George Osborne’s claim that Google’s £130 million over ten years tax settlement with HMRC is a “major success” now looks like a pretty sick joke.
Tax campaigners like Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK have exposed the deal as involving a tiny proportion of Google’s $5.6 billion (£5.6 billion) annual UK revenues. Google spends about $12 million a year on chicken for its staff canteens.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has aptly described the settlement as a “sweetheart deal” , making the point that tax experts (including Murphy, Prof Prem Sikka and Labour tax barrister Jolyn Maugham) all think that the likely tax rate paid by Google on its likely UK profits may, even after this settlement, not exceed 5%. Google has paid an effective tax rate of around 3% over the past decade, despite a UK corporation tax rate of more than 20%.
Today’s Times reports that French officials have pursued Google far more aggressively, and are in the process of negotiating a settlement worth three times the amount agreed with Britain, despite Google doing more business and employing thousands more staff (2,500) in the UK. Referring to the company’s practice of registering all European sales in Dublin (to benefit from a lower tax rate), a French official (quoted in The Times) said, “We have a hard time believing that 150 well-paid salespeople with advanced degrees employed by one particular company in France are nothing more than busboys for Ireland.”
Anyone who heard the wretched performance of Jim Harra (HMRC’s ‘Director General Business Tax’) attempting to defend the deal on Radio4’s World At One today, will be aware that when all else fails, HMRC falls back on the plea of ” taxpayer confidentiality” to avoid discussion of the principles it has applied when reaching its deal with Google. Nils Pratley, in today’s Guardian, gives the “taxpayer confidentiality” argument short shrift:
“Google and Osborne were happy to publish selected highlights of HMRC’s settlement – the former to appear a good corporate citizen, the latter to try to appear a muscular chancellor. If limited disclosure is OK, both parties should be able to agree full disclosure for the sake of wider understanding.”
But perhaps the most astonishing and outrageous aspect of this whole sordid business is the claim (in todays Times) that:
“HMRC officials never challenged the company’s central and most controversial claim — that it has no ‘permanent establishment’ in Britain — even after they were given whistleblower evidence challenging its account
“The claim is critical to a complex structure used by Google to avoid hundreds of millions of pounds in UK corporation tax. By arguing that it has no fixed place of business in Britain, the company is able to book all its sales to UK customers through an Irish subsidiary, from where profits are again diverted to the tax haven of Bermuda.”
Never mind “whistleblower evidence”: you’d have thought this building, the Google offices in central London, might just have given the game away:
This Chart Shows the Staggering Human Cost of Staging a World Cup in Qatar
The US Department of Justice has dropped the hammer on FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, indicting nine senior FIFA officials and five sports marketing execs on charges of corruption, wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering.
Allegations of bribery have long plagued FIFA, especially since its controversial decision to grant Qatar the 2022 World Cup. But much worse is the plight of South Asian migrant workers brought in to build the stadium infrastructure there: Since 2010, more than 1,200 migrant workers have died in Qatar under hazardous working conditions, and a 2013 Guardian investigation found that at least 4,000 total are projected to die before the 2022 World Cup even starts. And as we reported yesterday, Nepali workers weren’t even allowed to return home after the country’s recent devastating earthquake.
Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post put that toll in perspective in a striking infographic. He compared the number of workers who died in the run-up to several Olympics and World Cups with the number of those who have died in Qatar so far. It’s horrifying:
The Daily Mirror today returned to its radical, campaigning best, with a front-page lead report by Kevin McGuire on slave labour in Qatar. To the best of my knowledge, it’s the first time a British tabloid has raised the issue of the murderous conditions of migrant workers in Qatar as the Emirate prepares for the 2022 World Cup (though Nick Cohen has written some excellent pieces for the Observer).
The Mirror‘s report:
Qatar is accused of working 1,200 people to death in its £39billion building bonanza for the 2022 World Cup.
An investigation by the Mirror into the oil-rich Emirate revealed horrific and deadly exploitation of migrant workers, who are forced to live in squalor, drink salt water and get paid just 57p an hour.
Campaigners fear the death toll could reach 4,000 before the Finals kick off. One worker told us: “We are treated like slaves and our deaths are cheap.”
FIFA faces renewed pressure to show Qatar a World Cup red card following the exposure of mass deaths and vile exploitation of construction workers in the region.
A team of British trade union leaders and MPs warned that the 2022 tournament is being built “on the blood and misery of an army of slave labour”, after uncovering appalling abuse during a visit to the Gulf monarchy.
Qatar is accused of working 1,200 migrants to death since being awarded the World Cup in 2010 and campaigners have insisted the shocking death toll could reach 4,000 before a ball is even kicked in the Finals.
On a mission organised by Geneva-based Building and Woodworkers’ International, a global federation of construction unions, I witnessed and heard distressing evidence of systematic mistreatment on an industrial scale. Sneaking into squalid labour camp slums under the cover of darkness, frightened workers lured to Qatar with false promises of high salaries complained of persecution.
One Nepalese carpenter, paid the equivalent of just 95p an hour, said: “We’re treated like slaves. They don’t see us as human and our deaths are cheap. They have our passports so we cannot go home. We are trapped.”
“As a result of the speech, I believe that perceptions of Labour policy are in danger of being taken backwards. At the business department I tried to move on from the conventional choice in industrial policy between state control and laissez-faire. The industrial activism I developed showed that intervention in the economy – government doing some of the pump priming of important markets, sectors and technologies – was a sensible approach” – Peter Mandelson
Above: puppet of big business
It was, of course, inevitable that Ed Miliband’s modest proposal to freeze energy prices for 20 months would induce howls of outrage from the big six energy profiteers and their mouthpieces – one of whom performed exactly the same service for the banks not so long ago.
Scare stories about the lights going out, and thinly-veiled threats of an investment strike, were entirely predictable from the energy giants, the City, the right-wing media and the Tories.
But doesn’t poor Miliband have the right to expect at least a discreet silence from people who – on paper at least – are in the Labour Party? Obviously not. Loathsome Lord Mandelsnake has emerged from the woodwork to denounce the plan and accuse Miliband of going “backwards” – by which the Snake presumably means being slightly less craven towards big business than he and his boss Mr Blair were when they were in government.
Actually, Miliband’s proposals are pretty weak: what he aught to be promising (especially now in the face of the blackout and investment strike blackmail) is simply to renationalise all power generation and distribution.
And Miliband needs to understand that there is a group of unreconstructed Blairites like Mandelsnake, organised by the ‘Progress‘ outfit, who are absolutely determined to thwart even the slightest suggestion of a leftward shift in Labour policy and don’t give a damn if the Party loses the next election.
If this is true it should be more widely publicised:
Profit behind Galician train crash?
From the Basque newspaper Gara:
The disaster took place on a curve where a new high speed rail line was connected to a slow one – to save money. Drivers were supposed to slow from 220 km to 80 km. There was nearly an accident during the inauguration run.
There was no automatic braking system -to save money… Drivers had to be punctual to avoid passengers claiming compensation (and save money.) The accident train was running late.
…But of course, it’ll be the driver who carries the can.
Shiraz Socialist‘s crack team of high-price legal eagles tell me I have to be careful about what I write about Lynton Crosby, David Cameron and tobacco packaging.
So I’ll start by simply welcoming Andrew Marr back to our screens:
Marr asks Cameron about Crosby at 06.15
For months Cameron has been evading questions about Crosby’s influence over tobacco policy, repeating the mantra that he’s never been “lobbied” by Crosby. On the Marr show on 21 July (above) he continues the evasion, repeatedly refusing to say whether he’s discussed plain cigarette packaging with Crosby, instead denying that Crosby had “intervened” on tobacco policy.
On Monday Sheila Gunn, John Major’s former press secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “Lynton’s job is to go through all different policies with David Cameron and advise him whether or [not] they are going to be vote winners or losers … But the choice of verb ‘intervene’ – just like at prime minister’s question time last week he said he hadn’t been lobbied by Lynton on this. The fact that he wouldn’t expand on whether or not they’d talked about it and his body language – he just looked very uncomfortable.”
On Tuesday Crosby himself issued a statement denying that he had ever “discussed” tobacco packaging with Cameron – a word (“discussed”) that Cameron had spent months avoiding using.
Then, immediately following Crosby’s statement, Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood, rejecting Ed Miliband’s call for an enquiry, stated that the Conservative Party had drawn up “principles of engagement” with Crosby: “Against this background I do not see what purpose would be served by the enquiry that you propose,” Heyward wrote to Miliband.
But it turns out that the “principles of engagement” is an undated document that has simply appeared out of the blue sans provenance, just as the heat is being turned up on Cameron. Jon Trickett, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office has now written a searching letter to Heywood, politely but firmly asking for some answers:
Dear Sir Jeremy,
Thank you for your letter of 23 July in response to letters from me and from Ed Miliband, which I think you will acknowledge leaves a number of questions unanswered. It is notable that you have chosen not to give your own judgement on any of the substantive issues raised with you.
Significantly, you do not say – just as the Prime Minister has not said – that the tobacco lobbyist Lynton Crosby has had no discussions with the Prime Minister about tobacco policy. Nor do you say that there is no conflict of interests between Mr Crosby’s role advising the Conservative Party and his role advising a number of commercial organisations who have an interest in Government policy.
Thank you also for passing on “the principles of engagement between Lynton Crosby and the Conservative Party” – which are undated. The journalist Michael Crick has quoted a Conservative Party source as saying “The principles of engagement capture what was agreed at the time Lynton was hired… verbal agreement on the principles of engagement was made at the time Lynton was hired. This was written down in the last couple of days and published today.” It therefore appears that this was not properly drawn up by civil servants in order to avoid conflicts of interest in Government, but hastily cobbled together after Mr Crosby had become a political embarrassment to the Conservative Party.
In addition, there remains a significant lack of clarity over who Lynton Crosby’s clients are, and whether either the Government or the Conservative Party have any idea who they are.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman reportedly “said that he had been unaware that Mr Crosby’s British company had Philip Morris Ltd, whose brands include Marlboro, as a client” (The Times, 13 July 2013). And on BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme last Wednesday, the Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps said that “It is a matter for Lynton Crosby who his clients within the company are”. Yet on BBC 2’s Newsnight last Tuesday, the Health Secretary suggested that he was privy to details of Mr Crosby’s clients when he said that public health was an area Lynton Crosby never advised the Prime Minister on “because his company has clients in that area”.
Clearly, if the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party are unaware of who Mr Crosby’s clients are – which is what the Chairman of the Conservative Party says is the case – then you will agree that the principles of engagement are unenforceable and worthless. In the interests of transparency Mr Crosby’s company’s full client list should be published immediately.
I would be grateful if you would answer the questions below.
• Were you or any civil servants involved in any way in the drawing up of the terms of engagement published yesterday?
• Did you know that the principles of engagement which you sent me had only been “written down in the last couple of days”?
• Did you know about them before this week, and when did you first see them?
• Do you have any evidence at all that these principles have been followed?
• Are you personally satisfied that Lynton Crosby has had no discussions with the Prime Minister or other Ministers about tobacco policy, alcohol policy, NHS policy or fracking policy?
• Are you personally satisfied that there is no possibility of a conflict of interests between Mr Crosby’s roles as an adviser to the Conservative Party and an adviser to commercial organisations?
• Do you know who Mr Crosby’s commercial clients are, and in the interests of transparency will you ensure that a full list is published immediately?
Given the continued public interest in these matters I am releasing this letter to the press.
Jon Trickett MP
Readers will notice that I’ve completed this post without once using the word “liar.” Our legal eagles should be proud of me – JD
Bangladeshi soldiers use earth mover during rescue operation at site of factory collapse in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 24, 2013. At least 161 people were killed. / AP
Statement from Labour Behind the Label:
Labour Behind the Label today mourns the senseless loss of life, after an 8 story building in Savar, Bangladesh housing 3 clothing factories collapsed this morning (24.4.13). Over 82 workers [now known to be at least 161 -JD] were killed in the wreckage and 800 people injured, with the death toll set to rise as further bodies are found. Labour rights groups and trade unions in Bangladesh and internationally are calling for immediate action from international brands following the collapse.
The building contained 3 separate clothing factories, which locals say housed around 6,000 workers. Following the collapse, activists were able to enter the ruins and discovered labels from brands including Primark and Mango, indicating that they were sourcing from the factories. Rana Plaza also produced for a host of well known brand names including C&A, Matalan and Wal-Mart.
This collapse follows the Tazreen factory fire in the same district that killed 112 workers five months ago, and the Spectrum Factory collapse of 2005 which caused the death of at least 64 workers. The speed of the garment industry expansion in the Savar area is an ongoing and pressing concern. Savar, just outside of Dhaka, has seen significant growth in garment factories in recent times, with factories being built on swamp land and without proper building regulations in place. Labour rights groups say unnecessary deaths will continue unless and until brands and government officials agree to an independent and binding fire and building safety program.
“It’s unbelievable that brands still refuse to sign a binding agreement with unions and labour groups to stop these unsafe working conditions from existing. Tragedy after tragedy shows that corporate-controlled monitoring is completely inadequate,” says Sam Maher of Labour Behind the Label.
She adds: “Right now the families of the victims are grieving and the community is in shock. But shortly they, and the hundreds injured in the collapse, will be without income and without support. Compensation must be provided by the brands who were sourcing from these factories, and responsibility taken for their lack of action to prevent this happening.”
Labour Behind the Label is calling upon all major brands sourcing from Bangladesh to sign the ‘Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement’ immediately to stop future tragedies from happening. The Clean Clothes Campaign, together with local and global unions and labour rights organisations, has developed this sector-wide program that includes independent building inspections, worker rights training, public disclosure and a long-overdue review of safety standards. This transparent and practical agreement is unique in that it is supported by all key labour stakeholders in Bangladesh and internationally.
Note to political cartoonists: time to revisit and update this:
It is now universally accepted by competent health professionals that the MMR triple vaccination jab is the safest protection presently possible against measles, mumps and rubella. The present outbreak of measles in South Wales is entirely attributable to the discredited (and probably fraudulent) “research” of Andrew Wakefield in 1998, falsely linking the MMR jab with autism. Wakefield’s dodgy “research” was widely promoted by the Daily Mail and other media (including the South Wales Evening Post) from the moment it first appeared until well into the 2000’s, even after Wakefield’s “research” was officially discredited and the man himself struck off. As a direct result teenagers who did not receive the two MMR jabs that are required, as infants, are now the main group suffering from infection.
But still opportunist quacks are (literally) cashing in on the fears of gullible parents: The Children’s Immunisation Centre (see below) ran a clinic last weekend in Swansea supplying the less effective single measles vaccination privately for £110 for each jab plus a £50 registration fee. MMR is available on the NHS free of charge.
The Children’s Immunisation Centre website gives telephone numbers for private clinics offering single measles jabs in England and in Swansea and also links to old newspaper articles suggesting an autism link to the MMR vaccine.
It also claimed that the single vaccines are “the only safe option” to immunise against measles – but that demonstrably false claim has now been removed from their website.
Why has no government minister spoken out against these quacks? In particular, why has health minister Jeremy Hunt had nothing to say? It surely can’t be because the government rather approves of both “parental choice” and private medicine for profit – or that Hunt himself is on record as being sympathetic towards quackery?
H/t: BBC Wales
The profiteers’ fraudulent publicity, below:
The Children’s Immunisation Centre Ltd operates The Immunisation and Medical Centres. Our centres operate Nationally London, Manchester, Kent, Dartford, Birmingham, Southampton, (Leeds-Harrogate, Nottingham-Sheffield Coming Soon), has been specialising for ten years on all types of vaccinations but particularly in single vaccinations against Measles, Mumps, Rubella: MMR single vaccinations; baby jabs and other childhood and new vaccinations to protect adults and children in the UK, and for all your travel vaccinations such as Yellow Fever ,Typhoid rabies and Cholera to name but a few.
We are particularly proud of our 100 per cent safety record and have over 18,000 registered patients and we are one of the UKs largest and friendliest injectables company.
Our group was established in 2002, and for the last 10 years has brought PEACE OF MIND to thousands of patients for affordable private single baby jabs of single Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR single jab vaccinations) -currently no mumps vaccine available in the UK.
All our thousands of patients are healthy, with no autism, no hospitalizations or fits (anaphylaxis shock) no febrile convulsions. We have a 100% Safety Record and have given over 70,000 vaccinations.(over 18,000 patients)
Our Measles, Mumps, Rubella single jab (MMR single jabs) immunisation clinic was the first private health clinic to obtain its Care Quality Commission. We have been independently audited and checked by Care Quality Commission Assessors;
FOR YOUR PEACE OF MIND.
Our clinics are in Birmingham, London Harley Street, Manchester, Kent-Dartford, Southampton, (Leeds-Harrogate, Nottingham-Sheffield Coming Soon). All our clinics are open on Saturdays so that parents can conveniently bring their children for their single MMR jabs (single immunisations). It is essential children and adults keep up with all their immunisations and check booster requirements.
Apart from MMR single jabs, we also protect against the following diseases, especially for travelling children. No NHS referral necessary.
Above: EDF’s attempt to look lovable…
Our daughter Claire was one of 21 activists who spent a week up a chimney at West Burton power station to protest against the use of gas-fired power stations.
It was a peaceful protest to draw attention to the environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels for power. No one was hurt but now EDF Energy are suing our daughter and her fellow activists for £5 million.
We believe this is totally unfair and unprecedented. That’s why we have started a petition to call on EDF to drop the suit against our daughter and her friends, the West Burton activists. Click here to sign our petition.
Our daughter and her friends protested peacefully. They knew they would be arrested but were brave enough to accept this possibility. Peaceful protest has never before been followed by an injunction for costs like this. If EDF are successful in this suit it will set a dangerous precedent for the right to peaceful protest in this country.
We are proud of what Claire and her friends are trying to do. It’s heartbreaking to think that they are being punished for putting themselves at risk for the good of humanity. If EDF pursue this suit they will put my daughter and her friends in debt — possibly for the rest of their lives. For EDF it is a mere drop in the ocean, but for them it is a lifetime’s income.
EDF might think it can silence 21 activists but it has to listen to consumers. If enough consumers show they are outraged by EDF’s actions, the impact to the company’s brand will be worth more than £5 million and the suit will be dropped.
Russ and Barbara Fauset
NB: ‘Will EDF become the Barbra Streisand of climate protest?’ – George Monbiot in the Guardian