Sunday, March 29, 2009

The minister for double standards (again)

Lord Myners hid his money in tax haven - Times Online:

LORD MYNERS, the minister in charge of the government’s assault on tax havens, has used a blind trust to conceal £250,000 of his own money in an offshore shelter.

Details of the secret holding have been obtained by The Sunday Times as G20 leaders gather in London pledging to stamp out tax abuses.

Myners transferred 500,000 of his own shares in the Ermitage hedge fund, based in Jersey, into a blind trust when he became a minister in October.

MPs described the holding as “blatant hypocrisy” and said it would undermine the credibility of Gordon Brown’s offensive on tax avoidance.

Myners will come under further pressure this week over his role in signing off a £16.9m pension pot for Sir Fred Goodwin, the disgraced former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland. Sir Tom McKillop, the former RBS chairman, will hand in a statement to MPs challenging Myners’s version of events.

Company documents obtained by The Sunday Times show Myners held his Ermitage shares as recently as January this year. He concealed the holding from public scrutiny by placing it in a ministerial blind trust. Ministers are not required to disclose publicly the investments transferred to such trusts. He owned the shares while overseeing price-sensitive policy decisions. During this time he met Jersey officials who now say they have “nothing to fear” from any tax haven crackdown.

Last Thursday Myners pledged tough penalties against tax havens. Downing Street officials say a key plank of the G20 summit in London this week will be to impose higher taxes on companies which do business with firms offshore.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The minister for double standards

The Times reports:

THE government minister in charge of stamping out corporate tax avoidance has himself set up a business in the tax haven of Bermuda. Lord Myners, already under fire for approving Sir Fred Goodwin’s massive pension from Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), was part-time chairman of an offshore company which avoided more than £100m a year in taxes.

Details of Myners’s involvement in Aspen Insurance Holdings (AIH) have emerged as Gordon Brown seeks to win the backing of heads of government to prise open tax havens at a meeting of the G20 in London on April 2.

Myners, who earned nearly £200,000 from AIH in one year, is also facing questions over share options he accrued during five years as chairman of the Bermuda-based company. Accounts for AIH show that at the end of 2007 Myners held 318,338 share options. On Friday the shares, which are listed on the New York Stock Exchange, closed at $21.64, which would value that stake at £4.8m.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lights out, Britons told - we're running out of power

I wrote earlier about a possible gas shortage, but the evidence of a general energy shortage is mounting too. The Register reports:

Exclusive Carbon quango The Energy Saving Trust has come up with a new reason for Britons to save energy in the home. Our power stations will soon close, and you'll need to do your bit.

That's what one Reg reader discovered, after enquiring about the Trust's calculations on the effectiveness of new low-energy bulbs.

"A reduction in electricity consumption will be essential over the coming decade as a large number of power stations are being withdrawn from service, and as a result there is a gap looming between supply and demand," Graham Crocker was told. "More efficient lighting (which accounts for nearly 20 per cent of domestic electricity consumption) will go some way to alleviating these demand pressures." The answer came from Alex Stuart, assistant manager of services of development at the quango.

"This is the first time anybody has acknowledged that new power capacity will not be delivered on time to replace existing capacity," Peter Lilley MP told us.

There's no doubt that Britain faces a looming energy crisis. CapGemini estimates that a quarter of the UK's energy plant capacity will close by 2015. The nation will also see declining oil and gas output from the North Sea. But new, replacement power generation will not arrive in time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lord Mandelson must remain loyal to EU to guarantee pension - Telegraph

Lord Mandelson must remain loyal to EU to guarantee pension - Telegraph:

Lord Mandelson is entitled to the cash because he was the EU's trade commissioner from November 2004 to the middle of last year.

Under the terms of the deal, he will receive an index-linked pension of £31,000 a year when he turns 65. The cost of buying such a deal on the private market would be £550,000.

This is in addition to more than £234,000 of "top-up" salary payments and a £15,000 resettlement fee which he will receive over the next three years.

However, European Union rules show that if he speaks out against Europe as a former Commissioner he could be stripped of his pension altogether.

Documents seen by campaigners show that Lord Mandelson and other Commissioners have to abide by certain obligations "both during and after their term of office".

One of these obligations as a staff member of the Commission is to maintain a "duty of loyalty to the Communities".

The rules also note that "an official has the right to freedom of expression, with due respect to the principles of loyalty and impartiality".

If they fail to demonstrate loyalty to the EU, Lord Mandelson can be "deprived of his right to a pension or other benefits", the rules say.

The TaxPayers' Alliance, the campaign group that has uncovered the threat to his pension, said Lord Mandelson had to resolve this "conflict of interest".

It thus appears that anyone who has worked for the EU Commission risks their pension if they dare criticise it.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Convention on Modern Liberty

The first part of my write-up on yesterday's events has been published on Magna Carta Plus.

British Readers: Write to your MPs

Phil Booth of NO2ID, quoted by Guy Herbert on Samizdata:

At the Convention on Modern Liberty, I launched NO2ID's request that everyone at the convention – and around the UK – tells their MP right now that they refuse their consent to having their information shared under any "information sharing order", a power currently being slipped onto the statute books in clause 152 of the coroners and justice bill .

Please tell yours too. It's important, and urgent – and something that only YOU can do. If you never have before, now's the time to write to your MP – in a letter, or via

Jack Straw has been making noises that could signal a 'compromise', but the only acceptable action is to remove clause 152 entirely from the bill. It is not linked to any other clause, despite being sandwiched between other powers and so-called safeguards offered to the information commissioner. It cannot be improved, and Straw can't be allowed to merely "dilute" it. Clause 152 just has to go.

It's imperative that in coming days every MP hears from his or her constituents. Please tell them you refuse consent to having your information, taken for one purpose, arbitrarily used for any other purpose. And ask them to vote clause 152 off the bill.

I've done it, I urge anyone concerned about this measure to do it.