Taxation and off-shore money
The so-called ‘Paradise Papers’ have made this front page news but it’s nothing new. Up to 30 years ago my main mode of long-distance travel was by hitch-hiking and it’s common knowledge that this situation tends to make people a lot more open in what they say than they would otherwise be. So, over that time, I had some interesting conversations. One of them was with the boss of a fairly large and well-known company who talked about the amount of taxes that the government lost from corporations which had large off-shore holdings – he mentioned BP and ICI as two of the biggest. He reckoned that, if the government would offer a deal, some of that taxable income could be brought back home. They never did, preferring to demonise poor people on welfare instead. The scale then of lost taxes versus estimated benefit fraud was 10 to 1. It’s got to be a lot bigger now since George Osborne made it even easier for companies to legally base themselves here, in what a former tax inspector on Radio 4’s ‘Money Box’ called ‘brass plate’ status (ie in name only), while their income was safely stashed away elsewhere. When the government conspires to keep their friends rich at the expense of the rest of the population the best description of the UK is a ‘banana republic’, monarchy or not.
Baccy and guns
Another couple of those highway revelations are worth mentioning here. One was over 40 years ago when I was picked up by the Chief Marketing Manager for British-American tobacco. I asked him if he was at all worried by the anti-tobacco lobby, which was beginning to make itself noticed. He wasn’t bothered at all, pointing out that, even if it was totally banned here, they now had their first factory in China and the market there would dwarf anything in the rest of the world.
The other was the cop who took me one night from Warminster to Bristol. Whether the beret and combat jacket I was wearing fooled him into thinking I was a squaddie, I don’t know but he was quite forthcoming. We got onto the subject of when police carried firearms and he said blithely that it happened a lot more often than the public was aware of. As he was obviously CID, I figured he knew what he was talking about.
Goes to show just how much is hidden from the general view, not in secret, but in plain sight.