Good God!

Economic rationality from this government!

A stepping up by the Government, along with its international partners, of pressure on the Opec oil-exporting countries to increase production, forcing down fuel prices. A Whitehall source said: "Our hands are tied a bit here – if we cut petrol taxes there is no guarantee the savings would be passed on to the motorist."

Compare and contrast that with McCain\’s and Clinton\’s glib assumption that cutting the gas tax would pass straight through to consumers. For the answer is, of course, that it depends.


And We\’re Back!

Leetle power cut around here this morning.

So, without a computer, been and walked the dogs, done the shopping, filled in those bureaucratic forms I\’ve been putting aside, ablutions done, photos taken….it\’s amazing how much you can do in the real world when you\’re not playing with a keyboard, isn\’t it?

Tesco, The Guardian and Tax

This is all very amusing indeed. Following on from the Guardian\’s original allegations and the subsequent writ for libel, The G has now published two pieces explaining the whole situation. Here and here. And a leader here.

The complex tax avoidance structures erected by Tesco were not about avoiding corporation tax, as we thought and claimed, but about the avoidance (together with the purchaser) of SDLT. Nor – over the £5bn of planned property disposals – would Tesco avoid "up to £1bn", as we had thought possible.

But the part that I think is so very amusing is this:

Griffiths has an advantage over most City reporters in that he is a qualified chartered accountant.

So, umm, how come he managed to make such a horlicks of the investigation then?

There is, however, one more point, which raises this story from most and very amusing to positively hilarious.

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."

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.

That is that the Guardian Media Group, the owner of The Guardian, was setting up exactly the same system, exactly the same scheme, as our intrepid reporters were accusing Tesco of doing. It\’s not just that issue of the biter bit: it\’s that to work out what was happening they only had to phone up their own accountants to get the full story.

As I say, positively hilarious.

One further point: The G doesn\’t in fact mention that it is using exactly the same schemes itself. Wonder why?


My, Those Telegraph Budget Cuts

What more can I do to save money, I fretted, as I drove off. Compared to the nouveau pauvres who have started cluttering the aisles at Lidl to experience hot flushes of retail excitement over cheap frozen lobsters, I\’m an old hand. Virtually nothing enters our house – apart from the children\’s friends – which isn\’t on bogof (buy one get one free).

I use laundry balls to save on washing powder, buy loo rolls wholesale (anyone want some? I\’ve got 394 cluttering up the cellar), and make the children take spare knickers in their hand baggage to avoid paying extra for hold luggage when we fly. We\’ve got low-energy light-bulbs, too, but my husband keeps hiding them.

It\’s not as if I\’ve been missing many tricks. Already, I keep my own teabags in the office, and take a packed lunch to work. I dress almost exclusively in second-hand clothes from the Red Cross shop and, long before the emerging middle classes of India and China pushed up the price of meat, butter and basmati rice, I was feeding my family on food bought, or scavenged, from markets at close of play.

Unlike Mrs Average who wastes 30 per cent of the food she buys, I freeze dregs of red wine to make sauces, scrape fuzzy bits off leftovers and serve them again, and pass everything else on to the dog or compost heap.

I pay everything by standing order, which is probably a false way of saving a few per cent because, every now and then, a staggering bill comes in for the extra electricity and gas that I didn\’t even know I was using.

My email in-box is overloaded with messages from companies offering ways to save money: these boil down to taking out their relatively cheap loans – no thanks – or wasting half the day filling in questionnaires in order to get 40p off my next purchase of soya milk. And I\’m on the waiting list for an allotment.

In the meantime, eager for the buzz that comes from paring another few quid off the out-goings, I have just planted two apple trees. They should be just as pretty as inedible cherry trees, and will mean a reduction in my Braeburn bill. "Oh, but home-grown apples are manky," wail my children. "Shut up," I shout back.

They really are biting, aren\’t they?

Those Enhanced CRB Checks

This is highly amusing:

Mr Yeomans, who has an otherwise impeccable record in 38 years as a teacher, was prosecuted after he went fishing at his favourite spot on the River Dove in Derbyshire last summer.

Asked by a water bailiff to produce his rod licence, he discovered to his horror that he had forgotten to renew it.

Fishing in a freshwater course without an Environment Agency rod licence is a criminal offence under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975.

Mr Yeomans immediately pleaded guilty, was fined £50 and £70 costs by magistrates, and promptly forgot about the matter.

But officialdom had not finished with the popular head, whose 355-pupil school was rated "good with some outstanding features" in its latest Ofsted report last year.

Nearly a year after his illicit fishing trip he was confronted by a rather embarrassed chairman of governors who had been notified that his name had cropped up in an enhanced CRB check.

Although principally used to identify potential paedophiles, the checks pick up every contact a person has with the police. Mr Yeomans, who has been head of the school for 26 years, recalled: "The chair of governors was notified that there could be an issue with a CRB check in the school and rang to tell me. I said, \’Is it a member of staff?\’ and he said, \’No, it\’s you.\’

"I was shocked. He had to visit me and, in effect, he was being asked if I was fit to work with children for forgetting to renew my rod licence."

If you create thousands of new criminal offences, then you\’re going to catch and tag all sorts of people as criminals: people that we wouldn\’t normally really think of as a danger to children, for example. If you then go on to insist that everyone in just about any position of trust whatsoever must have their records checked, then you\’ll end up with situations like this.

A spokesman for the Home Office, which is responsible for the CRB, defended the system.

"It is better and safer for any contact the person has had with the police to be mentioned. Otherwise, where do we know to draw the line?" he asked.

Umm, how about drawing the line with the original offence? That such and such is indeed a criminal offence, and thus must be logged into the system? And that such and such other is a trivial breaking of the rules, something for which a fine might be approporaite, but it isn\’t a criminal offence. Like, for example, fishing without a rod licence?

A line might be that GBH is a criminal offence, yes, one to be recorded. Calling a policeman\’s horse gay might not be.

You know, applying the same basic common sense to the definition of "criminal act" that we did for some centuries before the current lot of control freaks came to power?

Bob Spink and The Telegraph


Following our coverage (March 13) of the Conservative party’s withdrawal of the whip from Dr Robert Spink MP (Castle Point), Dr Spink maintains that he had, in fact, resigned from the party before the whip was withdrawn.

We now recognise that the there is no basis for the allegation that Dr Spink had had an affair and apologise to him for having suggested the contrary.

Who alleged that he was?

Royal Gay Sex Scandal

So the perpetrators of this blackmail plot about the royal gay sex scandal have been found guilty and sentenced to five years each. No, I still can\’t say who it was all about but that is easy enough to find out.

What everyone is really interested in of course is whether the allegations were true, not whether they were being used for blackmail purposes: both thing that are true and those that are untrue can be used to extort.

Recall that the evidence as such was film of a servant alledging:

The tapes claimed that the married member of the royal family, witness A, performed a sex act on the male aide at a party and took cocaine with him.

So, film of someone boasting that such and such had happened. Was it actually true?

Strachan, 31, and McGuigan, 41, used the tapes to demand money from A, but in court they have admitted that the gay sex allegations were untrue in their mind.

The convicts don\’t think so. But, then, should we take the word of convicted criminals?

The truth is, we don\’t know the veracity of the allegations at all. What fun, eh?


Bloody Idiots

From the New York Times book review section, a header:

The Chinese writer Mo Yan’s wildly visionary and creative new novel covers almost the entire span of his country’s revolutionary experience, from 1950 until 2000.

Cretins. The revolutionary span here starts (at the very least) in 1911 with the Republic.

Wheeler\’s Case

Here\’s the judgement. Any lawyers want to comment?

I\’m not a lawyer by any means but he does seem to have an arguable case which is why he\’s allowed to seek a judicial review.

The next question is, is the whole thing now sub judice until the case is heard?

How To Measure Political Success

I\’ll know he\’s succeeded when I can follow the local hunt to see a fox dispatched swiftly by hounds, then retire with friends to the smoking room of the local pub to enjoy a pitcher of mulled ale whilst respectful council workers gather the horse-nuts from the streets and ensure all the bins are clean and empty.

Yes, that\’ll do it.

Gordo Speaks Out

He added: "I tell you what, why don\’t we let David Milliband run the country? Or shall we wait until his nuts have dropped? 

"What\’s that David? Why do all the other men in your office start work that little bit later than you? Well, what happens is, when you\’re having your Coco Pops, they have to shave.

"Or what about Ed Balls, you say? Okay, but you\’ll have to wait until he\’s finished licking mine."