The Bank Robber Bill

With the new practice of trailing the Queen's Speech in advance, and testing the water on various proposals, people could perhaps be forgiven for not getting as excited as is traditional about the Bills laid out yesterday. After all, the issues are all fairly recognisable and much-debated already, agree with them or not - apprenticeships, nuclear power, anti-terror laws, cutting carbon emissions, seizing money left in bank accounts from its rightful owners....


Hang on - what was that last one?


Yes, that's right, the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill will give the Government powers to seize money left in bank accounts for 15 years or more. There are quite a number of grounds for objection to this, as you can imagine.


First off, labelling accounts as "dormant" just because the money has been left in them for some time is extremely disingenuous. After all, isn't it rather the point of bank accounts that money is left in them? It should not be a punishable offence to save money - an activity the Government regularly claims it wants to encourage.


Beyond that, even if it is money someone has forgotten about, what right has the taxman to it? I am sure there are a few coppers down the back of my sofa, and maybe even a fiver in an old jacket if I'm lucky, but even if I am neglecting those resources that in no way diminishes my ownership of them. Still less does it give Gordon the right to rummage down the back of the sofa or raid my bank accounts.


I may be wrong - and please correct me on this if I am - but this would, to my knowledge, be Britain's first 100% tax. All monies left in a bank account for 15 years would simply be forfeit.


Of course, the Government has already started attempting to make the idea more acceptable to the public. The money, we are told, will be spent on improving youth facilities. The fact is still inescapable, though, that ill-gotten gains remain ill-gotten no matter what one uses the money on.


More terrifying from the taxpayers' point of view is the safety net that will be written in to the Bill. If anyone has money seized and then wants it back, they will be able to apply to get it back from the Treasury. Whilst it is better to have a refund scheme than not, it is all too easy to envisage the large amount of money that will be spent on the complex admin of assessing claims. identifying claimants and refunding the huge amounts of money that people will - understandably and entirely predictably - want back when they find that the State has pilfered it.


As well as being a bad, unjustifiable idea, the scheme may well end up being more trouble - and more expense - than it's worth.

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