First, labour practices under the cosh, now it’s the turn of the transnationals

What is “British” (or indeed “Irish”) labour these days? Wildcat strikers at any rate are clear it’s non-foreign, but what’s “foreign” in the EU? Next question: what is a “British” company? The Guardian exclusive takes the traditional view as the basis of their story about massive if legal company tax avoidance. e.g.:

The UK-based drinks giant Diageo plc has transferred ownership of brands worth billions of pounds, including Johnnie Walker, J&B and Gilbey’s gin, to a subsidiary in the Netherlands where profits accrued virtually tax-free. Despite average profits of £2bn a year, it paid an average of £43m a year in UK tax – little more than 2% of its overall profits.

Some UK-listed companies which have moved control to Dublin to benefit from Ireland’s low-tax regime appear to have little real presence there.

HM Revenue & Customs estimated that the size of the tax gap could be anything between £3.7bn and £13bn. The Commons public accounts committee put it at a possible £8.5bn and the TUC said £12bn.

According to the National Audit Office, in 2006 more than 60% of Britain’s 700 biggest companies paid less than £10m corporation tax, and 30% paid nothing.

I daresay this is old hat to those in the know. But it’s worth visiting the Guardian website to get the full story. Good journalism or another neanderthal attack of globalisation, just stirring it at a time of intense economic anxiety?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London