David Cameron and the Corporate Coup D’Etat (Britain: The New Tax Haven of Europe Pt. 2)

It has been described as a “corporate coup d’etat” – Cameron’s plans to “engineer the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor and middle to the ultra-rich that this country has seen in a century.”

At the moment tax law ensures that companies based here, with branches in other countries, don’t get taxed twice on the same money. They have to pay only the difference between our rate and that of the other country. If, for example, Dirty Oil plc pays 10% corporation tax on its profits in Oblivia, then shifts the money over here, it should pay a further 18% in the UK, to match our rate of 28%.”

Under new proposals, companies will not pay any tax at all in the UK on money made by their foreign branches. This will mean that money that has passed though tax havens will remain untaxed when it reaches the UK. Amazingly, the UK will be only the second country in the world to allow this – Switzerland is the other.

The proposal, however, will only apply to “large and medium companies” – it is not available for smaller firms. Surprise, surprise. The government states that it expects “large financial services companies to make the greatest use of the exemption regime.” So who are the government implying? The banks. Yes, in a move that will shock… well, no-one, Cameron and the Conservative Party are introducing proposals to ease of the strain off of the poor banks and to help create a new European tax haven in the UK.

While big business will be exempt from tax on its foreign branch earnings, it will, amazingly, still be able to claim the expense of funding its foreign branches against tax it pays in the UK. No other country does this.”

The measures will accompany the large reduction in corporation tax from 2014: down from 28% to 24%. George Osborne stated that he wants to bring corporation tax to “the lowest this country has ever known” whilst a Treasury Minister boasted that the rate will be the lowest “of any major western economy.” Continue reading

Herbal remedies = Bad, GM crops = Good

Chinese herbal store reposted with lomo effect...

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In a controversial move that will primarily benefit US exporters, genetically modified (GM) crops will be allowed to enter the UK without the need for regulatory clearance for the first time under plans expected to be approved this week.

Currently, imported animal feed containing GM feed has to be authorised by European regulators, but the UK is set to back EU plans to permit the importing of feed containing traces of unauthorised GM crops.

According to The Observer, “a vote on Tuesday in favour of the scheme put forward by the EU’s standing committee on the food chain and animal health would overturn the EU’s “zero tolerance” policy towards the import of unauthorised GM crops.”

This move would be a victory for the pro-GM lobby and would greatly benefit US exporters, however environmental groups are likely to be alarmed at these proposals.

“The GM industry is pushing this proposal so it can wedge its foot firmly in the door and open up the British and European markets to food no one wants to eat,” said Helen Wallace, director of GeneWatch UK, a campaigner against GM food. “Its long-term aim is to contaminate the food chain to such an extent that GM-free food will disappear.”

Eve Mitchell, food policy advisor at Food and Water Europe (a campaign group), says: “This is a solution without a problem, and the price could be very high indeed when unknown genetically modified organisms are let loose in the food chain.

“Rather than ignoring EU food safety laws to help the US soy industry cut costs, we should simply buy the stuff from countries that segregate their GM properly. If it hasn’t been tested, why eat it?”

Meanwhile in an unrelated yet similarly alarming move, hundreds of herbal products will be banned in Britain from 1 May in accordance with an EU-wide ban on herbal medicinal products.

From 1 May 2011, traditional herbal medicinal products must be licensed or prescribed by a registered herbal practitioner. However, the move has caused some criticism as herbal practitioners say it is difficult for most herbal medicines to meet the licensing requirements, due to the large costs of testing. The Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) estimates the cost of obtaining a licence at between £80,000 and £120,000 per herb. They say this will be affordable for single herbal products with big markets but will drive small producers of medicines containing multiple herbs out of business.

Thousands of patients who use herbal treatments may lose access to the herbal medicinal products, and medical organisations including the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have warned that these measures may drive patients to obtain the medicines over the internet at a much greater risk.

Michael McIntyre, the chairman of the European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association, said: “The problem is you can’t get a licence for many herbal medicines because they are grown in people’s back gardens and you can’t patent them. The implications are very serious. Patients want to receive treatment from trained and qualified practitioners but unless we have regulation they can’t have confidence in who is treating them. The worst outcome is that patients will end up going to the internet for their herbal medicines where there are no controls.”

The EU law has been implemented due to rising concerns over safety and of the adverse effects caused by some herbal medicines. However, there have been criticisms that the ban will have negative effects for huge numbers of people across Europe. Dr Rob Verkerk, of the ANH, said: “Thousands of people across Europe rely on herbal medicines to improve their quality of life. They don’t take them because they are sick – they take them to keep healthy. If these medicines are taken off the market, people will try and find them elsewhere, such as from the internet, where there is a genuine risk they will get low quality products, that either don’t work or are adulterated.”

Although the GM crops and herbal remedies proposals are unrelated, it does seem as if the general consensus in the EU at the moment is that GM crops are harmless, whilst herbal medicinal remedies are a safety concern. Or am I being too cynical?

Europe: GM crops 1, Herbal remedies 0

Britain: The New Tax Haven of Europe

“Multimillionaire foreigners… will find it easier to make a home in the UK under government plans to relax immigration rules for the super-rich,” the FT reports.

Under coalition proposals, from April onwards wealthy immigrants will only have to spend 6 months in Britain to qualify for a visa, whilst the wait for permanent residency will be dramatically cut. This is clear discrimination on the grounds of wealth. As the debate over immigration continues, the government is moving to favor the wealthiest migrants and making it easier for the super-rich to enter Britain, the new tax haven of Europe.

The proposals will make it easier for the wealthy but will not impact on poorer immigrants:

Under the proposals, investors bringing in £10m would qualify for permanent residency within two years. Individuals with at least £5m would qualify in three and those with £1m would qualify after five years. At present, anyone on an investor visa has to stay at least five years before being eligible.

Although this will seem as an attempt to bolster the economy, those granted permanent residency would be free, of course, to take their money out of the UK. This could then potentially add to the major issue the UK has whereby billions of pounds of missed tax revenue is leaving the country via legal means, tax loopholes and other tactics. See UKuncut – the movement dedicated to raising awareness of the huge sums of money leaving the country.

These proposals come at a time where the government is slashing foreign student numbers as it attempts to cut migration levels per year. Universities are angered at this as many are reliant on income from foreign students.

As Richard Murphy from Liberal Conspiracy writes: “This is tawdry tax haven behaviour akin to the worst of the Crown Dependencies, Switzerland and other such grubby states. But it’s worse than that. It is blatant discrimination on the grounds of wealth. Article 2 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

“Here we very obviously have deliberate discrimination on the basis of property. This should be, and I hope will be, challenged under human rights legislation.

“Offensive as that discrimination is, the policy is also indicative of the deliberate policy this government is pursuing to turn the UK into a tax haven.”

At a time when the government should be clamping down on tax evasion, it appears as if the focus is on getting more income into Britain without actually tightening any of the rules on tax evasion. And as stated, the rich immigrants are free to take their money out of the UK if they are permanent residents, so what real results will this targeted discrimination bring?

BBC bans the word “reform” from the AV electoral reform debate

Fair Votes

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In an unusual and perhaps unjustifiable move, the BBC has banned the use of the word “reform” when describing the debate over electoral reform.

As many will know, there is currently a debate over the future referendum on whether to change the current voting system from “first past the post” to a system dubbed the “alternative vote” (AV). As many will undoubtably agree, this change in the voting system will indeed be an “electoral reform”, however a leaked internal memo from the BBC  shows how the corporation views the word “reform” to carry too positive a meaning.

In the leaked memo, Ric Bailey, the corporation’s chief political advisor, says: “Please can we make sure that we don’t describe this – in our own scripts, headlines, etc – as the referendum on ‘electoral reform’. When the [BBC’s] Guidance is published ahead of the referendum period, it will make clear that, in the context of the referendum, that is not an impartial term – ‘reform’ explicitly contains a definition of ‘improvement’.”

The move has angered supporters of the “Yes” campaign for the AV, and rightly so. “This is ridiculous, but consistent, behaviour from the management of the BBC,” said Paul Sinclair, the director of communications for the ‘Yes’ campaign.

“If BBC managers are suggesting that by using the word ‘reform’ in ‘electoral reform’ they are implicitly recommending it to viewers and listeners, then by their own standards they have spent the last week advocating the Government’s NHS reforms and the Government’s education reforms before that because that is what they have called the measures.”

This is a fair point, and it does appear as if the BBC are singling out the AV campaign whilst using the ‘overly-positive’ word “reform” for other governmental measures. Perhaps the “No” campaign have got to the BBC?

Yes to Fairer Votes are writing a letter to the BBC condemning this action, which you can sign here: Reform” isn’t a dirty word: Cosign our letter to the BBC.

Paul Sinclair added: “Adopting the alternative vote is electoral reform. There is no other way to describe it. We have consistently had problems with the BBC where they have refused to take our spokespeople. They even allowed the ‘No’ campaign to dictate who we could put up against them. A ‘No’ campaigner was allowed to insist that they didn’t face a Labour MP who was representing the ‘Yes’ campaign. This cannot be described as impartial or even-handed behaviour.

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Man banned from having sex because his IQ is “too low”

A High Court judge has ruled that a man with an IQ of 48 is banned from having sex. Unbelievable. Is this a ruling from an interfering Nanny State or from an over-reaching Police State?

Known as Alan, the 41-year old has been banned from having sex with a man that he lived with. Alan was in a relationship with the man and stated that he wanted it to continue, however he is clearly too ‘stupid’ to be in control of his own life.

His local council stated that due to his moderate learning difficulty and low IQ of 48, the man clearly did not understand what he was doing. The council stated that his “vigorous sex drive” was inappropriate and started legal proceedings to restrict the relationship!

The High Court judge agreed that Alan does not have the mental capacity to know about the health risks and should be banned from having sex. Contact between the two men has also been restricted. His local council will now closely monitor him so he does not breach the ruling.

The story was reported in the Daily Mail, so take it with a pinch of salt or two, but regardless… ultimately low IQ is deemed a criminal offence in modern Britain and rulings will be brought against you if you continue to have a low IQ whilst engaging in sexual activities. A huge number of ethical and practical questions are thrown up by this case, among them the question of just how are they going to police this ban? How are they going to “closely monitor” him? Wasting police time to keep an eye on him and make sure he is celibate? Then there’s the question of ethics….

Perhaps they will enforce mandatory IQ tests up and down the country, to ensure that those with lower IQs are not engaging in sexual activities. Perhaps they should produce national ID cards for those who “pass” the test with a score above 50, and then only those with ID cards will be able to have sex. Or perhaps they should just “tag” people with lower IQs to “closely monitor” them…

David Cameron joins the EDL?

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 29JAN10 - David Cameron, Le...

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David Cameron has told a security conference in Munich, Germany that multiculturalism in Britain has failed and that the government has been “too cautious frankly, even fearful” with dealing with the ‘non-white’ community.

Many have queried the timing of the speech as much as the content – given on the same day that an English Defence League (EDL) rally is taking place in the UK. The speech itself has also served to show how out of touch Cameron and the Tory party really are with modern, multicultural Britain.

Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we’ve encouraged different cultures to live seperate lives apart from each other and apart from the mainstream. We’ve failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong,” the prime minister said.

Cameron blamed integration issues between ‘whites’ and ‘non-whites’ as a factor for the ‘rise in extremism’, it appeared.

We’ve even tolerated these segregated comunities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values. So when a white person holds objectional views, racist views for instance, we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practises come from someone that isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious frankly, even fearful, to stand up to them.

This hands off tolerance only serves to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared, and this all leaves some young muslims feeling rootless, and the search for something to belong to and something to believe in can lead them to this extremist ideology.

Now for sure they don’t turn into terrorists overnight, but what we see, and what we see in so many European countries, is a process of radicalisation.”

The speech angered some Muslim groups and clearly will only serve to alienate the Mulsim community further. Meanwhile ‘nationalist’ groups such as the EDL and the BNP will see the anti-multiculturalism, pro-nationalism speech as further support to their causes. Especially given the apt timing of the speech which runs in conjunction with the EDL rally held on the same day in the UK.

Inayat Bunglawala from Muslims4Uk has condemned Cameron’s speech, saying: “Well Mr. Cameron is evidently keen on taking a very patronising attitude towards UK muslims.

He’s saying that Muslims must sign up to a whole list of values, and he says that because they haven’t been signing up… that is a primary reason [why] we’re seeing terrorism on our streets, now I think that is a quite deeply flawed analysis. Continue reading

One step closer to invisibility…

Scientists have developed an “invisibility cloak” that makes objects invisible to the naked eye.

The cloak, which is actually a lump of crystal, can only hide small objects such as paperclips and pins at the moment but it is the first of its kind to work in the perceivable spectrum of light. The groundbreaking research paves the way for more sophisticated devices in the future.

The cloaking device is made from two calcite prisms joined together to make a pyramid, with the underside of the pyramid coated in gold to make it reflective. The researchers found that calcite, a transparent crystal, has natural light-bending properties which help the device to hide objects. Light rays passing through the pyramid are bent, making the base of the pyramid look flat. “The cloaked region is the space at the bottom of the calcite prism,” Shuang Zhang, the lead researcher at the University of Birmingham said. “Anything you put there won’t be seen from outside.”

The device is not perfect, but it does pave the way for further breakthroughs. At present, the cloak itself is transparent though it is visible – it only hides small objects inside the prism. Under water, however, the cloak is almost completely invisible. Zhang said it may be possible to coat the cloak to make it less visible. It also must be placed on a surface to work.

Possible applications for use inevitably lie in military use, unfortunately. Future developments could be used to hide military hardware from view, although Zhang believes that it could be used for cosmetic purposes, too. “If you had a mole on your face, you could potentially cloak it so it won’t be seen,” Zhang said. “Though you do need a fairly large cloak to hide even a small thing.”

Still, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for cloaking devices. Perhaps Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak is not so far fetched after all…