April 2013

Quote of the Day

“Have you met the cretins we have in Westminster? Do you think we can be worse than that?”

Nigel Farage.

Knowing both lots as I do I\’ll admit that at times it can be a close run thing. But on average those already there are worse.

What a strange policy

But if Miliband needs a golden policy key, housebuilding looks set to be it. Build a million homes to cut housing benefit waste, employ hundreds of thousands, create apprenticeships, breathe life into the real economy, stop house price bubbles, replace those right-to-buy social homes. Building is not just good policy, but the best symbol for optimism.

Why not just issue more planning permissions so that people can organise building their own homes? Or so that companies can?

If you\’re going to build a million new homes then you\’re going to need to issue a million new chittys. But if there\’s a million new chittys issued then people will build homes anyway.

My word, this is terrible isn\’t it?

It is interesting that the biggest challenge to the regulation of assisted reproduction has not – perhaps surprisingly – come from new technologies and scientific developments, but instead from the fact that the internet has made it extraordinarily easy for people to navigate making their own arrangements outside of the regulated sector. Perhaps what we should fear most is not some scary new discovery in the laboratory, but the wholesale bypassing of regulation through internet-assisted conception.

People just getting on with their lives without the intervention of the priestly caste of clipboard wielders.

Just think, if everyone did that then there would be no need for clipboard wielders and then where would we be, eh? You might call the result a free and liberal society but that\’s not what we mean by liberal these days, not at all it isn\’t.

Margaret Hodge rather undermines the Vodafone case here

Margaret Hodge, the chair of the Commons public accounts committee, said: \”If we got £4.5bn in, how much did we not get? That is what taxpayers will want to know, and I\’ll be raising this with HMRC through the committee.

\”Whilst it is in the interest of the government to collect monies, these are huge sums. If there were deals involved, we need to know that the companies paid a fair amount on the profits they made from their businesses in the UK.\”

For of course the Vodafone case had nothing at all to do with tax on any profit, business or activity in the UK. It was all about the money they made in Germany, selling phones from German shops to German customers.

So, of course, according to Margaret Hodge, there\’s no need to investigate any further is there? For she\’s only concerned with UK profits and UK tax.

The £4.5bn figure is believed to include a previously reported Vodafone deal which ended when the telecoms giant paid £1.25bn.

A committee of MPs was told that the Vodafone tax bill should have been £6bn or more. That figure is disputed by Vodafone.

And of course the £6 billion number was entirely made up. Purely out of thin air.

Just to recap the story. Vodafone had a Luxembourg subsidiary, through which is owned (and bought, I think) Mannesmann, a German company. The profits from that deal went into Luxembourg. So did interest that was lent to what became Vodafone Germany and so on.

In British tax law those profits were definitely taxable in Britain if they were brought into Britain. UK tax rate minus whatever tax had already been paid on the profits, dividends, interest, whatever.

Then there were the Controlled Foreign Company rules. CFC. These said that if a UK company had a subsidiary overseas and that subsidiary wasn\’t paying much tax then we\’ll charge UK tax on those profits (and interest etc) even if they\’re not repatriated to the UK thank you very much.

Everyone agrees that if this subsidiary were in Cayman then tax would be due. The point at issue was whether the EU\’s rules on freedom of establishment, free movement of capital etc, meant that the CFC rules could not be applied to an EU subsidiary. This went through the courts, Vodafone won a couple of times, Court of Appeal (or maybe Supreme, little hazy at this distance) said, well, mebbe. HMRC decided not to take this to the ECJ as losing on the matter of EU law there would open up the floodgates to at least 100 other companies arguing the same point. Better to negotiate perhaps.

The result of the negotiation was that Vodafone agreed to bring onshore (in order to pay dividends) some chunk of those Luxembourg profits. All agree that this is a taxable transaction and so, thankfully for HMRC, the law does not need to be clarified to the benefit of those 100 other companies.

And that\’s actually what the deal was. There was no £6 billion ever. It was not about profits made in the UK on anything at all. And the reason the Luxembourg profits did not get taxed is because EU law says they should not be.

A strong demand


Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at the anti-poverty charity War on Want, said: \”If UK high street chains like Primark had put in place proper measures to ensure the workers who make their clothes are safe, these deaths could have been avoided.

\”While Primark has taken some responsibility, the retailer and the other companies involved must pay full compensation, including loss of earnings, sign the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Agreement and ensure such a disaster never happens again.\”


It\’s that colonialism thing again isn\’t it?

Islingtonistas still do know how the poor brown people should order their lives.

Why Andrew Simms is a lying scumbag

The latest of the NEF Mythbusters has Andrew Simms talking about health care costs.

He uses this chart:


And then says that if we have markets in the NHS then we will inevitably move out to the US position.


Hmm. Actually, as you can see, the NHS is below that trend line. We\’ve a worse money/lifespan trade off than the average. Which means that the NHS is, for whatever reason, less efficient than the average system (and that average does indeed include that horrendous outlier of the US).

Which means that perhaps we might want to think about which systems provide better than average outcomes and try to copy them?

Roughly the same information presented in another manner:


Now, eyeballing that we can see that Spain has a better trade off than the NHS does. Australia and Sweden do. New Zealand does.

Hmm. Anything we can say about the health care systems in those countries? Could it be that they all have internal markets in them? A mixture of state, charitable, for profit private providers?

Would that be why Andrew Simms hasn\’t bothered to label most of the countries that are above average in his chart? Because, you know, he\’s a lying scumbag?

And if we are to take efficiency of health care spending as being our guide, shouldn\’t we thus be copying Singapore? Which, roughly speaking, tells you to deal with your own fucking health care out of your savings. Only if you\’ve got something seriously wrong, cancer, been scraped up off the road after a car tramples you, that sort of thing, does the government then pay for you.

But no, obviously better to scare the bejabbers out of everyone by lying to them.

Well done Mr. Simms, well done.

One for the Annals of Political Hypocrisy

Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, sources in both parties said.

The talks — which involve Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Obama administration and other top lawmakers — are extraordinarily sensitive, with both sides acutely aware of the potential for political fallout from giving carve-outs from the hugely controversial law to 535 lawmakers and thousands of their aides. Discussions have stretched out for months, sources said.

No, no, politicians aren\’t cunts at all, are they?

Now this really is a surprise, isn\’t it?

Margaret Hodge, PAC chairman, said: “Investment in infrastructure is crucial for stimulating growth.” But she said the Treasury had not properly prioritised its 200 key projects – including roads, rail, airports, and ports – and had deterred investment by policy indecision.

“Investors will be reluctant to invest… until government policy is clear and consistent. Uncertainty can deter or delay investment and [add to] costs,” the report states.

Yes, that\’s the problem with having the government run infrastructure projects. They\’ll be run like all government projects. Badly and late. This is simply inherent in using politics and bureaucracy to do something.

It also rather kyboshes the idea that we should use infrastructure spending to boost aggregate demand. The actual boost to demand is going to come some years after the demand needed boosting……

Icelandic news for UKIP

Telling the EU to fuck off works.

Iceland\’s centre-right opposition has returned back to power, marking a spectacular comeback for a coalition ousted in 2009 after presiding over the country\’s near bankruptcy.

OK. I wonder why?

The centrist party was punished at the polls in 2009 for its role in the financial deregulation that preceded the collapse of Iceland\’s banking system.

But support soared after a European court ruling this year vindicated the party\’s refusal to reimburse British and Dutch savers at failed online bank Icesave.

An interesting political lesson, don\’t you think?

Still not understanding drug development costs

Yes, cancer drugs are expensive. Yes, they\’re so expensive that some people who would benefit from them don\’t get them. But that\’s not an excuse for people to misunderstand the actual costs of drug development.

Daniel Vasella, former chairman and chief executive of Novartis, the manufacturer, said the original price charged for Glivec in 2001 was considered \”high but worthwhile\” and was estimated to yield annual revenues of $900 million, enough to cover its development cost in two years. A decade later its annual revenues in 2012 were $4.7 billion.

The cancer specialists say the revenue earned by Glivec over the last 10 years \”represents generous profits to the company\”.

It\’s absolutely true that this particular drug has made vast profits. But that\’s not actually the way that drugs are, or even should be, priced.

For the drug companies also need to cover all of the costs of all of the research that failed to produce a drug that was usable. And these costs have to be covered whatever system we use to try and discover drugs. If it was entirely nationalised, government paid for everything, we would still have the costs of research that leads up blind alleys. The costs of dropping a drug when Stage III trials show that it kills more than it saves (that\’s a $500 million or so cost right there generally).

The drugs that do well have to pay for the development of the entire portfolio of drugs, not just for their own development.

To make an analogy to something currently fashionable: the arts. The hit shows, the hit movies, they have to be the revenue for the entire arts ecosystem, to cover all those terribly exciting duds that continually happen. The innumerable La Bohemes for the masses are what subsidise the occasional performance of The Green Knight.

Perhaps pharmaceuticals would be better produced by some other system: it\’s certainly worth the conversation. But that won\’t change this basic fact: the hits do not have to pay for themselves only, the hits have to pay for everything.

What? We can\’t call the Welsh sheepshaggers?

This is now racially aggravated something or other?

Anthony Taaffe had to be restrained and sat on by an off duty policeman and security staff at a holiday park in Wales after he was seen shouting and swearing while drunk, a court in Lladudno heard.

He then called the off duty policeman and security a staff “a bunch of sheep s******s.”

The court heard there were children present at the time at the holiday park in Gronant.

But Taaffe, of Bolton, told the court that he hadn’t been insulting Welsh people specifically and that instead he was using the words because it “is a term for people living in the countryside.”

The 47-year-old was fined £150 after he admitted racially aggravated disorderly behaviour.

He also admitted a second similar offence after he labelled a police officer at the custody unit he was taken to a “Welsh sheep s*****r.”

The drunk and shouting bit, sure, that\’s an offence. But sheepshaggers? Next they\’ll be telling us that we can\’t call Taffs thieves.

As to the police officer: I thought that had already been covered elsewhere. Custody officers are not shrinking violets and will have heard rather worse than that sent their way over the years. Precisely because they are custody officers they\’re rather harder to shock or insult than the average mortal.

Damn, it\’s getting to the stage where the only things we are allowed to say are those things that are unequivocably, provably, true. Politicians are cunts, that sort of thing.

Timmy elsewhere

At the ASI.

As I say, nothing much has changed, we\’ve still got the same groups of bozos wasting our money. The only real change that has happened is that it\’s now rather more difficult to kick them out of office for being bozos. This is not an advance in the necessary management of politicians.

Tax breaks for the living wage?

Labour would offer tax breaks to persuade the private sector to pay a living wage as a way to boost productivity and cut welfare bills, Ed Miliband will propose on Saturday.

The Labour leader suggests that firms could be offered either tax reliefs on training or capital investment, or lower business rates, in return for paying the living wage.

Doesn\’t that just upset the apple cart.

For all the numbers bandied about by the campaigners say that the point of a living wage is that taxes paid by the workers will rise, tax credits paid by the taxpayers will fall. The Living Wage is good for the government finances.

But if companies get the tax breaks to pay the Living Wage then those numbers don\’t add up, do they?

Timmy elsewhere

At the ASI.

Which is where we come to the major problem that angers me. The lies that are told by the campaigners lead to people wasting their time. There just isn\’t any tax that Amazon owes anyway. Worse, the Prime Minister of the UK doesn\’t have any ability to make them pay any anyway, that\’s all been handed over to the EU. Vast effort wasted on a petition that cannot do anything, about tax which doesn\’t even exist, delivered to the wrong person. Doesn\’t that make you angry, that the self-appointed should dissimulate so that the citizenry are that befuddled?

Blimey: Richard Murphy and Howard Reed manage to say something sensible!

Our proposed system is based around two simple components:

1. Basic income payment – Minimum Income Standard . All families would receive an unconditional, tax-free basic income payment that would be set at levels sufficient to alleviate poverty.

2. Unified Income Tax (UIT). The current Income Tax system and the entire National Insurance Contributions system would be replaced by a single Income Tax structure which would be clear and progressive.

A citizens\’ basic income and unification of tax and NI.

I agree, they\’re only a decade or so behind us neoliberals but better late than never, eh?

So UKIP is being attacked by \”British Influence\”

A spokesman for British Influence, which is campaigning against UKIP policies on Europe said: ’This sort of holocaust denial from a UKIP candidate is further evidence of the toxic mix of anti-semitism and cuckoo conspiracy theories that run rife in UKIP and she should be expelled from the party and not simply suspended.

’The fact is that UKIP has more than 1,700 candidates being fielded in next Thursday\’s local elections – almost as many as the Lib Dems – and one has to ask oneself how many more of them have skeletons in the cupboard.’

It\’s a fair point actually. UKIP tries damn hard to keep such people out but some will always get through.

So I go to see who British Influence are.

Lead piece today:

Written by Denis MacShane

Fuck me, isn\’t he in jail yet?

All a bit pots and kettles isn\’t it?

At least UKIP is trying to stop vile people from getting into politics. Rather than making them Ministers…..

Bad, bad idea

Changes to the law allow Mrs May to confiscate Britons’ passports if they plan to travel abroad to take part in terror training camps, or carry out other terror-related activities.

Mrs May said the powers could be used against people whose “actual or suspected” activities had given the security services concern.

Try people
and convict them. Allowing the politicians, any politicians, these sorts of powers is just a basic bad idea.

Oi, you, matey, you\’re a bad \’un. \’Ave some punishment.

Just doesn\’t work, does it?