Friday, March 11, 2016

Being represented

 I was shocked to learn recently that Boots have moved their headquarters in order to avoid paying corporation tax in the UK. They have been sold and resold in the last few years and have gamed the system to stop paying corporation tax here although there hasn't been a big change in the number of outlets that exist in the UK, or the amount of business. I'd been thinking about the nature of representation in parliament anyway.

 The way that party politics in the 20th and 21st centuries has played out, it is easy to think that MPs and MEPs represent their parties and not the electorate, in parliaments, but that isn't supposed to be the case. They are there to speak for all of us, whether we share their politics or not. They are there to represent the interests of their constituency. That being the case, it is extraoordinary that we have the type of company laws that allow a company to play games with the rules and transfer their profits out of a country where they are made. In the case of Boots this is going to mean that the tax payer is supporting those people who aren't earning enough at Boots to pay their bills, and yet the taxpayer is gaining very little benefit.

What is the benefit to us of attracting multi-national companies who don't pay any tax in the UK? We seem to have reached a place where the ordinary person can be driven to suicide because the government has cut or suspended their benefits, and yet big corporations making billions in profit, are not pursued for their tax - or have been given concessions in the laws of the land that make it possible for them to pervert their company structure to take those profits elsewhere. Should this be allowed? Would most people in the country allow this if it were put to them? I'd expect not. So how have we been represented by people who do allow this? How have the laws of the land been changed to make transferring your assets to your wife and making her a non-dom, or transferring the HQ to a country where you have no branches, possible?

The TTIP is an agreement supposedly between the US and the EU, which is going to put in place a lot of rule which will be adopted in law, which allows companies to charge governments the cost of complying with new rules and regulations if they economically disadvantage the companies concerned. The question is, who benefits, and who is driving this agreement - it isn't the American government, who complain they are unable to see the text of the agreement except three hours at a time, and they aren't able to record the text of the agreement which in the EU is being brought under the 30 year secrecy rule. It isn't the EU who are under the same constraints, not able to read it except in three hour shifts, no recording, etc.

So who exactly is in charge of the agreement? And why should any representative who has the best interests of their constituents at heart, agree to it? I can't see any reason, unless they have a financial or some other self interest involved in the agreement. It is extraordinary that David Cameron has refused to make the NHS exempt from this agreement, and I believe that it will mean the end of the NHS if it is allowed to go through. I can't honestly see what we have to benefit from it, either. I've seen nothing except vague promises of trade with America, to justify signing any sort of agreement. Some countries already signed this type of agreement with america and have lived to regret it. If they have American companies selling power to their people and they decide to fix the tariff for electricity, the companies have to do this, but then they can sue the government for compensation equal to the amount they have lost.

 This applies to any change in law - so if we suddenly decided that, for example, all employees in noisy environments must be provided with ear plugs and headphones to protect their hearing at a lower noise level than is currently set... the companies would do that and then charge our government the full cost of implementing that change. Sound like something we should do? The TTIP includes in it the condition that secret international tribunals should decide on any dispute, and those tribunals will be able to impose vast fines on governments if they impose a change in the rules - however justified - which costs the companies money.

Why WOULD we agree to this? I cannot understand it. Why would we agree to keep the terms secret - shouldn't the population as a whole have a right to know what has been signed in their name? Why would we sign something we haven't been allowed free access to? Would YOU do this for yourself? You'd assume that if some shyster lawyer asked you to read a contract without taking any notes, or having a copy of it that they are trying to hoodwink you. But who is it doing the hoodwinking? I'm assuming it is the rich and powerful corporations in America.

And we shouldn't be even talking to them if they expect to impose these ridiculous constraints upon the process. And I don't understand why we are. If you don't agree with TTIP and you want your representatives in parliament and the European parliament to take the NHS out of the agreement - and not to agree with it, make some noise, write some letters, make a protest. AND DO IT NOW!