Tim Worstall

The Government Inspector

Glorious!

Under the plans, inspectors from the EHRC would be empowered to carry out spot checks at any workplace – those where there was cause for concern or firms which had done nothing wrong.

So, a group of bureaucrats, eager to prove that they are indeed needed, that they are uncovering great scandals, can walk into any workplace in hte country and demand to see all the records? Demand to study the entire operating methods of the company? On the basis of no evidence whatsoever?

I have no doubt the burden of proof will be upon the employer as well. That they must prove that they do not discriminate, not that the inspectors must prove they are.

Does anybody understand how expensive such inspections will be? An expense that will have to be, naturally, covered by the businesses themselves?

Douglas Murray, the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, called the idea "fantastically bureaucratic and expensive".

Quite.

Well, Yes.

Mrs Clinton has repeatedly hinted that Mr Obama could join her on her ticket as a way of ending the current impasse over the nomination.

But if you really wanted to end the impasse as your first and most important aim you would volunteer to run for VP yourself, wouldn\’t you?

That you\’re not tells us something about your offer.

Eh?

It\’s a typical late-\’60s student shindig — most of the audience is tripping on acid — but it\’s hardly an ordinary band. Behind the drums is Chevy Chase, familiar around campus as a gifted musician and good-natured goofball who\’s been known to drop his pants after losing late-night games of \’\’dare\’\’ poker. Just in front of him is a long-haired muso named Walter Becker, one of the school\’s most accomplished guitarists. And the shy singer behind the electric piano? That\’s Don Fagen, decked out in a leather jacket with feathers attached to it (hence the band\’s name).

Travelling Timmy

On the road again, I\’m on the road again….

Off to Exeter for the UKIP SW conference.

If anyone happens to be round and about Exeter central this evening, or near Chequers in Bath (the one up by Portland Place) on Sat at 7 ish, drop me an email with a mobile number and there might be time for a pint.

Perfect Databases

This ID card system: going to be 100% secure and accurate, isn\’t it?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, with a group of parliamentarians, was once given a demonstration of a facial recognition system. It failed; indeed the system subsequently crashed, twice. The reason? The baroness was told her face was “too bland”.

The only property that all systems have in common is that they fail. And the bigger the system – 60 million entries on a compulsory ID card database – the greater the opportunity of failure. Systems are much like any life form: they degrade over time, they entropy. In the case of databases, the pick up errors and then build data error upon error. The DVLA in Swansea in 2006, for instance, admitted that a third of entries contained at least one error, and that the proportion was getting worse.

We\’ve all had encounters with computer systems that get it wrong. Barclays once refused one of my transactions because they said I was accessing an account owned by a teenage girl named Ian Angell, who lived at my address and was a professor at LSE. I still had to take a morning off work to explain that a 14-year-old couldn\’t own an account that, according to their own records, had been open for 35 years.

It\’s not just going to be a massive and extremely expensive violation of civil liberties, it\’s going to be a disaster as well, isn\’t it?

Swedish Imperialism

Snigger.

Academics in Denmark have accused Ikea, the furniture chain, of "Swedish imperialism" for naming its cheaper products after Danish towns.

The researchers claim to have discovered a pattern where more expensive items, such as beds and chairs, have been named after Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian towns whereas doormats, draught excluders and runners are named after Danish places.

"The stuff that goes on the floor is about as low as it gets," said Klaus Kjöller, of the University of Copenhagen, who described the phenomenon as "Swedish imperialism".

Timmy Elsewhere

Laying out, from the most recent figures, what the gender pay gap is in the UK, the part time pay gap and so on.

It\’s really so that I can just drop the URL into the comments of those Guardianistas who keep getting it wrong. But you can use it that way too, if you like.

The Use of Foundations

Hmm, interesting question really, isn\’t it. Why would people use a Foundation? That is, an organisation which owns itself, and has a charitable purpose?

Businesses owned by one pay the same tax as businsses owned in other ways, so that\’s not it, no. It\’s actually all about the transfer of the ownership of the whole organisation. A new bod can be put into run it, to take advantage of the accumulated wealth, without there being any of that pesky inheritance tax, or CGT, or whatever, usually due on the transfer of the control of such assets. For, you see, ownership doesn\’t change: only who gets the CEO\’s desk and, of course, control of the moolah.

Richard Murphy:

That, of course, is hardly surprising. There is no reason at all why anyone in Jersey would make use of these foundations. They are just another vehicle for subverting the taxation system of the UK and the other populous states of the world to be provided by the tax haven lawyers, accountants and bankers of Jersey for the benefit of their good friends, the accountants lawyers and bankers of the UK and elsewhere.

I will admit that I\’m not quite sure why anyone would want to run such a thing from Jersey. Exactly the same protection of an asset is available onshore, right here in the UK. No, really, it is. The Scott Trust:

The Scott Trust is a British non-profit organisation which owns Guardian Media Group and thus The Guardian and The Observer as well as various local newspapers, Smooth FM (formerly Jazz FM) and other radio stations, and various other media businesses in the UK.

The Trust was established in 1936 by John Scott, owner of the Manchester Guardian (as it then was) and the Manchester Evening News. After the deaths in quick succession of his father C. P. Scott and brother Edward, and consequent death duties, John Scott wished to prevent future death duties forcing the closure or sale of the newspapers, and to protect the liberal editorial line of the Guardian from interference by future proprietors.

The Trust was dissolved and reformed in 1948, as it was thought that the Trust, under the terms of the original Trust Deed, had become liable to tax due to changes in the law. At this time John Scott also gave up his exclusive right to appoint trustees; the trustees would henceforth appoint new members themselves. Five months after the signing of the new Trust Deed, John Scott died. After three years of legal argument, the Inland Revenue gave up its claim for death duty.

Why bother to do it abroad when you can get away with it at home?

Quite

We won\’t end this violence by jailing celebrities or middle-class users. The only way to take back our streets is to wrest back control of the drugs from the criminals, by legalising and regulating their trade.

Imagine if you could buy coke from Boots. Or the aptly named Superdrug. That would drain the glamour from it more effectively than making a martyr of Kate Moss. I don\’t imagine her lovely features would adorn state-regulated packets of white powder, hanging next to the corn plasters. Yes, legalisation would make drugs cheaper, in order to undercut the dealers. Yes, usage might increase. But perhaps not much, because it is already widespread. A third of 16 to 24-year-olds routinely admit to having tried drugs, despite knowing that they are admitting to a crime.

The benefits of legalisation could be enormous. Overcrowded prisons would be relieved of people needing treatment rather than punishment (about 15 per cent of prisoners are in for possession or supply). Addicts would not be forced into associating with criminals. Children could be safe in Britain\’s playgrounds again.

Doesn\’t Change Much

But a previous plan, stating that by 2010 anyone applying for a new passport would be given an ID card as well, has changed. Now passport applicants will be given a choice.

Ministers will then wait to see how this voluntary scheme progresses before any expansion.

Personal details from both passports and ID cards will still be entered on the National Identity Register, Miss Smith will say. New biometric passports contain fingerprints and iris scans.

It\’s that National Database which is, as it always has been, the problem.

And by next year certain workers in "key sensitive areas" like airports and ports will have to carry the new document. That will be part of long-term anti-terrorist measures.

Internal passports, here we come.

Bwahahahahah, Gurgle, Snort

Tee Hee.

And Tee Hee Hee indeed:

I\’ll begin with my former employer, the Guardian Media Group, following its flagship paper\’s investigation last week into Tesco\’s use of tax efficient Cayman Island vehicles.

That one drew quite a bit of flak from those Farringdon Road firebrands, with a Guardian leader thundering: "The Government should make it clear that paying a fair share of taxes is not an option but a duty."

Odd, then, that buried on page 25 of yesterday\’s paper was the following notice: "Guardian Media Group plc, parent company of the Guardian, in partnership with Apax Partners, has incorporated a new company registered in the Cayman Islands as part of its proposed acquisition of Emap plc."

A spokesman from GMG is then quoted as saying: "The tax arrangements of Apax Partners and GMG for the acquisition of Emap plc are completely legitimate, and are based on accepted practice and the recommendation of our advisers. This is not about GMG avoiding tax – indeed we have paid an average of 34pc tax over the last five years."

Fair enough, although I prefer last week\’s words from the newspaper\’s star columnist, Polly Toynbee.

She argued: "Tesco\’s Cayman Islands tax arrangements reminds the world that our tax lawyers are world-beating at \’tax-efficiency\’. When such an emblematic company takes such steps, it speaks volumes about national tax avoidance culture." Ho-hum.

GMG\’s statement raises one obvious question. As the move isn\’t about avoiding tax, can we assume that the company is paying at least as much duty on this deal as it would have done had it never engaged with the Cayman Islands?

A GMG spokesman waffles on about paying the same amount of corporation tax as if the bidding vehicle were a UK-registered company, before reiterating that "the deal is structured as a UK Scheme of Arrangement so no stamp duty is payable on the acquisition". Sounds like less tax to me, then.

My thanks to George in Baghdad for the spot.

Let\’s see what Richard Murphy, Prem Sikka and Polly T all have to say about this, eh?