Issue 39: 2016 02 04: Week in Brief: UK

04 February 2016

Week in Brief: UK

Union Jack flapping in wind from the right

GOOGLE TAX: The Government and HMRC have come under fire for agreeing a tax deal with Google which means the company will pay £130 million back tax over ten years.  It is thought that the amount of corporation tax paid is equivalent to a rate of 3%.  Criticism is mounting after it appears that both France and Italy have concluded agreements with Google which are more favourable to the taxpayers of those countries.

The deal with Google seems the more extraordinary as HMRC investigators were given a large file of documents from a former Google employee; it has been said that he handed over 100,000 e-mails which apparently showed that contracts were concluded and signed off in London (thereby attracting UK corporation tax) and not in Dublin as Google claim.

‘The Times’ has carried an article which claims that the diverted profit tax (DPT) which was introduced to take money from companies with tax avoidance schemes like Google, was not applied to Google itself.  The article alleges that HMRC did not recover any tax from Google in recent negotiations on the basis of the DPT.  The reason, apparently, was that HMRC considered that Google’s tax arrangements were ligitimate.

See Comment article.

VEILS: Schools that allow pupils and/or teachers to cover their faces with a veil or burka could be failed by Ofsted.  The Chief Inspector of Schools expressed concern that the veil was a barrier to learning and social integration.

Lord Neuburger, the President of the Supreme Court, has said that women should not be allowed to wear veils when giving evidence in court, if there may be doubts about the credibility of their evidence.

FGM: There is concern that local authorities and police forces are not using FGM (female genital mutilation) orders to prevent girls at risk from travelling overseas to be cut.  The orders can require parents to surrender travel documents of girls thought to be at risk.

PUZZLE: Just before Christmas, GCHQ, the UK’s code breaking successor to Bletchley Park, released a puzzle set by its Director to see how many people, if any, could solve it.  It has been estimated that 600,000 have made the attempt, but no-one has yet been successful.

RACISM: David Cameron has launched a blistering attack on the British establishment (universities, businesses, the armed forces and the police) for not recruiting black people in sufficient numbers.  He singled out universities such as Oxford for not offering more places to black students and, in effect, accused it of being racist.  Oxford rejected the criticism and produced statistics to support their case.

MATHS AND ENGLISH: Cameron’s criticism came at the same time as The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has criticised the poor standards of students in the UK in the subjects of Maths and English. The report places students in the UK at the bottom of a list of 23 countries in respect of literacy and 22nd out of 23 countries for numeracy.

HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT: The Palace of Westminster needs extensive repairs which may take 6 years.  MPs will have to move out and find temporary accommodation.  One of the possibilities is Richmond House which is in reasonably close proximity to the Houses of Parliament, but the premises were transferred 2 years ago to finance an Islamic bond (an investment whose return is not based upon interest, but upon the rental income).  A condition in the lease states that the building cannot be used for any purpose which is in conflict with Sharia law.  That means that alcohol would be banned and so MPs, if they move there, would not be able to enjoy the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.

IRA: There has been criticism over the Government’s decision to pay £1.6 million in compensation to members of the Provisional IRA who were found guilty of terrorist-linked offences, after their convictions were quashed.  The group had been convicted of the kidnapping and imprisonment of an informer, but the conviction was overturned because the role of a British agent codenamed “Stakeknife” had not been disclosed at the trial.

TALIBAN: In another case, a Taliban bomb-maker in Afghanistan has been allowed to sue the Ministry of Defence.  He has been described as a deputy Taliban commander and has claimed that he was held in detention for 106 days instead of the 96 hours limit.  There is at least one other claim, this time from an insurgent in Iraq, for damages for unlawful detention.

ZIMBABWEAN: There has been concern over the decision by a judge to release a Zimbabwean from detention although it was accepted that he would abscond and was likely to commit further crimes.  The man has 13 convictions but is unlikely to be deported because he has no passport and does not want to return to Zimbabwe.

KIDS COMPANY: Alan Yentob’s role in the BBC’s coverage of the crisis in Kids Company may be re-examined after MPs have indicated that they are unhappy with the way the BBC dealt with the matter.  Mr. Yentob accompanied the head of Kids Company Camila Batmanghelidjh when she appeared on the “Today” programme, and stood beside the producer.  He telephoned “Newsnight” to discuss its planned coverage of the charity.  The BBC was thinking of starting an investigation, but abandoned the idea after Mr. Yentob resigned as creative director.  It is thought that he did so to avoid close examination of his conduct over the Kids Company collapse.



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