BBC Uncovers ‘Aggressive’ Tax Avoidance Scheme

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Courtesy of Zoe Conway @ The BBC:

Anderson Group, one of the recruitment industry’s most high-profile companies, is promoting an “aggressive” tax avoidance scheme which experts are calling “abusive”.
The scheme works by exploiting the government’s Employment Allowance.

The scam could deprive the Treasury of tens of millions of pounds of National Insurance payments.

Anderson Group says that all of its services are fully compliant with UK tax laws.
It says it is “totally incorrect” to say that Anderson Group is promoting the scheme and says it is a product being offered by one of its clients.

Anderson Group, which calls itself the UK’s “leading provider of support services to the recruitment industry” has hundreds of agencies and thousands of contractors on its books.

The tax avoidance scheme works by exploiting the government’s Employment Allowance which was introduced last year.

The allowance enables companies to claim £2,000 off their annual employers’ National Insurance bill and was meant to encourage small businesses to take on more workers.
Secret recording

The BBC secretly recorded Anderson Group’s sales manager, Ian Moran, promoting the tax avoidance scheme to a recruitment agency.

The agency he was pitching to employs 300 workers, many of whom work in low paid jobs in warehouses or as labourers.

Mr Moran suggested that if the recruitment agency were to set up more than 100 limited companies with a couple of workers in each of them, each company could then claim the £2,000 allowance.

By Mr Moran’s calculations the agency’s National Insurance bill would then fall from £300,000 a year to zero. Continue reading

Is This the Most Dangerous Queen’s Speech in Living Memory?

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The talk of coming out of the ECHR is all hot air because rights are natural and inalienable, it would therefore mean that these rights are not rights but privileges. Looking to the etymological origins of the word privilege, privi is private and leg is law, thus privileges are private laws which can and will be taken away. Courtesy of Mary Riddell @ The Telegraph:

Ten years ago this summer, I rode a motorbike through the eight countries newly welcomed into the European Union. As I travelled the 1250 miles from Estonia to Slovenia, a flourish of a British passport took me through frontiers closed for half a century by the Iron Curtain and the Cold War. New motorways were replacing farm tracks, and it seemed that hope had triumphed over repression.

A decade on, the European dream has soured so fast, for some at least, that Britain stands on the road marked EU exit. With an In/Out referendum enshrined in this week’s Queen’s Speech, our relationship with Europe will be one of the defining issues of this Parliament and this century. On a separate front, the Government is toying with another rupture.

The pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, even if delayed for a year, is intended to break the “formal link” with the European Court of Human Rights and make our Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter. Though the Strasbourg court is independent of the EU, many Tories view it as a mechanism for European meddling in British justice.

It is possible that, by the end of this Parliament, Britain will not only be gone from the EU but will also have renounced the European Convention on Human Rights designed to bind together, in a universal code of decency, nations shattered by the Second World War. Two such momentous issues require a deft government and a valiant opposition. Britain can rely on neither.

Mr Cameron’s referendum campaign began badly, and possibly fatally, with evidence that France and Germany have made a deal for further eurozone integration without the need to re-open treaties. Our Prime Minister can only achieve his more ambitious aims, such as a Commons veto over EU legislation, through treaty changes which now look less likely than ever. Continue reading

Sajid Javid: Significant Changes to Strike Law

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It helps to keep the legal from the lawful and courtesy of BBC:

Newly appointed Business Secretary Sajid Javid has said there will be “significant changes” to strike laws under the new Conservative government.

A strike affecting essential public services will need the backing of 40% of eligible union members under government plans, he said.

Currently, a strike is valid if backed by a majority of those balloted.

Unions said the plans “will make legal strikes close to impossible”.

Mr Javid told the BBC’s Today programme: “We’ve already made clear, in terms of strike laws, that there will be some significant changes… it will be a priority of ours.

“We need to update our strike laws. We’ve never hidden away the changes we want to make. I think it’s essential to make these changes,” he added.

A strike affecting health, transport, fire services or schools will need to be backed by 40% of eligible union members.

There will also need to be a minimum 50% turnout in strike ballots.

The government will also lift restrictions on the use of agency staff to replace striking workers, he said.

The changes to the law are to be announced in the Queen’s Speech, he added, which will take place later this month. Continue reading

EU dropped pesticide laws due to US pressure over TTIP, documents reveal

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Chief EU negotiator Ignacio Garcia-Bercero (R) and chief US negotiator Dan Mullaney hold a press conference in Washington, DC after a new round of talks on creating a transatlantic free trade zone, 19 May. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Courtesy of Arthur Neslen @ The Guardian:

EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from US trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show.

Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive US lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show.

On 26 June 2013, a high-level delegation from the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favour of a new impact study.

Minutes of the meeting show commission officials pleading that “although they want the TTIP to be successful, they would not like to be seen as lowering the EU standards”.

The TTIP is a trade deal being agreed by the EU and US to remove barriers to commerce and promote free trade.

Responding to the EU officials, AmCham representatives “complained about the uselessness of creating categories and thus, lists” of prohibited substances, the minutes show.

The US trade representatives insisted that a risk-based approach be taken to regulation, and “emphasised the need for an impact assessment” instead.

On 2 July 2013, officials from the US Mission to Europe visited the EU to reinforce the message. Later that day, the secretary-general of the commission, Catherine Day, sent a letter to the environment department’s director Karl Falkenberg, telling him to stand down the draft criteria.

“We suggest that as other DGs [directorate-generals] have done, you consider making a joint single impact assessment to cover all the proposals,” Day wrote. “We do not think it is necessary to prepare a commission recommendation on the criteria to identify endocrine disrupting substances.” Continue reading

Crippling PFI Deals Leave Britain £222bn in Debt

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Courtesy of

Every man, woman and child in Britain is more than £3,400 in debt – without knowing it and without borrowing a single penny – thanks to the proliferation of controversial deals used to pay for infrastructure such as schools and hospitals.

The UK owes more than £222bn to banks and businesses as a result of Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) – “buy now, pay later” agreements between the government and private companies on major projects. The startling figure – described by experts as a “financial disaster” – has been calculated as part of an Independent on Sunday analysis of Treasury data on more than 720 PFIs. The analysis has been verified by the National Audit Office (NAO).

The headline debt is based on “unitary charges” which start this month and will continue for 35 years. They include fees for services rendered, such as maintenance and cleaning, as well as the repayment of loans underwritten by banks and investment companies.

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The situation is expected to worsen as PFI projects spread across the world (Getty)

Basically, a PFI is like a mortgage that the government takes out on behalf of the public. The average annual cost of meeting the terms of the UK’s PFI contracts will be more than £10bn over the next decade.

And the cost of servicing PFIs is growing. Last year, it rose by £5bn. It could rise further, with inflation. The upward creep is the price taxpayers’ pay for a financing system which allows private firms to profit from investing in infrastructure.

An NAO briefing, released last month, says: “In the short term using private finance will reduce reported public spending and government debt figures.” But, longer term, “additional public spending will be required to repay the debt and interest of the original investment”.

A case in point is Britain’s biggest health trust, Barts Health NHS Trust in London, which was placed in special measures last month. It is £93m in debt – struggling under the weight of a 43-year PFI contract under which it will pay back more than £7bn on contracts valued at a fraction of that sum (£1.1bn) Continue reading

Snoopers’ Charter Set to Return to Law as Theresa May Suggests Conservative Majority Could Lead to Huge Increase in surveillance Powers

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Courtesy of Andrew Griffin @ The Independent:

The Conservatives are already planning to introduce the huge surveillance powers known as the Snoopers’ Charter, hoping that the removal from government of the Liberal Democrats that previously blocked the controversial law will allow it to go through.

The law, officially known as the Draft Communications Data Bill, is already back on the agenda according to Theresa May. It is expected to force British internet service providers to keep huge amounts of data on their customers, and to make that information available to the government and security services.

The snoopers’ charter received huge criticism from computing experts and civil liberties campaigners in the wake of introduction. It was set to come into law in 2014, but Nick Clegg withdrew his support for the bill and it was blocked by the Liberal Democrats. Theresa May, who led the legislation as home secretary, said shortly after the Conservatives’ election victory became clear that she will seek to re-introduce it to government. With the re-election of May and the likely majority of her party, the bill is likely to find success if the new government tries again. Continue reading

TTIP: Transatlantic Trade Deal Text Leaked to BBC

Which ever ist or ism you want to apply, it solidifies the power of a few. Courtesy of Glenn Campbell @ BBC Scotland:

A leaked draft of what the European Union wants excluded from a new trade deal with the United States has been obtained by the BBC.

The document describes itself as the EU’s “initial offer” in negotiations over the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP).

It includes the wording that UK ministers have said will protect the NHS from privatisation.

Anti-TTIP campaigners say a specific exemption for the NHS is still needed.
The 103-page document is headed “trade in services and investment: schedule of specific commitments and reservations”.

It was produced before the most recent round of TTIP negotiations in Brussels were held at the beginning of this month.

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On health, the document states: “The EU reserves the right to adopt or maintain any measure with regard to the provision of all health services which receive public funding or State support in any form”.

The wording is the same as that used in a similar free trade agreement between the EU and Canada (CETA).

The UK trade minister, Lord Livingston, said last week that this text ensured “publicly funded health services are excluded”.

The European Commission has also previously said TTIP would not affect how NHS services are provided, whether in Scotland or the rest of the UK.

But Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has called for the NHS to be specifically excluded from the deal. Continue reading

UK-US Surveillance Regime was Unlawful ‘For Seven Years’

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The legal challenge was the first of dozens of GCHQ-related claims to be examined in detail by the IPT. Photograph: Ho/Reuters

 Courtesy of Owen Boycott @ The Guardian:

The regime that governs the sharing between Britain and the US of electronic communications intercepted in bulk was unlawful until last year, a secretive UK tribunal has ruled.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) declared on Friday that regulations covering access by Britain’s GCHQ to emails and phone records intercepted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) breached human rights law.

Advocacy groups said the decision raised questions about the legality of intelligence-sharing operations between the UK and the US. The ruling appears to suggest that aspects of the operations were illegal for at least seven years – between 2007, when the Prism intercept programme was introduced, and 2014.

The critical judgment marks the first time since the IPT was established in 2000 that it has upheld a complaint relating to any of the UK’s intelligence agencies. It said that the government’s regulations were illegal because the public were unaware of safeguards that were in place. Details of those safeguards were only revealed during the legal challenge at the IPT.

An “order” posted on the IPT’s website early on Friday declared: “The regime governing the soliciting, receiving, storing and transmitting by UK authorities of private communications of individuals located in the UK, which have been obtained by US authorities … contravened Articles 8 or 10” of the European convention on human rights.

Article 8 relates to the right to private and family life; article 10 refers to freedom of expression.

The decision, in effect, refines an earlier judgment issued by the tribunal in December, when it ruled that Britain’s current legal regime governing data collection through the internet by intelligence agencies – which has been recently updated to ensure compliance – did not violate the human rights of people in the UK. Continue reading

UK Bail-in Powers Implementation

Courtesy of Gov.uk, because they care:

1. Introduction

The Special Resolution Regime (SRR) established in the Banking Act 2009 (“the Banking Act”) confers a number of resolution powers on the Bank of England and HM Treasury. The Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013 (the 2013 Act) confers on the Bank of England a further option for the resolution for banks, building societies, investment firms, and certain banking group companies: the bail-in stabilisation option.

Since the financial crisis, a wide-ranging programme of financial sector reform has been underway at domestic, European and international levels. The government set up the Independent Commission on Banking (ICB), charged with considering structural and related non-structural reforms to the UK banking sector to promote financial stability and competition. It reported in 2011, and one of its key recommendations was the introduction of a bail-in tool. Bail-in powers were also recommended by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards (PCBS) in its June 2013 report. The Financial Stability Board’s (FSB), ‘Key Attributes of Effective Resolution Regimes’ – endorsed by the G20 – has recommended that resolution regimes put in place a bail-in tool in order to improve the toolkit for dealing with the failure of large, globally systemic banks.

Bail-in involves shareholders of a failing institution being divested of their shares, and creditors of the institution having their claims cancelled or reduced to the extent necessary to restore the institution to financial viability. The shares can then be transferred to affected creditors, as appropriate, to provide compensation. Alternatively, where a suitable purchaser is identified, the shares may be transferred to them, with the creditors instead receiving, where appropriate, compensation in some other form. Continue reading

Cut benefits? Yes, Let’s Start With Our £85bn Corporate Welfare Handout

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Courtesy of Aditya Chakrabortty @ The Guardian:

Last week, as the Tory faithful cheered on George Osborne’s new cuts in benefits for the working-age poor, a little story appeared that blew a big hole in the welfare debate. Tucked away in the Guardian last Wednesday, an article revealed that the British government had since 2007 handed Disney almost £170m to make films here. Last year alone the Californian giant took £50m in tax credits. By way of comparison, in April the government will scrap a £347m crisis fund that provides emergency cash for families on the verge of homelessness or starvation.

Benefits are what we grudgingly hand the poor; the rich are awarded tax breaks. Cut through the euphemisms and the Treasury accounting, however, and you’re left with two forms of welfare. Except that the hundreds given to people sleeping on the street has been deemed unaffordable. Those millions for $150bn Disney, on the other hand, that’s apparently money well spent –whoever coined the phrase “taking the Mickey” must have worked for HM Revenue.

Politicians and pundits talk about welfare as if it’s solely cash given to people. Hardly ever discussed is corporate welfare: the grants and subsidies, the contracts and cut-price loans that government hands over to business. Yet some of our biggest companies and industries operate a business model that depends on them extracting money from the British taxpayer. The operators of our supposedly privatised train services are kept afloat by billions in public money. Or take the firm created by billionaire Jeff Bezos: last year it emerged that Amazon had paid less in corporation tax to the UK than it had received in government grants.

The bill for corporate welfare is huge – and largely hidden. We know a lot about the people who claim social welfare: we know how much each benefit costs the public, the government sets strict rules for eligibility – and we even have detailed estimates for how much cheating goes on. Between them, Whitehall, academia and NGOs have churned out enough surveys on social welfare claimants to fill a wing of the Bodleian library. But corporate welfare? The government has itself acknowledged: “There is no definitive source of data about spending on subsidies to businesses in the UK.” The numbers are scattered across government publications and there is not even any agreement on what counts as a corporate handout. Continue reading