Google's approach to tax beats Starbucks' hands down

Just how do you calibrate morality?

Starbucks and Google have faced a great deal of criticism over their taxes, but while earlier this year Starbucks caved and made a "voluntary" offering on the altar of public opinion, Google has just come out on a very defensive wicket. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's World at One, Google's Eric Schmidt pointed out that the company's tax affairs "fully comply with the law":

Of course that omits the fact that we also hire more than 2,000 employees and are investing heavily in Britain.

Britain has been a very good market for us. We empower literally billions of pounds of start-ups through our advertising network and so forth. And we're a key part of the electronic commerce expansion of Britain which is driving a lot of economic growth for the country.

So from our perspective I think... you have to look at it in totality. You're describing the way taxes work globally. And the fact of the matter is these are the way taxes are done globally. The same is true for British firms operating in the US, for example.

I think the most important thing to say about our taxes is that we fully comply with the law and obviously, should the law change, we'll comply with that as well.

Morality is hard to calibrate - and Schmidt makes a good point: what amounts to vague public distaste over large sums of money shouldn't be allowed to confuse economic thinking.

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn turns "the nasty party" back on Theresa May

The Labour leader exploited Conservative splits over disability benefits.

It didn't take long for Theresa May to herald the Conservatives' Copeland by-election victory at PMQs (and one couldn't blame her). But Jeremy Corbyn swiftly brought her down to earth. The Labour leader denounced the government for "sneaking out" its decision to overrule a court judgement calling for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to be extended to those with severe mental health problems.

Rather than merely expressing his own outrage, Corbyn drew on that of others. He smartly quoted Tory backbencher Heidi Allen, one of the tax credit rebels, who has called on May to "think agan" and "honour" the court's rulings. The Prime Minister protested that the government was merely returning PIPs to their "original intention" and was already spending more than ever on those with mental health conditions. But Corbyn had more ammunition, denouncing Conservative policy chair George Freeman for his suggestion that those "taking pills" for anxiety aren't "really disabled". After May branded Labour "the nasty party" in her conference speech, Corbyn suggested that the Tories were once again worthy of her epithet.

May emphasised that Freeman had apologised and, as so often, warned that the "extra support" promised by Labour would be impossible without the "strong economy" guaranteed by the Conservatives. "The one thing we know about Labour is that they would bankrupt Britain," she declared. Unlike on previous occasions, Corbyn had a ready riposte, reminding the Tories that they had increased the national debt by more than every previous Labour government.

But May saved her jibe of choice for the end, recalling shadow cabinet minister Cat Smith's assertion that the Copeland result was an "incredible achivement" for her party. "I think that word actually sums up the Right Honourable Gentleman's leadership. In-cred-ible," May concluded, with a rather surreal Thatcher-esque flourish.

Yet many economists and EU experts say the same of her Brexit plan. Having repeatedly hailed the UK's "strong economy" (which has so far proved resilient), May had better hope that single market withdrawal does not wreck it. But on Brexit, as on disability benefits, it is Conservative rebels, not Corbyn, who will determine her fate.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.