When multinational businesses can cut their tax bills despite soaring profits, that’s a sign of an ill-designed and out of date tax code. The Chancellor is right to take corrective measures.
However, there are two parts of the Amazon tax story which are concerning.
The first is Hammond’s stated willingness to press ahead with a levy on web giants even before he can secure international agreement – it would be bad for the buying public and the Government both if precipitate action were to make the UK an unattractive place to invest.
The second is that one of the arguments being adduced in favour of the new tax is to “create a level playing field” with ailing bricks-and-mortar retailers.
Theresa May Mark One buried UKIP. Theresa May Mark Two is digging it up. That is the only conclusion one can reasonably draw from today’s Opinium poll for the Observer, which shows Labour on 40 per cent, as last month, the Conservatives on 36 per cent, down six points, and UKIP on eight per cent, up five points. The movement from the second to the third could scarcely be clearer.
That rise in support for what many will still think of, wrongly, as Nigel Farage’s party isn’t because of rebooted support for him. Nor will voters be enamoured with the charms of Gerald Batten, of whom most of them will never have heard. The driver of this result is plainly the Government’s new Brexit policy.
25 per cent of those polled approve of the way that the Prime Minister is handling Brexit, down from 30 per cent last month, while 56 per cent disapprove, up from 45 per cent last month. Her net approval rating was minus eight per cent last month; it is 24 per cent this month. The percentage of those who believe that Brexit is one of the most important issues facing the country is at its highest ever recorded by Opinium – 51 per cent this month (it was 42 per cent last month). Overall, 32 per cent of those surveyed supported May’s Brexit plan and 31 per cent opposed it.
The EU referendum result killed UKIP. After all, what was the point of supporting a party which aimed to make Britain independent once the British people had voted for precisely that? The cause of Brexit was handed overnight to the governing party, which now had an instruction from the electorate to deliver it. During the period between the referendum and last summer’s general election, Theresa May presented herself as the woman who would fulfil that mandate for “citizens of somewhere”: “Brexit means Brexit”.
The Cabinet was reportedly presented with a Treasury assessment of the impact of four outcomes to the Brexit talks: no deal, a Canadian-type deal, the EEA…and the Government’s own new scheme. This itself should give pause for thought to the suggestion that, other than the EEA and no deal, there is no alternative to the plan agreed at Chequers. It is a statement of the obvious that there will be as many of the last as there are people willing to propose them.
Far more to the point, however, there was one from within the Government itself – a proposal for it to seek “Canada Plus Plus Plus”, as David Davis once referred to it. It is well known that DexEU was working on a draft of the White Paper that would outline this idea during the run-up to the Chequers meeting. We are told that it went through some nine iterations. The last ones were largely cuts for length. None of them have been made public. Until now.
Today, ConservativeHome publishes key extracts from a full draft of this White Paper. They are not from one of the briefer final versions, but they set before our readers the main pillars of DexEU’s approach, which we are told were unchanged in any of those nine drafts. As we write, we don’t have the advantage of also having seen the Government’s own White Paper, apparently to be published later, and thus the capacity to make comparisons between its text and that we publish today.
“There will be areas which do affect our economic relations where we and our European friends may have different goals; or where we share the same goals but want to achieve them through different means. And there will be areas where we want to achieve the same goals in the same ways, because it makes sense for our economies,” she said. This was the approach agreed at the Chequers mee
Overseeing body, the Professional Standards Authority, described the current regulatory system as outdated and incoherent
Social work regulation needs a “radical overhaul”, according to the Professional Standards Authority, in a hard-hitting report which questioned whether the current system was fit for purpose.
Frightened into compliance
In a report published last week, the overseeing body said regulation which attempts to “frighten [registrants] into resentful compliance” is to the detriment of performance.
Rather than inflexible and punitive regulation, which stopped practitioners from being innovative, there should be a greater focus on how regulators can support registrants’ professionalism and prevent them from being overburdened with rules and guidance, the report said.
It added the idea that risk of harm can be totally eliminated threatens to corrode the public trust in professionals and in regulation itself.
“All health and care interventions have an element of risk which cannot be totally eliminated,” the PSA pointed out.
“Too often we have seen examples of regulatory mission creep, where regulators have sought to expand the boundaries of their activity in ways that have resulted in confusion for the public and internal conflict of interest.”
“Registrants’ careers and lives, and those of their families, can often be seriously and lastingly damaged too, sometimes by [registrants’] words or actions lasting no more than a few moments,” the PSA report said.
The PSA also concluded that a “proliferation of regulatory organisations inevitably impedes the pace of change and improvement across the sector. It also embeds operational inefficiency and unnecessary expense.”
Instead of the current fragmented system, there should be shared objectives between professional and systems regulators, the report recommended.
The Health and Care Professions Council which regulates social workers, and Ofsted which regulates the authorities that employ them, should share data and intelligence.
There are more than 20 different regulatory bodies and 12 professional regulators for health, care and social work in the UK. The report said this “vastly complicated and incoherent” regulator system existed despite a lack of understanding of the benefits of regulation and its influence on registrants behaviour.
The PSA proposed several steps that should be taken to improve regulation:
A shared “theory of regulation” across the sector
Shared objectives for system and professional regulators, and greater clarity on respective roles and duties
Transparent benchmarking to set standards
A reduced scope of regulation so it focuses on what works
A proper risk assessment model for who and what should be regulated put into practice
A PSA spokesman said the report had been distributed widely and it was hoped it would stimulate discussion about what the next steps should be. ………………’