Saturday, 28 January 2012
Ed Milliband calls for tighter takeover rules
The BBC reports that Ed Milliband, writing in the Financial Times, has called for tighter takeover rules to defend the long-term interests of Britain.
Although this would be of help – if possible to achieve, it seems likely that any legislation aimed at restricting the activities of global corporations to be, at best, a slight hindrance to them achieving their aims.
Whereas, when we humans desire to change our behaviour to stop smoking, take more exercise or reduce our alcohol intake – there is the possibility of a long-term change in our the way we live our lives. However, what seems to be lost sight of when dealing with the activities of these monsters, is that making as much money as possible is the very purpose of their existence. They are not going to change their purpose because of legislation that makes it more difficult to achieve their aim any more than a fox will give up trying to steal chickens from the hen house.
The problem with trying to restrict any commercial organisation from acting against the interest of a nation state is their size. The larger they become – the more sharp minded individuals are employed to overcome or get round existing legislation and the more opportunities exist to achieve this end [most window cleaners do not set up a tax haven as have the majority of FTSE 100 companies].
In December 2011, the Guardian reported that “HMRC hid ‘sweetheart’ tax deals for big business“. This was the case where the Commons public accounts committee found ‘specific and systematic’ failures at HRMC when they investigated deals made with Vodafone and Goldman Sachs. As the Guardian reported:
The committee chair, Margaret Hodge, accused HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) of making a “policy decision” not to disclose information and using a “veil of secrecy” by citing “taxpayer confidentiality”, which denied accountability to the public or parliament about whether deals provided good value for money.
She said it was “crazy” that the panel of MPs had been forced to rely on leaked information from a whistleblower and the satirical magazine Private Eye.
Hodge told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “At a time when it’s hugely important that we maximise the revenue that comes in, when it’s absolutely imperative that everybody is treated equally in front of the law, whoever they are, however big or small they are, I think it’s very, very important that the public are satisfied that there’s equity here, and that HMRC are working on our behalf to maximise revenue that ought to come in to the Treasury.”
Clearly, it is the very size of these corporations that makes ’specific and systematic’ failures a possibility. As the Guardian also reported:
Hodge also pointed out the imbalance between big corporations’ tax experts and the small number of tax experts in HMRC, likening it to a “David and Goliath” situation whereby big companies use very expensive advisers and lawyers while HRMC “by their own admittance, have very few people who have deep knowledge of tax affairs”
Herein lies the problem, if the resources of a nation the size of the UK is not equipped to deal with the tax expertise of these global corporations – then nor will the authorities of the majority of nation states where these giants operate – and of course, because of the huge amounts involved, corruption of officials is a much greater possibility.
It has to be accepted, if attempts are not made to exclude these global giants from our shores – then they will, in time, have enormous influence on every aspect of our national life – and it appears that this outcome is already much advanced.