That does not, however, prevent me feeling distinctly unhappy about this whole arrangement. Firstly, nothing in the German accounts gives an indication of the scale of Lidl’s UK activities.
Secondly, those accounts are not, in any event, easily available in Germany.
Thirdly, we are left with the situation as a result of this loophole in our company law where a company with a significant UK presence is simply not accountable under UK law for its trade in this country to its UK stakeholders.
Who are those stakeholders? You are. It staff are. Its suppliers are. Its customers are. Many government authorities are. Its competitors are.
That is why accounts are required on public record. When a company trades with limited liability the obligation to file accounts was created to ensure the trust placed in the company was not abused with all of us having to pick up the pieces if things go wrong. And in this case we have no clue what that risk is. That’s why this matters.
A year ago David Cameron told the G8 that trade, tax and transparency were at the core of his agenda. If he was serious then he would change the law so that Lidl and any company with a trading presence in the UK would have to file accounts for its UK operation as well as its operations as a whole with Companies House. Without that requirement companies like Lidl will continue to make a mockery of the disclosure requirements in UK company law.
And as result all other UK supermarkets will trade at a competitive disadvantage to Lidl because they simply do not know what it’s up to, which is another very good reason for this change in the law. A level playing field is an essential pre-requisite of fair markets. It’s time for ministers to commit to supplying it.
This isn’t something that UK law can do anything about. It’s part of the Single Market structure.
A company from anywhere in the EU can trade anywhere else in the EU as a branch if that’s what it wants to do. Accounts are then the responsibility of that place where the non-branch part of the company exists. And that’s just that.
Back 12 months I had the option of doing business in Germany as a UK Ltd or as a GMbH. Same rights on offer to me as Lidl have in the UK.
He’s just not got a clue, does he?