is Sunday morning and the world is still asleep. I sit here with
my cup of espresso and the Sunday Times, I see an article about
train leasing companies, the headline reads - Train owners
send millions offshore.
Let me give
you a bit of background. These rolling stock companies were set
up in 1994 in preparation for the privatisation of British Rail,
their function is to own the rolling stock and lease these to the
operating companies. Leasing involves commitments of vast amounts
of capital for the leasing companies so they were set up originally
by some of the banks. Relatively recently these leasing companies
were sold off.
You may have
wondered how the rail operators can seamlessly take over another
franchise when you consider the amount of capital represented by
the rolling stock. Simple - they just take over the leasing payments.
Now I don't
use the trains very much but I am aware that fares are constantly
rising by high percentages. Meanwhile it appears that the leasing
companies have, since 2008, paid out at least £700m in dividends
through offshore holding companies. Is this yet another case of
the British public paying high prices whilst the profits that are
made do not benefit the Exchequer to the amount that it should?
No doubt we
will hear more about this.
We have heard
a great deal about tax avoidance and tax evasion in the last 12
months and most of us know that tax evasion is illegal whist tax
avoidance is not. However as in most things there is no clear distinct
line between the two and many individuals have been caught and exposed
treading the territory on the extreme end of tax avoidance.
It seems that
we honest taxpayers have been, and still are, ripped off by well
known international companies and unscrupulous tax advisers. At
last something seems to be being done about it.
government's period in office will be remembered as a period during
which many wrongs were made right. But is it the government that
should be thanked for this? I think not. The scandal of extreme
tax avoidance was brought to light by investigative journalists
and the hard questioning of the transgressors is being done by the
Public Accounts Committee, brilliantly chaired by the Labour MP
Mrs Margaret Hodge.
So, the huge
hole in the nation's accounts through which massive amounts of potential
tax revenues have drained away was identified and exposed by the
So that brings
us to Levenson and his report and the question we should be seriously
asking is whether we can trust state sponsored control of the press
or whether the press should form their own control.
Yes, the reasons
for setting up the Levenson Enquiry were completely justified but
ask yourseves very seriously - Do we really want to gag the press?
In the larger picture do we benefit from a free press?
The words 'babies'
and 'bathwater' spring to mind!