Category Archives: Law

Dutch court brings closer judicial review of UK government’s anti-environment policies

Yesterday the Dutch High Court ruled that the Dutch government was not doing enough to meet its climate change targets and instructed it to take more decisive action to achieve them.   Potentially this opens the way for similar action to be taken against other EU governments, including the UK, if they too are falling well short of their targets.   But we should be cautious because there are two reservations.   One is that the Dutch government has the right to appeal.   The other is that the court ruling was based on human rights principles rather than directly on environmental considerations, and this may well be challenged.   Nevertheless there is no doubt that this court decision is a breakthrough.
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Cleaning up Britain’s corrupt financial system should be another big issue in Leadership contest

Money laundering by a HSBC bank in Mexico is bad enough – though no-one been sent to prison for it yet, don’t hold your breath.   But it’s now happening here in Britain on a huge scale.   The Director General of the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) has said that “many hundreds of billions of pounds of criminal money is almost certainly laundered through UK banks and their subsidiaries each year”.   He even called the scale of the money-laundering “a strategic threat” to the UK’s economy and reputation.   According to the NCA’s latest report on suspicious transactions, no less than 354,186 such reports were filed by banks and other regulated entities last year.   Just over 14,000 of these were consent orders, of which 94 were passed on to the Proceeds of Corruption Unit.   These were then analysed by the international corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) which found that only 7 such transactions were deemed so suspicious that they were not allowed to go ahead.   TI declared that the current method of seizing corrupt assets was “not fit for purpose”.
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Tory Trade Union bill is an attack on a fundamental human right

Under the Tories’ proposed new law, strike ballots would need a 50% turnout for industrial action to be legal.   But in the case of ‘essential’ public services – health, education, transport and fire services – 40% of those voting have to have voted in favour.   In other words, 80% which is the combination of the general turnout proposal and the new 40% yes vote must have voted in favour.   That would make almost all strikes illegal, particularly in large and dispersed workforces where postal ballots rarely achieve this.   This is a blatant attack on the rightful role of trade unions in being able to protect their members against exploitation at work – several recent polls have consistently found that more than 70% of the public believe unions are ‘essential to protect workers’ interests’.
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The ECHR will expose the myth of Tory imperium

The ECHR will be central to Tory planning for the EU referendum.   The Tory manifesto gave a clear commitment to scrap the 1998 Human Right Act and curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights.   It seems likely that there will be a measure paving the way to the Act’s replacement with a British Bill of Rights in the first year of this new government.    This is a key part of Cameron’s plan to manage the EU Referendum which he unwisely conceded in order to appease his unruly right wing.   He has been told for some time now that the EU is in no hurry to make any treaty changes and it has also been made clear to him that the EU will not amend its core freedoms (in particular freedom of movement for labour) or its acquis (the body of acquired EU law).   Scrapping the HRA and even withdrawing from the ECHR are then to be the red meat he can offer to his rebellious back-benchers if he cannot achieve the treaty changes or opt-outs from the EU fundamentals.
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Accountants is part of the neoliberal shame that needs radical reform

The latest revelations from 28,000 pages of leaks by a former PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) employee based in Luxemburg – a mini-state known for secrecy, lax regulations and a government (under Jean-Claude Juncker, now president of the EU Commission) surreptitiously undermining tax stability for the rest of Europe – really say it all.   The leaked documents involve over 1,000 corporations and are available at the website  .   They show that the Big Four accountancy firms, particularly PwC but also KPMG, Deloitte & Touche, and Ernst & Young, manufacture tax avoidance schemes on an industrial scale to help big multinationals escape taxes.   Profits are shifted through spurious royalty fees, intergroup loans, management fees, and intra-group transfer of pricing of goods and services.   The leaked documents show that the profits transferred to Luxemburg were taxed at less than 1%.   In effect these 4 huge firms are at the heart of the global tax avoidance industry.
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Shameful that building societies taken into State ownership evict tenants like worst of private sector

When because of the bankers’ crash RBS, Lloyds, Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley went bust and were taken over by the State, one of the worst indictments of the Blair-Brown governments – copied and exacerbated further by this current Tory government – was that the losses were borne by the taxpayers, but they continued to be organised and managed as though they were still in the private sector.   That was the rule operated when RBS and Lloyds were taken over in 2008-9, at a direct hit for taxpayers in bailing them out at £68bn (let alone the subsequent hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ money disbursed on loan guarantees, special liquidity schemes and asset protection schemes).   But rather than treat them as State-purchased assets to be managed in the national interest, an artificial quango was appointed under the title of UK Financial Instruments to act instead as executors in their commercial interest until they could be returned at the earliest possible moment to the private sector.   And who did the managing of this strictly commercial transition?   Who else but members of the senior banking class who brought about the crash in the first place, plus senior mandarins from the Treasury who had failed to see the warning signs to prevent the crash from happening in the first place.
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Tory extremists go for broke over ECHR

It has been said that Grayling’s inveighing against the European Court of Human Rights is to spike UKIP’s guns in denouncing the EU.   It is much more likely to be spurred on by another Tory personality trait – the unyielding demand for control to mould everything in their own image.   They concede greater devolution to Scotland, but only at the expense of neutering Scottish MPs at Westminster to secure their own semi-permanent dominance in England.   They are prepared (or at least some of them) to tolerate the EU exclusively as a trading bloc, but only on condition of junking the social, environmental and labour standards that go with it.   They’ll put up grudgingly with trade unions, but only so long as they have little or no power to be effective.   They want charities and voluntary groups to blossom in the Big Society, but then use the Lobbying Act to try to choke them off from having any political influence.   They pretend to be champions of liberty, but then keep trying to push through the intelligence-gathering Snoopers Act to hoover up all the communications of every single citizen.   And now they want to exit the ECHR and become the only European state except Belarus to dump this fundamental statement of human rights, so that they can re-write their own version to suit their own prejudices, for example to dispense with any rights for trade unionists.
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The new G20 tax avoidance rules need to be aimed at the banks & super-rich as well as corporations

The latest OECD draft rules to regulate massive corporate tax avoidance are a real advance so long as the 44 countries concerned (90% of the world’s economy) stick to their resolve, push these measures through and resist the enormous lobbying that they can expect from a determined corporate push-back.   But the past record on that is not good, and in particular Osborne is already threatening to break ranks in a manner totally discordant with all the other participants.   The new regulations should at last stop companies exploiting differences between tax regimes to achieve artificial tax avoidance on an industrial scale via what are called hybrid mismatch structures.   Other draft rules will require multinationals to give tax authorities a country-by-country detailed breakdown of their activities and earnings, so that they will no longer be able to carry out their operations in high-tax countries but then artificially register their profits for tax in low or virtually no tax countries.
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The new EU Commission has marked up a TTIP deal with US as a key objective

The fight over the euphemistically named Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which the US Congress successfully blocked over the last year, is about to be pushed forward in a higher gear now that the new EU Commission has made clear their eagerness to drive a deal through with the US over this next year.   The previous Commission had already met with corporations and their lobbyists 119 times, according to FOI requests, compared with just 8 times with civil society groups.   The argument is that TTIP will promote jobs and growth – the same argument that the US used to promote NAFTA, when it actually led to an export of jobs from the US and is only now supported by 15% of Americans.   The other main argument is that it will remove regulation and red tape that gets in the way of trade.   The talk is of ‘regulatory convergence’ which is likely to mean chasing the lowest common denominator in terms of labour, social and environmental standards.
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