“It is in no way tax avoidance" - quote of the day

Npower has admitted to paying zero corporation tax between 2009 and 2011.

One of Britain’s big six energy companies, Npower, has admitted to paying zero corporation tax between 2009 and 2011, as it pumped billions in to keeping “the UK's lights on"

Speaking at the energy and climate change select committee yesterday, Npower chief executive Paul Massara defended the energy giant’s tax practices, saying “it is in no way tax avoidance, and all of our business is taxable in the UK".

"Effectively we have invested £5bn in the last five years building power plants, creating jobs, creating employment and helping to keep the lights on.

"If we had not made that investment, we would not have the deductibility that we would be allowed. That is a simple accounting UK rule,” Massara told the MPs.

Npower reported a 34 per cent rise in profits to £413m last year.

The energy companies were called before the MPs in the light of worsening public trust in them, as their profits rise but household bills rocket.

Labour MP Ian Lavery said, "In the last three years, [Npower] has reported profits totalling £766m – yet today they admitted they have not paid a single penny of corporation tax over that period. 

"People who pay their taxes unquestioningly are sick and tired of seeing hugely profitable companies use every trick in the book to get out of contributing their fair share."

Another Labour MP, John Robertson, urged consumers to switch energy providers in protest, dubbing Npower “the new Starbucks”.

However, Andrew Watters, a partner in Thomas Eggar LLP, condemned this "current name and shame approach".

"It seems to be a modern version of the ducking chair where the accused is ducked until they accept guilt, or drowns (a sure sign of guilt). Some people see the new General Anti Avoidance Rule (GAAR) as the way to clarify how morality and law interact. Let us hope the GAAR Advisory Committee has at least one member called Solomon."

This story first appeared on economia

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Q&A: What happened at Barnet's polling stations this morning?

Eager democrats who arrived early in the morning to vote in the London elections were turned away. 

What’s going on?

When polls first opened at Barnet’s 155 polling stations at 7 this morning, many registered voters found that they were not on the station’s voting lists, meaning they were unable to cast their vote. Many reports suggested that the overwhelming majority were turned away. Rules were later relaxed in some, but not all, polling stations to allow those who arrived with their polling cards (which explicitly state they are not needed to cast a vote) to vote.

Why is this happening?

It is, needless to say, unclear. But some reports have suggested that polling station staff only had the updates to the electoral register (that is, those who have newly-registered) rather than the entire register itself. Which makes you wonder why nobody realised before 7am that there might be rather more people wanting to vote in Barnet than the lists suggested.

Is this a conspiracy?

No, of course it’s not. And if you think it is, take the tinfoil hat off and stop watching Russia Today. Barnet is a Tory-led council. If this mess harms any party it is likely to be the Conservatives. We don’t know how Barnet voted for mayor in 2012, but we do know the votes of Barnet plus predominantly Labour-supporting Camden: Boris Johnson got 82,839 first preference votes while Ken Livingstone received 58,354. But remember London’s not just electing a mayor today. It is also electing the members of the Greater London Assembly – and one of them represents the constituency of Barnet and Camden. The incumbent, Andrew Dismore, is from the Labour Party, and is running for reelection. He won fairly comfortably in 2012, far outperforming Ken Livingstone. But Tory campaigners have been talking up the possibility of defeating Dismore, especially in recent days after Labour’s anti-semitism ructions (Barnet has London’s largest Jewish population). Again, if there are voters who failed to vote this morning and cannot to do so later, then that will hurt the Conservatives and help Dismore.

Is it the fault of nasty outsourcers?

Seemingly not. As we’ve written before, Barnet Council is famous for outsourcing vast proportions of its services to private contractors – births and deaths in the borough are now registered elsewhere, for example. But though postal votes and other areas of electoral administration have been outsourced by Barnet, voter registration is performed in-house. This one’s on the council and nobody else.

What has Barnet done about it?

The council initially issued a statement saying that it was “aware of problems with our voter registration lists” and admitting that “a number of people who had not brought their polling card with them were unable to vote”. Which was a bit peculiar given the polling cards say that you don’t need to bring them to vote and there were plenty of reports of people who had polling cards also being denied their democratic rights.

As of 10.40am, the council said that: “All the updated electoral registers are now in place and people can vote as normal.” There appear to be no plans to extend voting hours – and it is not possible to reopen polling tomorrow morning for the frustrated early birds to return.

What does this mean for the result?

It’s very hard to form even a vaguely accurate picture of how many voters who would otherwise have voted will not vote because of this error. But if the margin of victory in the mayoral election or the relevant GLA contest is especially slim, expect calls for a re-run. Frustrated voters could in theory achieve that via the arcane procedure of an election petition, which would then be heard by a special election court, as when Lutfur Rahman’s election as Mayor of Tower Hamlets was declared void in April 2015.

Some have suggested that this may delay the eventual result, but remember that counting for the London elections was not due to begin until Friday morning anyway.

Is there a dodgier barnet than this Barnet?

Yes.

 

Henry Zeffman writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2015.