated into the sadistic amusement described by your writer.

As to approaching their parents, I am quite sure they know what their children are doing. People, even in these days, do not usually keep lurchers as pets.

Margaret Zamir, Tudhoe Colliery, Spennymoor.


THE Zionists with every brutal means at their disposal have colonised and destroyed Palestine, a whole country and its people.

The state of Israel, an invention of the Western powers, was born, not out of concern for the victims of Hitler's holocaust, but because Washington saw the role of Israel in the Middle East as its stalking horse.

Like the Nazis who attempted to rid Europe of its Jews, so the Zionists since 1948 have resorted to murder of the Palestinians and the destruction of their homeland.

What nonsense, then, to claim that Israel has a right to defend itself. No it has not. Israel has no right to defend what it took by force.

What irony that the Zionists, having built their apartheid wall, have effectively walled themselves in, returned themselves as it were, to the ghetto, which they fought so hard to escape.

Their attempts to build themselves a Switzerland in the Middle East have failed. They have led Jewish people into a trap for which there is no escape for them nor, tragically, for the Palestinians.

James Fitzpatrick, Gateshead.


REGARDING the report about the proposed new £6m visitor centre at Beamish Museum, which would be part of a £40m drive to boost the venue's attractiveness (Echo, Aug 24).

The proposed building, as illustrated in model form, would be out of place in such rural surroundings. Something traditional would be far more suited to the museum's location and its exhibitions.

They should keep the existing entrance and use the £6m thereby saved to reduce the admission fees, which are far too high already, especially for families and senior citizens.

That would really boost the museum's attraction without spending the £40m.

Harry Watson, Darlington.


THE reported imminent appointment of Roy Keane as Sunderland's manager could provide the right ingredients and blend that brought the success for one of his former managers, Brian Clough, at Nottingham Forest.

Clough's no-nonsense style in the dressing room, together with the ability to develop the skills of youngsters and bring out the best in them as players, will be a feature of Roy Keane as a manager.

There is no doubting his strength, leadership, and thirst and passion for success. On the field, as player with Nottingham Forest and Manchester United, he showed character and tremendous skill. He can motivate and is fearless in competition and ambition.

If he can transfer these skills to a club like Sunderland, he will connect with the fans disgruntled by the club's beleaguered position, but believing that the club can start winning games and hearts. For the impassioned supporters who travelled to Southend and Bury, there has to be improvement.

Niall Quinn and his consortium have brought about belief and passion, but, to be fair, have to be given the chance to transform dreams into reality. If Roy Keane is unveiled as the new manager it is a move in the right direction.

Bernie Walsh, Coxhoe, Durham.