HMRC’s struggles to keep up with dodgers
Letter in The Guardian, 6 April 2016:
Vicky Ranson of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs wants access to the Guardian’s Panama data (UK tax officials seek access to huge leak of Mossack Fonseca papers, theguardian.com, 4 April) because HMRC is “relentlessly pursuing tax evasion by UK citizens and residents” and wants “to ensure that tax cheats have no safe havens in which to hide undeclared income”. I’m puzzled. Page 223 of the latest Office for Budget Responsibility report, published in March, says: “HMRC is also now less optimistic about how much of the lost yield can be recouped through additional compliance activity, on the basis that they are unlikely to be able to work the higher number of additional cases on top of existing workloads.” They can’t manage their existing workload of tax dodgers. Why, apart from a cheap publicity stunt, are they pretending to be interested in Panama?
Hat tip to Richard Murphy.
Police foot patrols
Letter in The Guardian, 12 January 2014:
One significant benefit of the police wearing cameras is that finally they can go back to patrolling singly rather than in pairs. The benefits of this are well established: when not distracted by mutual chatting, officers are more observant, less confrontational and more readily engage with the public. Justifiable concerns about how to summon help can be addressed by them wearing a GPS device. If London Transport can know where all its buses are in real time, the Met can do likewise for its foot patrols. I’m sure the Police Federation has a well-rehearsed list of reasons why single patrols are not possible, but the productivity gains are surely too great for vested interests to delay progress. It is a shame that Boris Johnson, having fought so hard for political control of the Met, has not taken the lead in doubling police productivity.
A social media site’s dominance should affect how it behaves
Letter in the Guardian, 6 August 2013:
The rules for social media sites should consider their size and market dominance. Consider a town with several pubs. Behaviour tolerated in one pub may cause some to drink elsewhere. But if the customers have nowhere else to go, it seems reasonable to expect the landlord to adopt a more interventionist role. Sadly, the way Mark Luckie, Twitter’s manager of journalism and news, withdrew when subjected to a fraction of the abuse endured by the people who indirectly pay his salary shows corporate incomprehension of this responsibility.
Why not provide tools to formalise natural tribal segmentation, as noted by Professor Vincent Jansen? That way we can all choose which pub to chat in and avoid the boors as well as the bores.
Removing subsidies from tax havens
Letter in the Guardian, 7 June 2013:
The precise constitutional relationship between the UK and the overseas territories may be a matter of dispute, but what is indisputable is that the UK is guaranteeing the banks in these tax havens. Currently Jersey et al pretend they have viable financial sectors, yet they rely on the security of the very country whose tax take they are reducing. All Cameron has to do to is withdraw this support and no one will risk using banks based there.
Sadly, the Guardian chose to cut “Currently Jersey et al pretend they have viable financial sectors” from the letter. I’d be interested in any evidence that contradicts this assertion.
Letter in The Guardian, 18 January 2013:
Lance Armstrong successfully sued the Sunday Times for libel when they claimed he cheated (Report, 18 January). I’d like to see him charged with perjury – if only so we could really see just how equal the US extradition treaty is.
Finding a useful way to deal with the bankers
Letter in The Guardian, 28 August 2009:
Central banks have long acted as the “lender of last resort”. Recent events have shown that we must also act as the insurer of the last resort. This role must be made explicit, and companies deemed “too large to fail” should pay an annual premium for this protection.
Letter in The Guardian, 4 March 2009:
Reading Dick Taverne’s letter in support of GM plants (3 March), I wonder if he has considered the parallel between GM and the banking crisis. The key technology behind GM is patented and will ensure, if it works, a few companies will make a tremendous amount of money and the poor will pay more for their food. If it all goes horribly wrong, the companies responsible will be bailed out and the clean-up costs borne by the public.
Banks and competition
Letter in The Guardian, 9 September 2008:
Yet again, banks are described as “too big to fail” (US steps in to rescue failing home loan giants, September 8). I trust our competition authorities will start considering the costs of this when allowing mergers.
Peer-to peer file sharing
Letter in The Guardian, 14 February 2008:
Peer-to-peer file sharing has many legal uses, so it can’t be banned per se (Report, February 12). Forcing ISPs to break with the long-established principle of carrying rather than intercepting communications will raise serious questions of free speech. Obviously, it will also encourage encryption, so the next step will be that this is made illegal. For the common good, it is time to say to the music industry – we want a better business model, not tighter thumbscrews.