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From The Socialist newspaper, 28 November 2012

Them & Us

Home is where the cash is

"South Shields comes first," claimed David Miliband, giving a commitment to his constituency after losing to his brother Ed in the 2010 New Labour leadership election. Strange then that he's enjoyed 47,600 worth of trips abroad, including Qatar, Jordan and Zurich. These trips have contributed to the 400,000 he's back-pocketed on top of his MP salary.

Miliband's travels are part of over 1.5 million worth of all-expenses paid trips enjoyed by backbench MPs since the 2010 general election, paid for by other governments, lobbying groups and companies. No prizes for guessing in whose interests the trips were, then. One-fifth of Tory backbenchers have been to Israel/Palestine - mainly paid for by pro-Israeli regime lobbying groups.

In the Independent's investigation, Miliband's travel expenses were the second highest. In first place was Barry Gardiner, Ed Miliband's special envoy for climate change. 52,071 has kept Barry out of the UK for 73 days within two years, his destinations including Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro.

Revolving door

Sean Worth was a special advisor on health to Number 10 until June. Now he works for a lobbying firm with many private health companies as clients. Worth is just one of five known about former advisors to Cameron or Osborne who are now lobbying on behalf of private health vultures.

20 billion of contracts in the NHS have recently become available through the Con-Dems' privatisation plans.

Before coming to office, Cameron described lobbying as "the next big scandal waiting to happen" and said: "We all know how it works. The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisors for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way." Little did we know this was an invitation to his future staff!

3.5% tax

Accenture, a consultancy firm which works for HM Revenue and Customs, reduced its tax bill last year to just 3.5% of profits. This is less than a seventh of the standard rate. In the two previous years, Accenture paid no corporation tax.

So the company is paid from our tax money to provide computer systems in the department responsible for collecting tax but pays hardly any itself. Here's an idea HMRC - why not make it a condition of paying Accenture that they pay a full tax bill?

The PCS civil servants union, which organises HMRC workers, has shown that there is 120 billion uncollected, avoided and evaded tax. The vast majority of it is from big companies like Accenture.

Persecuted Tories

Conservative students at Oxford University tell us they are persecuted. They want special representation on committees granting them the same protection as women, LGBT people and ethnic minorities. Apparently they feel "actively isolated, personally attacked and made to feel unwelcome".

They seem to have confused persecution with social exclusion. The 17% gender pay gap or the fact that youth unemployment for black men is more than twice as high as the general population is not quite the same as people not wanting to be your friend because you support vicious attacks on the living conditions of anyone who hasn't enjoyed your own privileged life chances.

Clear out the rats

There has been a real terms cut of 32% to regulatory services like environmental health and trading standards since 2009. Specialists have warned that this is likely to result in more rats on the streets, more deaths caused by dangerous goods and a greater chance of a national health crisis such as foot-and-mouth disease.

The false economy of these cuts is clear. In 2009 a report from the Office of Fair Trading said that for every 1 spent on trading standards the consumer saved 6. Staff say preventative work is becoming impossible because of workload - likely to increase the cost to other agencies like the NHS.

Time to clear the rats making these cuts out of government and local councils and protect our public services.

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In The Socialist 28 November 2012:


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