Thursday, 28 February 2013

Do you believe in free speech?

"Political correctness is undemocratic censorship of language."

Has anyone ever asked you what we should or should not be allowed to talk about?

Are you happy for someone else to tell you to be silent?

What will happen when the undemocratic process of political correctness finally starts to impact on your life?

You may not like my opinion and I may not like yours but I would far rather live in a country where we can openly disagree than a society where there is a constant threat of legal action for voicing an opinion that disagrees with an unelected minorities idea of political correctness.

Please consider signing these petitions to show your support for traditional marriage:

Coalition For Marriage

Scotland for Marriage

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Same sex marriage will impact schools, children and parents

Currently in schools parents have the right to remove children from classes when a subject is being taught that is contrary to the child's religious belief.

If the UK Government pass the Marriage Same Sex bill, because this legisislation is being passed under equality law, parents will lose that right regarding the teaching of same sex marriage.

Any teacher who - for reasons of conscience - does not wish to teach children about same sex marriage will be at risk of being fired.

The UK Government is lying to the public about the likely consequences if this bill is passed.

Please write to your MP (and MSP) if this concerns you. Also please consider signing these petitions to show your support:

Coalition For Marriage

Scotland for Marriage

Monday, 25 February 2013

Further redefinitions of Marriage

If the UK Government force a radical change of the definition of Marriage it will result in further redefinitions as the Coalition for Marriage point out in the video below.

The UK Government are unwilling to discuss and debate the reality of what has happened in other countries as a result of redefining marriage. The UK Government is acting undemocratically by dismissing and mocking all reasonable questions.

The UK public have a right to decide on their own future but the UK Government have ignored the results of the public consultation.

If you want your democratic voice to be heard please consider signing these petitions:

Coalition For Marriage

Scotland for Marriage

Why is marriage worth preserving?

Males and females are different. When a man and woman marry they enter into a complimentary union where these differences can become strengths; enriching their lives and the lives of children and society.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises that the best environment for children to grow up in is with their natural parents. Marriage provides a secure and stable environment forchildren.

The UK Government has weakened marriage by removing the need for men and women to make vows committing to love each other for better and for worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health.

The UK Government has weaked marriage by making divorce far simpler.

If you believe marriage is good for society please consider signing these petitions:

Coalition For Marriage

Scotland for Marriage

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Coalition For Marriage

The Coalition For Marriage have produced six excellent videos explaining why marriage is important to society and why changing the definition will have a detrimental effect on society.

The first video is below and you can access this directly on YouTube.

Please consider signing these petitions:

Coalition For Marriage

Scotland for Marriage

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Lies, cursed lies and government statistics

The only higher education course I've ever walked out of was Statistics. I hated it. One warm sunny afternoon (this was in Shetland where you have to appreciate every warm day you get) I bunked off class with a few others and played basketball. Our lecturer found us on court and gave us a furious lecture. I never completed that course.

I do like numbers though. Numbers have proved very useful over the years. Statistics... I've seen an awful lot of abuse caused by misusing statistics.

Take our UK Government's proposed bill to redefine marriage. The Government response contained several statistical lies. Ignoring the results of their own consultation which showed overwhelming opposition to redefining marriage the Government relied on independent polls to attempt to show public support for redefining marriage.

Polls do give an impression of public opinion but they are incredibly easy to manipulate. If you phrase a question slightly differently you may well get an opposing opinion. If you can get an opposing opinion: this implies the issue is far more complex than the result of a simple poll would suggest.

The reality is the Scottish public overwhelmingly support traditional marriage as shown by the results of an independent poll:

69% of Scots think that although death or divorce may prevent it the ideal situation for a child is to be raised by a married mother and father

How much higher is the support for a child to be raised by both biological parents?

71% of Scots don't believe that defending traditional marriage is discriminating against gays and lesbians

85% of Scots think it is possible to be tolerant of the rights of others and protective of traditional marriage

The Poll was conducted by Opinion Research Business (ORB)
Fieldwork took place between 24 and 29 January 2012
of a statistically accurate sample of 1004 Scottish adults.

Thank you to Care for funding this research

The UK Government wants to force a radical change on society and is pushing the lie that the public overwhelmingly support this change.

Yet the public demonstrated their concern that any change to the status of marriage will have a detrimental effect on society during Westminster and Holyrood consultations:

Our recent UK Governments have ignored public opinion too many times in the last twelve years.

If you care about democracy in the UK then write to your MP (and if you live in Scotland your MSP) and please consider signing these petitions:

Coalition For Marriage

Scotland for Marriage.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

My Tax Credit nightmare

Hi, my name is Mark Smith and I'm a victim of the Tax Credit system.

My wife and I signed up for Tax Credits way back in 2002 or 2003. Long enough ago that I don't think we have the original paperwork. At the time we were at a low point as a family. Prior to 2002 we had been volunteering in Central Asia for a charitable organisation and had been supported by family and friends.

We returned to the UK in October 2001 due to uncertainty over whether a war in Afghanistan would affect us. We had planned to return to Central Asia and continue volunteering for a couple more years but eventually we had to admit that repeated illness while abroad had left us exhausted and unable to return.

I took a part time job working for a travel agency sending people on adventure holidays in Central Asia and friends advised us to apply for Tax Credits.

I found 2002 and 2003 to be difficult years. Family and friends continued to support us financially but I was brought up to provide for myself and I struggled with guilt that we were unable to continue the work we had committed to; and now were unable to provide for ourselves.

I had concerns about the Tax Credits system: their method of estimating income seemed dangerous but we were assured we would not be penalised if we followed the rules.

Tax Credits proved to be a great help to us over the next few years. We needed time as a family to recover and to decide on future direction. I realised that I had struggled when abroad while others had coped far better. I was reluctant to admit it but I eventually decided that I needed to consider some form of Higher Education.

Through receiving Tax Credits we were eventually able to survive without support from family and friends: their kindness and generosity was overwhelming but it was right that we aimed to stand on our own.

After one year of college night classes I had gained enough knowledge and skill for a tutor to recommend me for an IT contract. Overnight I went from struggling to get a job interview for a minimum wage role to being paid over £2,000 a month. My Tax Credit nightmare had just begun.

I had believed the Labour Government when they sold Tax Credits as a way of encouraging people into work. The general concept seemed admirable: the poorest in society should be encouraged to work, instead of trapping them in benefits - subsidise and reward them for working.

The concept was admirable, the execution of Tax Credits has been flawed. The moment we told the Tax Credit Office our income had increased we started to receive letters telling us we had been overpaid and owed them money. Our monthly payments were then reduced to repay the overpayments.

The execution of Tax Credits by HMRC has been miserly and short sighted. When individuals and families make the effort to better themselves, strive to gain better jobs, to earn more: this effort should be rewarded. The failure of HMRC Tax Credit Office has been in their decision to punish us and thousands of others when we succeed in our efforts to wean ourselves off State help.

It was 2004 that I started that first IT contract and since then I have completed my HNC and gone on to graduate with a degree from the Open University. My wife and I have both worked as we have been able (at times we were unable to work and I have claimed Job Seekers Allowance for short periods of time.) Like many thousands in the UK we have made every effort to improve our situation but every success has been met with an unforgiving letter from the Tax Credit Office telling us we have been overpaid.

I am reluctant to comb back through all the letters received but I am not exaggerating to state the Tax Credit Office have clawed back thousands of pounds in alleged overpayments over the last eight years. I'm unsure now whether I should have fought those decisions by the Tax Credit Office. Perhaps I should; except that I never wanted to be in a position where I was dependent on the State. Although the Tax Credit Office made our lives harder through their implementation of a flawed system, I desperately wanted to work our way to a point where we received no Tax Credits.

I was too busy studying, too busy working, too busy trying to be a father and a husband to thoroughly question the repeated Tax Credit Office decisions. It seemed wiser to work at earning more than fight a decision I did not fully understand.

Last year was a turning point. Despite telling the Tax Credit Office in advance that I would be earning more in 2011/12, they refused to record this fact. They subsequently paid us Tax Credits based on our much lower previous years income. What did we do with this money? We spent it!

We may have been increasing our income year on year but this has been while many of our expenses have increased at a similar rate. The Government's stated inflation figure has consistently been significantly lower than we seem to experience.

In addition, like many people who are moving from a lower to higher income, we have put off buying and paying for needed items for years. When we have money we spend it, usually not because we want to but because we have no choice.

In September 2011 my wife got a job. Overnight we went over the earnings limit for Tax Credits. We were delighted. We had, we thought, finally reached a point where we no longer needed Tax Credits. This increase in income was offset though. There was no public transport available so my wife needed a car and we had to pay child care costs.

In April 2012 we chose not to renew our claim for Tax Credits. We expected to continue to earn above the threshold and it seemed, in the midst of a recession, the responsible act.

Then, in September 2012 we received letters from the Tax Credit Office:
The total amount of Child Tax Credit overpaid to you is: £1311.53

This is a significant amount of money. We may be earning over the Tax Credit threshold but we still have to very carefully budget our income and watch our expenditure.

I complained and disputed the notice. I carried out some research online and came across Tax Credit Casualties - a website I highly commend for their detailed overview of the flaws of the Tax Credit system and efforts to help people avoid injustice.

In recent weeks I have been accused by HMRC Tax Credit Office of failing to meet my responsibilities with regards to informing them of changes in our circumstances. Following advice from Tax Credit Casualties I requested and received copies of correspondence and recordings. I can now prove that not only did we consistently inform Tax Credit Office of changes in our circumstances, they actively prevented us from recording that our income was increasing and so are directly responsible for deciding what to pay us.

Even though HMRC Tax Credit Office have now admitted we fulfilled our responsibilities, they are still denying responsibility and are now claiming, and I quote: "there is no provision to cancel the overpayment since it did not arise as a result of a mistake on our part."

I would agree with part of this statement: it was not a mistake that HMRC Tax Credit Office paid us £1311.53. They paid us based on a system they were running. They said we were entitled to this money and accordingly paid us. I agree we were entitled to receive the money and I accept it. There was no overpayment.

There may be no provision in HMRC Tax Credit Office systems to change this status from overpayment to resolved but if so there is a simple solution: I call on HMRC Tax Credit Office to implement such a provision.

I do commend previous Labour Governments and our current Government for encouraging families like our own to work. But this Government must put an end to the injustice of penalising citizens when they do succeed in earning more money. 

If you have also been a victim of the flawed HMRC Tax Credit Office system and you would like to work together to change and improve HMRC Tax Credit Office systems, I would like to hear from you.

I have no desire to publish this blog post. I don't like discussing or publicising what I perceive to have been some of the hardest years we have faced as a family. But I set myself a goal - Goal 89: To change laws for the better. I hope that by publicising my own situation I can do something to bring about a change that will benefit thousands directly and ultimately everyone: if the poorest are encouraged and not penalised for earning more, more people will be be incentivised to get themselves off Tax Credits.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Marriage: a privilege and a responsibility

I made my word count this week on my novel but have written almost five times as much in response to the UK Government's proposal to redefine marriage to apply to same-sex couples.

On Tuesday 5 February 2013 there will be a second reading of the Westminster Government's proposed Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. This is despite 83% of the British population opposing any change to the definition of marriage in the 2012 consultation.

When Government choose to ignore the vast majority of their population, this is a sign that democracy is in danger. Government, the UK media and a few who are rabidly pro same-sex marriage are abusing and insulting anyone who dares to question what is happening. For years the GLBT community fought for recognition and respect. Now they have apparently won that recognition and respect it seems some of them have decided to abuse their new power.

It is time to speak out.

I am a man. I have been married to my wife for almost twenty years. I have three children.

I hold that marriage is a privilege and a responsibility. No man has the right to marry a woman. No woman has the right to marry a man. When a man and woman agree to commit to each other for life, this has for centuries been regarded as a solemn responsibility expressed by the exchanging of vows:
I will honour and cherish you
I will be faithful to you, for better - for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer - for poorer.

Every man and woman that remains true to their vow in this regard are blessed with a relationship that fully displays love.

I define love as following: sacrificial and serving; friendship and companionship; romantic and sexual.

Any society where sacrificial love is shown is a true civil society: one that values a husband with terminal disease and instead of seeking a quick death, seeks to show love and to make the most of every moment left with that loved one.

I have not lived up to the ideal marriage I propose above yet I recognise that as with every other goal I have, if I aim for the highest, I have more chance of success.

The Government’s response to their consultation begins with this statement: “3.1 At its heart, marriage is about two people who love each other making a formal commitment to each other. We do not believe that this commitment is any different whether it is made by a same-sex couple or an opposite sex couple. We believe that by allowing same-sex couples to get married we are further strengthening the institution of marriage.”

I have not seen any sign anywhere in the consultation paper or the Government response that the UK Government shares my understanding of marriage.

It is disturbing and concerning that the direction British society is heading in is not to uphold an ideal, to seek to better ourselves, to act better; instead many in the media and government are pushing for us to act in ways that are ever more cruel, ever more dismissive, ever more selfish.

There is a continual push in the media and by government for a society where the terminally sick are not cared for; where adultery (a form of theft) is lauded; where management of money is abused from government on down.

A few people demand the right to die. Instead of our society seeking to value their lives; instead of us seeking to uphold and see value in every person regardless of their disability there is a disturbing push to say the only people whose lives are of value are those who are not in pain, those who are not crippled. Yet there are thousands of people in pain and who are unable to look after themselves who are valued, who are cared for, who are loved on a daily basis by family and friends.

This is a high expression of love.

This is sacrificial love.

Where is the government’s vision for recognizing this love in their proposed legislation? Where is their determination to encourage the vast majority of the British population - including myself - to act in more selfless ways?

Marriage existed before Government and throughout history has always been recognized as a gift from God. Marriage is a matter of belief, of conviction and no Government in any country has the right to impose change on the definition of marriage.

Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, please contact your MP before Tuesday to express your views. I welcome debate.