Mayor of London Boris Johnson defends the City of London and bankers during a visit to Paris.
See the rest here: Boris defends bankers on French radio
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Mayor of London Boris Johnson defends the City of London and bankers during a visit to Paris.
See the rest here: Boris defends bankers on French radio
The EU’s proposed cap on banker bonuses will drive business away from London, says Boris Johnson, the mayor of Europe’s biggest financial centre.
Continued here: EU banker bonus cap ‘self-defeating’
London Mayor Boris Johnson has described the World Economic Forum as a “a constellation of egos involved in orgies of adulation”.
See more here: VIDEO: Davos a ‘constellation of egos’
London Mayor Boris Johnson has urged people not to “sneer” at the coffee chain Starbucks over its decision to pay £20m in corporation tax.
London mayor uses CBI conference to call for ‘low but fair’ taxes – and take swipe at ‘absurd’ Lib Dem mansion tax proposals
Boris Johnson has urged the government to make multinational companies such as Google pay their share of tax in the UK instead of pushing ahead with “absurd” Liberal Democrat proposals to impose a mansion tax on large homes.
The mayor of London stoked the debate over taxation paid by US companies on their UK operations by suggesting Google, which bases its European unit in low-tax Ireland, should hire unemployed British 18-24-year-olds in recompense.
The London mayor used a speech to business leaders at the annual Confederation of British Industry conference to make the case for “low but fair” taxes, as well as taking a swipe at Lib Dem policies.
Vince Cable, the Lib Dem business secretary, revived his party’s call for a mansion tax at the weekend when he indicated plans for higher council tax bands for homes worth more than £1m would be included in the autumn statement on 5 December.
Johnson warned high rates of personal tax would make Britain less competitive and said it was absurd to be “whacking up” taxes on many Londoners living in nominally expensive homes who had little disposable income, when firms like Google “are paying zero”.
He said: “Neither arrangement strikes me as being fair and so Google and co face a very clear choice – they can either change their tax arrangements or do much more to serve our society by visibly taking on 54,000 18 to 24-year-olds [in London] who are out of work.”
A Google spokesman said: “We make a substantial contribution to the UK economy through local, payroll and corporate taxes. We employ over 2,000 people, help … thousands of businesses to grow online and invest millions supporting new tech businesses in east London. We comply with all the tax rules in the UK.”
Johnson’s was one of several contributions from the podium on ethical business behaviour. The CBI’s president, Sir Roger Carr, opening the conference, admitted that corporate Britain’s reputation had been tarnished by behaviour that saw “greed prevalent and fairness forgotten”.
Acknowledging the damage done by the banking crash and the phone hacking scandal, Carr said: “We must demonstrate that we are a generation that is focused not just on how much money we make – but how we make money. We must salvage the reputation of business,” he said, adding that critics have been given a “licence to tar all with the same brush” by misdeeds in the media and banking industries.
“Businesses’ and individuals’ standards have been variable, greed prevalent and fairness forgotten in a number of sectors – banking and media at the forefront – but others from all walks of life [have shown] signs of bad behaviour.”
Carr, also chairman of Centrica, the owner of British Gas, then delivered an impassioned defence of the corporate realm, saying banking boards have been overhauled, errant media companies reined in and executive pay pared back. “We must stop saying leaders don’t care when they do, all energy companies rip you off when they don’t, all bankers are despicable when they are not, or big business is bad business when it isn’t.”
The chief executive of consumer goods group Unilever, Paul Polman, told attendees from the upper echelons of British business that the UK should “set the standard” for ethical economic growth. “Only businesses that make a positive contribution to improving the state of the world will ultimately be accepted by consumers. Businesses that don’t will be rejected,” he said.
Polman said the global appeal of Unilever products – from Dove soap to Magnum ice cream – gave the company an opportunity to educate consumers. “Every day we reach the lives of two billion people. No government can touch that reach,” he said, citing a recent Unilever initiative to encourage children to wash their hands regularly and prevent diarrhoea.
Unilever’s approach to its UK workforce has been criticised by trade union leaders over the past year, after the company closed its final salary pension scheme – triggering a wave of strikes at its British plants. Nonetheless, Polman told the CBI that British companies should lead the way in establishing a more socially and environmentally responsible approach to growing economies.
“The UK should set the standard for what equitable and balanced growth should be,” he added.
It is interesting that Boris Johnson should pick on Google when arguing against a mansion tax. Of the three US companies that appeared before the public accounts committee last week the search engine firm got the easiest ride. Matt Brittin, head of Google’s northern European operations, admitted that the firm operates from Ireland and Bermuda because the tax rates there are attractive.
Google has fat profit margins in the UK and doesn’t think the Treasury is being short-changed. Brittin argued that the engineers who devise the search algorithms create the economic value from California. That’s sufficient to convince the tax authorities that the treatment is legal. But Johnson, if he’s making the point that a sensible tax system would force Google to acknowledge the real economic value created in the UK, is onto a winner. Google’s approach is brazen, and a clear threat to UK tax revenues.
The struggling retailer, led by former Apple executive Ron Johnson, disappointed investors again. Will the turnaround strategy work?
Read more here: JC Penney feeling the pain of its overhaul strategy
Politicians, green lobbyists, business … and Boris Johnson. All these and more are clamouring to be heard in the increasingly fractious debate over the site for a possible new airport hub. Sir Howard Davies explains the task that is facing his inquiry
Reclining in an office chair usually filled by the transport minister, Norman Baker, who is away for the day, Sir Howard Davies, 61 – former senior mandarin at the Treasury, one-time aide to Nigel Lawson, former director of the London School of Economics, head of the Financial Services Authority under Labour and now chairman of Phoenix Insurance – oozes the confidence of a man who has seen it all before.
“It happened in the way these things do. Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, gave me a call and said, ehm, your number’s come up,” he chuckles. “I was slightly surprised. It wasn’t an obvious thing to do, although, curiously enough, I did a couple of years in the Treasury on aerospace, but I don’t think Jeremy was even aware of that when he asked me.”
Ever since, critics have been lining up to point out how far it was from being the “obvious thing to do”. Heywood was inviting Davies to be the man to decide whether and where to build Britain’s next major airport, an issue that in other countries might be regarded as a dry administrative task, but in the UK is a peculiarly red rag to the many-headed bull that is the green lobby, local communities under flight paths, regional tsars jealous of the south-east and political leaders looking to display their environmentally friendly or business credentials – depending on the fashion.
Then, of course, there’s Boris Johnson, a London mayor in search of a defining issue for his political career, frustrated that the prime minister has not made a decision on the issue, determined to have a third runway at Heathrow ruled out, and for a new airport, popularly known as “Boris Island”, to be built swiftly on the Thames estuary.
It is a political quagmire that even the most capable of mandarins might struggle with and Davies has not, it is pointed out, enjoyed the easiest of times recently. His period as executive chairman of the FSA, where he stewarded light-touch regulation of the City between 1997 and 2003, cannot be said to have been an unqualified success. It was on his watch that the banking crisis, which in part delivered the UK its double-dip recession, was brewing.
His next job was as director of the LSE, a position he resigned from last year after it emerged that the university had taken a £300,000 donation from a foundation run by none other than the playboy son of Colonel Gaddafi, Saif, who is currently incarcerated by the new Libyan government but wanted by the International Criminal Court to face charges of crimes against humanity.
Perhaps it was felt that a decision on airport capacity would be a doddle for a man who has dealt with all that. As a Treasury mandarin in 1979 he was, after all, in charge of nationalising British Aerospace under Labour, then equally quickly privatising it under Margaret Thatcher. “It was crazy,” he admits.
But Davies’s frustration at the political debate raging, even on day one of the launch of his commission into Britain’s aviation – due to publish an interim report in 2013 and a final one in 2015 – is evident: “Obviously we have to have a public process here but the public process I want is about the issues rather than about the timing and the politics.”
On Friday morning he gave a short interview to the Today programme but didn’t know, until he spoke to the producers, that Johnson, all fired up, was coming on later to trash everything he had said, in particular the plan to wait three years for Davies’s answers to the big questions. It was an undoubted attempt to ambush Davies on his big day. “Did he succeed?” Davies asks. The headlines the following day suggest Johnson may have, although it will be Davies’s word on Britain’s airports that will be the last.
The former mandarin, who will work “a day, or a day and a half, a week” in the unpaid role, admits that he “can’t be convinced” that when he reports in 2015 the politicians will actually listen.
It may be a new government; what is certain is that the politics of the moment will be different, and that matters. The Conservatives, who delighted in ruling out a third runway at Heathrow before the 2010 general election on environmental grounds, are now procrastinating and split on the issue, hence pushing it into what Davies admits is the “long grass” of his commission.
And Labour has been on a diametrically opposite journey. “I note it is not that long ago that the Labour party was in favour of the third runway and appeared to be going to go ahead and now it is not fashionable again,” he says. “I don’t think you can take these things as completely fixed anyway.”
So he won’t allow Boris and the politics of the moment to come into the commission’s thinking? “No, I don’t think we can afford them to be. I think the whole point of asking an independent commission to do this is in order not to do that. I observe the political debate swirling around this, but I don’t think it makes sense to get involved in it.
“I think you have to step back a bit and start with demand forecasts, how do you fit it into the climate change commitment? How different is the rail environment, does that open up options that you’ve not had before? And you have to build from there and see where that takes you. But we have been told that all options, including the third runway, are on the table and for the moment that is where they shall remain.”
Whatever way Davies falls on the issues ahead, there will be critics, fierce ones. How do you weigh up the interests of homeowners under the flight path at Heathrow against the economic stimulus of building a proper hub airport, with one, maybe two, new runways? “We haven’t worked that out yet. The things you have got to look at include ‘are you going to create more unpleasant noise for people?’.
“There are some options which say that you wouldn’t necessarily do that. If you move where the runways are, there are options for moving Heathrow westward; that’s an interesting sort of idea which would reduce the noise envelope. Other countries have got other compensation regimes, but we haven’t got an equation for doing that at this point.”
But he is equally keen to look at Boris’s plan, which is why he insisted to the prime minister that his commission needed to at least shortlist the options in his 2013 interim report. “The estuary island has the mayor supporting it, but it doesn’t really have a corporate sponsor because it isn’t there. So if you decide that is the one you want to look at, you need to have time to do some more work yourself, and the commission will do more work to level the playing field, if you like”.
What clearly will not influence Davies, a Manchester Grammar School boy, Oxford graduate and alumnus of Stanford Graduate School of Business, is the prime minister’s notion of a happiness index, once promoted by David Cameron as a rival barometer of success to growth which, it was said, would play a key role in the big future policy decisions.
“I think that’s quite difficult territory and I haven’t seen that that has gone terribly far,” he says. “There are these, you know, happiness indices, but I don’t quite know what they mean really.”
Neither can we expect him to be a climate change pioneer. He worked as an adviser to the sceptic Nigel Lawson in the 1980s, but refuses to discuss his own views, adding that it is irrelevant because he will work within the government’s climate change commitments.
“I am honestly not sufficiently expert to have my own independent views on climate change,” he says. “But certainly the fact that I once worked for Nigel Lawson– now 28 years ago – is not relevant. What I do is take whatever the commitment is. There is a government commitment, and indeed there is legislation, that says we are going to reduce our emissions by 80% by 2050.”
It is possible, of course, that Davies could simply rejig things and not suggest any building projects at all in 2015. There is spare capacity in less popular airports, while some in the environmental lobby say that the UK would be able to cope with demand up until 2050, based on a recent dip in the number of people travelling and perhaps pessimistic forecasts on the UK’s economic growth.
But it doesn’t sound likely. “I was in Scotland last week and there were two flights a day to go to Dubai, taking people and rerouting them to India, or wherever. So now we might decide as a nation that that is sustainable, but clearly at the moment it is not the plan is it? Nobody is saying we should stop having any flights here and they should bugger off and go somewhere else.
“So given that the brief is to say how do you maintain international hub status, it does look like doing nothing is not likely to achieve that.”
Is Davies, despite the delays, ultimately going to be seen as a man of action? “Actually, I’ve got to go now. I’ve got an insurance company to run.”
London mayor’s remarks highlight concerns over potentially damaging effect immigration cap may have on economy
The London mayor Boris Johnson is to re-enter the highly charged immigration debate as he urges ministers to “allow the best and brightest to come here, contribute and thrive” – remarks that underline his concerns at the way the coalition’s immigration cap may be damaging the UK economy .
He also endorsed the establishment of a new cross-party immigration group, Migration Matters, to act as a factual and campaigning counterweight to Migration Watch, the frequently cited anti-immigration pressure group.
In a letter to the new group, Johnson describes how the Olympic and Paralympic games have provided a “tremendous boost, showcasing Britain and London right around the globe”.
He says: “The priority for my administration is stimulating jobs and growth in the capital. In an increasingly globalised economy success depends on encouraging a talented and diverse workforce to London.
“We want a well-managed migration system that secures our borders and allows the best and the brightest to come here, contribute and thrive.”
He also praises the formation of Migration Matters, saying “your principle aim is an important one in an area often riddled with inaccurate claims, differing opinion and consequently strains and tensions”.
The new group is to be co-chaired by Barbara Roche, the former Labour immigration minister, and Gavin Barwell, the Conservative MP for Croydon South.
The new group has the backing of business executives and senior union figures, and due to its all-party basis it will not take a specific view on an immigration cap, apart from to call for it to be implemented so the best and brightest are not excluded.
Johnson has set up a wide-ranging inquiry into the London labour market, skills, immigration and why many London-born workers do not seem to be able to find work in key jobs growth areas.
Ed Miliband also intervened in the debate on Thursday, saying: “I think in terms of low-skilled migration I think it is too high and I think we need to do something about it.”
He added: “The issue that has not been properly addressed by politicians is when people come into the country, particularly from eastern Europe, are they coming in a way that has economic benefits not just for the country as a whole but for people in it across the board, or is it being done in a way that is used to undercut people already here and exploit those coming here?”
The Labour leader said he was opposed to the government’s plan to get the numbers down to tens of thousands, and said there was no prospect at this stage of the free movement of labour in the EU being abandoned.
Johnson has asked whether deeper cultural issues prompt the mismatch in the south-east labour market.
He has asked: “Why do immigrant workers seem to look at a job in McDonald’s or Starbucks as a stepping stone, while some who were born here apparently regard it as a dead end?
“Is the problem just to do with pay and conditions? Is it really true that immigrants will work harder for less? Is there really a difference in the ‘work ethic’, or is that an urban myth?”
Jon Hilsenrath’s inside baseball account of how Bernanke swayed fence-sitting members of the FOMC to support QE∞ shows the chairman persistently making his case over the course of weeks of phone calls and emails, and even turning a hawk over to his side. “I wanted to ask him if I should get some gold and silver, but I bit my tongue,” says Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who ran into Bernanke during infield practice days before the QE announcement. 3 comments!
Read the original post: Jon Hilsenrath’s inside baseball account of how Bernanke swayed fence-sitting members of the FOMC to support QE∞ shows the chairman persistently making his case over the course of weeks of phone calls and emails, and even turning a hawk over to…