Category Archives: Lobbying

FT highlights corporate financial rewards for MPs, April 2018-April 2019

In 2009 this site was set up to report on the distortion of policy-making by those on ‘an inside track, largely drawn from the corporate world, who wield privileged access and disproportionate influence’ according to a 2009 report by the Parliamentary Public Administration Select Committee [PASC].

Tactics covered, such as the ‘revolving door, rewards for failure, widespread behind-the-scene lobbying and party funding, continue to block effective action addressing the social, environmental and economic challenges facing this country.

It became common knowledge, with the growth of social media, that those on the ‘inside track’ are skewing parliamentary decision-making and revelations of this corruption are now accepted as the norm. Therefore, after December 14th 2013, individual examples of this practice were no longer listed.

Today, award-winning journalist Owen Walker has once again highlighted the close relationships between politicians and investment fund managers

Mr Walker is a commissioning editor for the Financial Times, selecting and commissioning writers to write specific articles. He has previously edited specialist FT publications on corporate governance, retail investment and pension scheme management. Barbarians in the Boardroom, his book on activist investors, was published in June.

They bring stardust – really?

Last May, Owen Walker (right) quoted David Pitt-Watson’s explanation. This visiting professor of finance at Cambridge Judge Business School said that much of the appeal of recruiting former politicians is the stardust they bring.

He also pointed out the down-side: “If you take up demanding roles in addition to being an MP, your constituents are going to be asking ‘do you not already have a full-time job?’ “

Insuring against loss of office is nothing new; Mr Walker notes that every UK chancellor since 1983 has taken up a position in investment management after leaving the Treasury, giving names and dates.

In today’s article he records that asset/investment managers paid MPs at least £126,000 in speaker fees, thousands of pounds’ worth of hospitality and more than £110,000 for advice during the year April 2018-April 2019. Readers may read names and amounts by clicking on the link above.

 

 

And now it’s 2019 – time for change!

 

 

 

 

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Disloyal, nakedly ambitious, Watson further assists the media campaign against his decent, honest leader

 


Francis Elliott and Kate Devlin report, in the Times, that Tom Watson declared “I am not Jeremy’s deputy” as he sought to distance himself further from the Labour leader.

The ‘badge of shame’ misleading/mischief making headline – not the first spotted in this newspaper – is belied by the text. Watson actually described the departure of Luciana Berger (MP for Liverpool Wavertree) as a “badge of shame”.

Watson as compassionate hero

He told the Emma Barnett programme on BBC Radio 5 Live: “It is a badge of shame that Luciana Berger, a bright young female pregnant MP, was bullied out of her own constituency by racist thugs. I’m not putting up with it. I owe it to the 500,000 members of the party to defend their integrity against claims that we are a racist party or we are not dealing with racism.”

He repeated similar charges in Sky News – close to crocodile tears as he ‘feared’ that more MPs would leave the Labour Party.

And confirms another subversive move:  his plans to arrange a group of MPs away from the shadow cabinet to create their own policies.

 

 

 

 

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Cash or cashless? Vested interests strive to win the argument

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Charles Randell, chair of the government’s Payment Systems Regulator asks a pertinent question:Should access to such a basic financial service be universal, or commercially driven?”

Cashless: “Digital payments are clearly the future”: a spokeswoman for digital payment company Square

One protagonist, Helen Prowse, a spokeswoman for digital payment company Square, spoke at a debate held by Monzo, a London-based fintech startup. “Digital payments are clearly the future.” She continued: “In the UK, plastic payment cards are the most popular way to buy things. Only about 30% of transactions use paper notes and coins, The ratio is already at 15% in Sweden, which will become effectively cashless in a few years’ time”. Quartz journalist John Detrixhe appears to agree. He gives several reasons for ‘getting rid’ of cash:

  • When shops switch over to digital money, their workers are less likely to be subject to violent robbery.
  • It can also be faster and cheaper to process than notes and coins.
  • Cash helps to enable the underground economy through tax evasion as well as illicit finance.

But G4S issued a report (April ’18) showing that cash circulation has increased

G4S which transports, process, recycle, securely store and manages cash published the World Cash Report in April 2018.  It surveyed 47 countries covering 75% of the global population and over 90% of the world’s GDP. The findings show that demand for cash continues to rise globally, despite the increase in electronic payment options in recent years; cash in circulation relative to GDP has increased to 9.6% across all continents, up from 8.1% in 2011.

The report highlights the variety of payment habits in different regions. In Europe 80% of point-of-sale transactions are conducted in cash, while in North America, where card payments are most regularly used, cash use still accounts for 31%. In Asia the rise of online purchases does not mean that cash is taken out of the equation, with more than 3 out of every 4 online purchases in a number of countries paid for by cash on delivery.

Access to Cash Review: cash is “an economic necessity” for around 25 million people in Britain

Natalie Ceeney (right), a successful civil servant who is now non-executive chair of Innovate Finance, chaired the independent Access to Cash Review, funded by Link, the UK’s biggest network of cash machines. She said “The issue is that digital does not yet work for everyone.”

The review indicated that physical notes and coins are “an economic necessity” for around 25 million people in Britain, and nearly half of people surveyed said a cashless society would be problematic for them. ATMs and bank branches are under particular pressure in rural communities, where broadband and mobile service is unreliable or unavailable. Next month, the review plans to publish its recommendations on how to deal with declining cash availability.

Nicky Morgan, chair of the UK’s Treasury Committee, said recently, “Whilst cash may no longer be king, it continues to play an important role in the lives of millions. So what we’ve heard today from the PSR should set alarm bells ringing. It’s clear that the whole way that people access their cash via ATMs is starting to fail. With the way that people access their cash seemingly on the precipice of collapsing, the government can’t just bury its head in the sand. . . .”

And what will happen in a cashless society when electronic systems malfunction – as machines do – when the mobile phone cannot get a signal, when cable sheaths fail or when someone accidentally damages a phone cable?

 

 

 

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Gove ‘pledges’ cheaper, unlabelled, gene-edited food in his Brave New World

At a time when apprehensions about low-quality food entering the country post Brexit are rising, the Times reports that Michael Gove, the environment secretary has announced that “Britain will lead an agricultural revolution with the use of gene editing”.

In July, after hearing scientific evidence that gene editing “causes many profound mutations and DNA damage”, the European Court of Justice ruled that food resulting from genome editing would be regarded as genetically modified, which is outlawed in Europe.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is underwhelmed

Disregarding this science-based evidence, Gove pledged, at yesterday’s CLA meeting in Westminster, that scientists and farmers would be freed from this European court ruling. The first report seen however, makes no reference to this exciting prospect, whatsoever.

Genome editing, or genome engineering is a type of genetic engineering in which DNA is inserted, deleted, modified or replaced in a specific location in the genome (genetic material) of a living organism, unlike early genetic engineering techniques that randomly insert genetic material into a host genome.

Support from vested interests

Scientists in the industry, like the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, funded by the government’s Department of Business believe that the technique will lead to crops and animals with higher yields, resistance to disease and the ability to cope with the effects of climate change.

Emma Hockridge, head of policy at the Soil Association, urged the government to keep the UK aligned with the European court: “Scientific research has long shown that these new gene-editing technologies give rise to similar uncertainties and risks as GM always has. We have always been clear that these new plant breeding techniques are GMOs [genetically modified organisms] and therefore are banned in organic farming and food”.

Bloomberg reports that under the Trump administration, gene-edited foods don’t need to be labelled or regulated and that Zach Luttrell, a principal at industry consultant StraightRow LLC, sees gene-editing as a way to continue lowering costs. 

 

 

 

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Public trust has plunged in recent years as corruption plagues politics

A recent Telegraph investigation (paywall) revealed that senior MPs and peers, including many ministers, have given access to Parliament to spouses involved in lobbying for companies and campaign groups. Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland Secretary, and Sir Kevin Barron, the chairman of the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee (Telegraph, ‘sleaze watchdog’, are among 900 parliamentarians whose partners hold “spouse passes” entitling them to around-the-clock access to the Palace of Westminster despite their work for organisations that lobby MPs and ministers over policies and funding.

Transparency International UK (UKTI) has published a policy paper on politics and report on the Revolving Door.

They note that in recent years politics in the UK has been plagued by corruption scandals and public trust in politicians is plunging.

These scandals have exposed serious fault lines in the UK political system, and have raised particular concerns over the following:

  • The regime for parliamentary expenses
  • Lobbying of politicians by those who can apparently buy access that influences legislation spending priorities or policy decisions;
  • The revolving door between government and resources-resources-business;
  • Political party funding; and
  • Oversight regimes.

They explain that the problem lies when it happens behind closed doors and away from public scrutiny. It can lead politicians in office to steer away from good government. Their decisions can benefit those who fund them. The public interest comes second. Special interests, backed by money, may sway decision-making and undermine democracy.

Opaque lobbying practices backed up by extensive funds at the disposal of interest groups can lead to undue, unfair influence in policies – creating risks for political corruption and undermining public trust in decision-making institutions. We can attribute this factor, in part, to the crisis of confidence in politics we have seen unravel in the UK in recent years, resulting in apathy and low voter turnouts.

TI-UK believes regulation needs to address both those who seek to influence inappropriately and those who are being lobbied:

  • Money should not be a distorting factor in forming policy or gaining access to decision makers.
  • Lobbying on any particular issue or decision should be visible and have an audit trail.

Such information should be presented in a manner that is accessible and comparable for the public, media and civil society to scrutinise.

The report on UK corruption by TI-UK revealed that the British public perceive political parties to be the most corrupt sector in the UK and parliament to be the third most corrupt. It concludes there is a danger that the public will cease to regard decisions made by government and parliament as legitimate and fair; this represents a serious threat to British democracy and ultimately, to the rule of law.

 

 

 

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Could British farmers build a vote-bank and influence policy?

Originally published on the FDF website

On another website, we read that in India, farmers only appear on the economic radar screen of the country when elections are around the corner (original source: Ground Reality).

Not so in UK. Whereas 43% are employed in Indian agriculture, British farmers and employees registered to vote are only 1% of the country’s population according to the World Bank’s interesting list and so are not regarded as politically significant, despite their vital role.

Is building a vote-bank the British farmers’ only chance of a fair deal?

A call, not to back a particular party or candidate but a policy such as the one set out by Farmers for Action (NI) and other farm groups (below), which commissioned the drafting of a parliamentary bill on farmgate prices. If successful it would return farmers a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked across the staples. 

A vote-bank could be built by enlisting the support of the public and those who do business with dairy farmers:

  • feed mills
  • vets
  • contractors
  • hauliers
  • retailers
  • teachers
  • auctioneers
  • merchants
  • tradesmen
  • machinery suppliers 

Juliette Jowit of the Financial Times summarised: “As farm incomes fall thousands of jobs go in allied industries: vets, feed and machinery suppliers”. (Farmers suffer under the yoke of global forces, 2.5.00) 

Douglas Chalmers, when regional director for the Country Land and Business Association [North], said “Agriculture . . . supports jobs and services in the local villages and often the larger towns, especially if there is a market . . . As farming loses critical mass, all the agriculturally dependent businesses become unsustainable, and with no vets, marts, hauliers and merchants, further pressure is felt by those who have continued to farm . . .” He continues:

“We ask for a fair deal: that those who set policies and impose legislation consider the wider and real effects of their actions on individuals, farms and businesses in rural areas”. FG: 9.1.04

  • Some years ago David and Rosemary Jones of Trebersed Farm, Carmarthen, highlighted the importance of farming to the rural economy by presenting their accounts which reveal that in an eight-month period they paid 117 separate rural businesses and companies for work done or goods supplied. The yearly total is estimated at 130 suppliers. Rural economy: Farmers Guardian 19.3.99 
  • Ruth and Richard Burrows, Devonshire farmers, assembled suppliers representing 3000 others whose livelihoods depend on them and other farmers. A photograph was taken with notes giving the names and roles of the people pictured. Mrs Burrows said: “They are living proof of the importance of the spending power of the farmer and how enormously important agriculture is in terms of the entire economic structure around here. The rural communities of Britain tick over on a system of mutual dependency of which the farm often forms the hub. If it goes to the wall, dozens of ancillary trades suffer. The web of rural ruin, Richard Price, Daily Mail, 23.9.99

The problems being faced by dairy farmers do not stop at the farm gate but threaten the thousands of other business and jobs both locally and nationally.

Maintaining viable dairy farms not only protects livelihoods of farming families and others directly involved, it also makes a major contribution to local economies and the future of businesses, jobs, and families in the locality.

That is the key message from dairy farmer’s wife, Kathleen Calvert (left), who asks for a fair deal for dairy farmers who receive a significantly lower share of the retail milk price than they did ten years ago, despite considerably higher costs:

“Payment which covers production costs and overheads must be the norm for British food producers. This money will circulate around individual rural communities through the supply of professional goods and services to the prime producer, helping to provide a diverse range of other employment opportunities that support individual families within rural communities.”

Dugdale Nutrition, one of the 60 local businesses with which she trades, specialises in feeds for ruminant animals, its core market being dairy farming. This means its 49 employees and their families rely heavily in turn on local dairy farms for their livelihood. Matthew Dugdale, managing director of this company which has supplied the Calvert family for three generations, explains: “Dairy farming is like any business, needing a fair and sustainable price for its product to ensure a fair income for the long hours worked and a decent return on the often large amounts of capital employed, and very importantly, surplus profit to reinvest for the future.”

Locally based businesses circulate profits within the communities they serve. In turn they are reliant on viable, widespread and profitable farm businesses adding immense value to local economies. It is in their interests to see that farmers get a fair price for their produce.

 

 

 

 

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2400 deaths: Britain’s collective public, corporate, medical and political failure

Britain’s political-corporate circles deliberately failed to give fair compensation to thousands of NHS patients who received contaminated blood. But France, Japan, Italy and other countries put those responsible for their contaminated blood supplies on trial.

Medics and politicians knew by the mid1970s that commercially manufactured blood products from the USA were suspect. See: Risk, science and the politics of the blood scandals in Ireland, Scotland, England and Finland  (page 4) which cited:

  • the Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada’, (Ottawa, 1997),
  • National Academy of Science 1975 (WHO partner)
  • and the World Health Assembly, Resolution 28.72. (Geneva, 1975).

The World Health Organisation had warned the UK not to import blood from countries that paid donors and had a high incidence of hepatitis, such as the US. By the mid-1980s there were warnings of a similar situation in respect of HIV. Nevertheless, these products continued to be imported and used. Successive governments refused to hold a public inquiry into what went wrong.

Lord Archer held a privately-funded, independent inquiry it took months for this government to reply to its findings.

The Haemophilia Society: https://slideplayer.com/slide/4794472/,slide 5

 The blood industry proved to be a powerful lobby and nothing was done 

Many manufacturers supplied clotting factor products to the UK during the mid-1970s and 1980s which infected haemophiliacs with life-threatening viruses. Armour’s Factorate was the most used product, with Baxter’s Hemofil, Immuno’s Kryobulin and Bayer-owned Cutter’s Koate following, see paragraph 21.332: “Final Report: Chapter 19 – Production of Blood Products – Facilities”.

The Penrose Inquiry (Chapter 5) recorded that in the 70s, Dr J Garrott Allen found that the incidence of Hepatitis among haemophilia patients was related to the increase in the use of prison plasma and “Skid Row” inhabitants, “whose use of alcohol, drugs and unsterilised needles made them prime hepatitis carriers”.  His findings, published in the journal “California Medicine”, provoked a national debate but “the blood industry constituted a powerful lobby, and nothing was done” – or as the Haemophilia Society (page 19) put it: “Although a great deal of evidence was clearly documented in the report, no useful recommendations were made.” 

Over 2400 of the people who were given contaminated blood have now died and MP Diana Johnson (left) asked for an urgent Commons debate in 2017 – recorded here. She had to get six leaders of opposition parties — including the DUP — to sign a letter to Ms May asking for an inquiry before Theresa May finally announced a public inquiry into how thousands of people became infected with HIV and hepatitis.

The MP for Stratford on Avon said: “Many victims—this is certainly true of my constituent, Clare Walton—initially did not want an inquiry; they wanted a settlement”.

The BBC reported that Eleanor Grey QC, speaking on behalf of the Department for Health and Social Care in England (and its predecessor which covered the whole of the UK), apologised for the infected blood scandal.

”At worst, a cover up or, at best, a lack of candour about past events”: Eleanor Grey QC

Many of the relevant records had disappeared. Former Health Secretary Patrick Jenkin and former Health Minister David Owen both searched the departmental archives, but were told that the documents had been accidentally destroyed. The British Medical Journal records that the public inquiry, which opened in September, was told in a preliminary hearing that the UK government engaged in a cover-up and in some cases the NHS altered or destroyed the medical records of patients who received blood products infected with HIV and hepatitis C in the 1970s and 1980s.

A Private Eye journalist, after giving a detailed account of the tragedy, ended: “If the government wants to demonstrate just how sincere its apology really is, it might take a leaf out of the Irish government’s book and pay survivors proper compensation and ensure priority healthcare, in recognition that their injuries were caused by the NHS. And do this before the inquiry resumes in earnest next spring.” 

But ultimately, as Sunita Narain points out re the Union Carbide tragedy in Bhopal, it is a collective failure: as in other cases, the British public have not expressed the level of outrage needed to shame the government into action.

 

 

 

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Only one group in Britain is acting on the danger to the country’s food security

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Nationally and internationally eminent researchers and commentators are focusing on the damage done to damage the environment and human health by agriculture (example).

This, in a country whose manufacturing industry was the first to pollute its air, water and soil and whose armaments industry continues the process (see a recent study of pollution caused by war activity, during development and testing of hardware, weapon systems and procedures, war operations and subsequent reconstruction).

A country which could and should provide its own staple food is becoming increasingly dependent on imports because their family farmers have been grossly underpaid for many years by middlemen and large retailers. According to the NFU (2015), the number of dairy farmers in England and Wales has halved since 2002 – cause and effect.

As family farmers leave in droves each year we must assume that the country’s environment and human health will improve by leaps and bounds. Not so, their land will be bought by those largescale investors who have reaped the benefit of EU subsidies for so many years.

William Taylor and other leaders of Northern Ireland’s farming organisations have been actively lobbying politicians from all parties and none. Their August press release ended:

Farming families traditionally were charity givers, now 25%+ are living below the poverty line, therefore, denoting complete current Government policy failure. FFA therefore call on the Westminster Government to implement legislation on farm gate prices which would return farmers a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked forthwith across the staples throughout the UK to force fairness into the food chain for farmers immediately. 

There is now proof from University College Dublin that in the farming industry every new job on a farm would create 4 down the line and whilst farming is not viewed by Westminster as the biggest UK industry in money terms (partly the fault of the food corporates) it is the largest UK industry by tonnage handled, 60%+ of all commercial road vehicles haul food or food related products to give but one example. 

If legislation on farm gate prices is not forthcoming from Westminster, such as that being sought at Stormont when it re-sits to sort the UK’s farm gate price crisis, then it will confirm what we all suspect, the large food retailers are out of control with their influence in ‘Democratic’ Westminster, the limited powers of the supermarket Ombudsman’s Office a case in point!

 

 

 

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One of the ‘hidden hands’ behind the intensifying attacks on Jeremy Corbyn – ‘the big obstacle’?

 

Award-winning journalist Jonathan Cook asks if Israel is the hidden hand The Jerusalem Post highlights the words of Jonathan Hoffman, a pro-Israel activist from London and critic of Corbyn, to JTA, “The wagons are circling around him in ever tighter circles” – and days later its editorial commands “Oust Corbyn”.

Eitay Mack is a Jerusalem-based human rights lawyer whose work includes defending the rights of Palestinians and Israeli human rights activists. He also focusses on Israel’s export of arms to repressive regimes – left, seen requiring access to records documenting Israel’s arms sales to Rwanda during the 1994 genocide

On August 19th, on behalf of 18 Israeli citizens, Mack filed a freedom of information request to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, in order “to verify that these play no part in the de-legitimization waged in recent years on the UK Labour Party and Mr. Corbyn.” In his letter, sent to both ministries, Mack states that “in the past two years, it has been revealed that the two ministries carry out activities against critics of the State of Israel in the UK,” citing specifically Prime Minister Netanyahu’s “public confrontations” with Corbyn.

He has asked for the release of non-classified information, documents, records and correspondence by the two ministries with NGOs, groups, individuals and journalists in the UK, as they regard the Labour Party and Corbyn.

In Mondoweiss, Yumna Patel asks Mack: ”What was your motivation for filing this request for information?

Mack: “What is happening to Corbyn is what we see happening daily to BDS activists around the world. They are being harassed and silenced by the Israeli government and its representatives and supporters, claiming that their activities are anti-Semitic. One of the results of one of my freedom for information requests that I filed in the last year is that we managed to get admission from the Israeli Ministry of Justice that they had been paying thousands of shekels to international law firms to criminalize BDS activists in Europe.

“So now in the case of Jeremy Corbyn, he has a lot of support. But this same tactic of delegitimization by claiming anti-Semitism has happened to activists that are not the head of political parties and that don’t have that economic and political support”.

Read the whole letter here.

 

On August 24th, Jonathan Cook notes assistance for the Israeli ministries’ onslaught in an information packed article

A report was written last year by two pro-Israel lobby groups, the New York based Anti-Defamation League and Tel Aviv’s Reut Institute, in collaboration with Israeli government “experts” and endorsed by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. It warned that solidarity with Palestinians had “migrated into mainstream left-wing parties in Europe”. The damage could be curtailed, according to the report, by “driving a wedge” between what it termed “harsh critics” and “soft critics” of Israel. It proposed “professionalising” the existing network of pro-Israel lobby groups and improving “information-gathering” to target Palestinian solidarity activists – or what it called a “delegitimisation network”. Such work needed to be done “covertly” and “uncompromisingly,” the authors stated.

Their aim is to marginalise ‘harsh critics’ to a point where their criticism is considered socially inappropriate and with – the aid of Britain’s mainstream media and New Labour MPs – it has been quite successful with impressionable readers.

 

Patel continues: “Why is Israel so invested in the case of Jeremy Corbyn?”

Eitay Mack: “This is the head of a very important political party in a very important country. He is pro-Palestine and pro-human rights, and the Netanyahu government sees Corbyn as a big obstacle in implementing its policy around the world. In the past few years, Israel has felt very good with the climate of anti-immigration and anti-Islamic sentiments in Western Europe.

 

Cook: “. . . the first European leader to prioritise the cause of justice”

“The main obstacle at the moment for the Israeli government to continue further with its goal of taking the Palestinian issue off the table, is Jeremy Corbyn. Since Jeremy Corbyn managed to achieve the leadership role of a mainstream party in the UK, this could happen in other places, and Israel is scared of that”. And Cook (left) adds: “If Corbyn eventually becomes prime minister, he would be the first European leader to prioritise the cause of justice for Palestinians over Israel’s continuing occupation”.

 

 

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Broken Britain 16: HMRC refuses to investigate money-laundering and tax fraud charges by largest Conservative donor

Three classes of British looting: which is the most culpable?

Professor Prem Sikka, Professor of Accounting at University of Sheffield and Emeritus Professor of Accounting at University of Essex, draws attention to the case of the UK telecoms giant Lycamobile, the biggest donor to the Conservative Party, which has accepted £2.2m in donations since 2011.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has refused to assist the French authorities and raid Lycamobile’s UK premises in order to investigate suspected money laundering and tax fraud.

Economia, the publication for members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) which covers news and analysis on the essential issues in business, finance and accountancy, reports:

Following an initial denial (left, Financial Times), Economia confirmed that in an official response to the French government dated 30 March 2017,  a HMRC official noted that Lycamobile is “a large multinational company” with “vast assets at their disposal” and would be “extremely unlikely to agree to having their premises searched”, said the report.

The letter from HMRC to the French government added, “It is of note that they are the biggest corporate donor to the Conservative party led by Prime Minister Theresa May and donated 1.25m Euros to the Prince Charles Trust in 2012”.

This is an ongoing saga: in 2016 Economia noted: “The Tories have come under fire for continuing to accept donations of more than £870,000 from Lycamobile since December, while it was being investigated for tax fraud and money laundering”.

In 2016 In May it emerged that KPMG’s audit of Lycamobile was limited due to the complex nature of the company’s accounts. Later, KPMG resigned saying it was unable to obtain “all the information and explanations from the company that we consider necessary for the purpose of our audit”.

HMRC: “has become a state within a state”.

Prem Sikka (right) continues, “The House of Commons Treasury Committee is demanding answers to the Lycamobile episode – but HMRC is unlikely to prove amenable”.

In recent years, the Public Accounts Committee has conducted hearings into tax avoidance by giant global corporations such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Starbucks, Shire and others. The hearings have not been followed by HMRC test cases.

The Public Accounts Committee has also held hearings into the role of the large accountancy firms in designing and marketing avoidance schemes and exposed their predatory culture. In a telling rebuke to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Committee chair said: “You are offering schemes to your clients—knowingly marketing these schemes—where you have judged there is a 75% risk of it then being deemed unlawful. That is a shocking finding for me to be told by one of your tax officials.”

Despite the above and numerous court judgments declaring the tax avoidance schemes marketed by accountancy firms to be unlawful, not a single firm has been investigated, fined or prosecuted.

There are real concerns that HMRC is too sympathetic to large companies and wealthy elites.

A major reason for that is the ‘revolving door’, the colonisation of HMRC by big business and its discourses: its current board members include non-executive directors connected with British Airways, Mondi, Anglo American, Aviva, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Rolls Royce.

After a stint at HMRC many of the non-execs return to big business. Corporate sympathies are therefore not counterbalanced by the presence of ordinary taxpayers or individuals from SMEs and civil society.

Sikka ends: “In such an environment, it is all too easy to turn a Nelsonian eye on corporate abuses and shower concessions on companies and wealthy individuals”. Read more here.

 

Why should we care?

Because tax revenue pays for the services used by all except the richest, the education health, transport and social services, increasingly impoverished by funding cuts imposed by the last two British governments.

The Shadow Chancellor has twice called for more rigorous examination and tightening of processes at HMRC to ensure that corporations and wealthy individuals are free from political corruption and pay fair rates of taxes.

Will the next government elected be for the many, not the few?

 

 

 

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