Almost 30 years ago the then Fermanagh-South Tyrone MP Ken Maginnis wrote to a senior civil servant to tell him that he had failed to pay car tax, his television licence or dog licence fees for three dogs.
Mr Maginnis’s letter – which was sent as part of the unionist campaign of civil disobedience to the Anglo-Irish Agreement and has been revealed as part of newly declassified files – appears to have been an attempt to get the Government to take action against him.
On November 28 1986 the UUP MP wrote to Dan Barry, permanent secretary at the Department of the Environment: “Reference my car Reg. No. [redacted] Road Fund Licence.
“I promised, when I notified you that I was no longer displaying my Road Fund Licence disc, that I would inform you as soon as I was no longer paying my Road Fund Licence.
“This has been the case since 1 November, 1986 and I am now outside the 12-day period of grace.
“You are aware of my reasons for taking this action and that I will be happy to make restitution when the Anglo-Irish Diktat is no longer in place.
“I would also remind you that I have not paid my television licence since June 1986 and that I own three dogs which are also in opposition to the Diktat!!”
NIO minister Richard Needham replied, stating the DoE collected vehicle excise duty on behalf of the UK Government and said: “Your decision not to renew your vehicle licence is regretted.
“You are aware, however, that in the event of the department receiving an official report of the car being unlicensed on a public road, it will have no option but to take the necessary steps to secure appropriate payment of duty.”
Mr Needham said that dog licences were a matter for his local council and TV licensing was an issue for Whitehall.
Then, in a hand-written note at the bottom, the minister said good-humouredly: “I thought your dogs would have been more sensible!! Happy Xmas!”