John's blog headlines
I opened the debate by placing on record that he is the secretary of the National Union of Journalists parliamentary group. It is a cross-party group of MPs who have raised issues on behalf of the union and journalists generally over a number of years.
Let me briefly explain what has been happening in recent years. The NUJ has published a chronology of closures and job losses in local newspapers over the past nine months. It is a shocking roll-call of cuts on a significant and worrying scale. I will not go through it in detail now, but I will place in the Library, for Members’ information, the short report that the NUJ has provided. It illustrates the range of titles that have gone in the past nine months, and the scale of cutbacks of journalists, sub-editors and photographers.
Throughout the ’90s and until about 2005, local newspaper profit margins ranged from approximately 20% to 35%. In a normal business, profits on that scale would be reinvested in the industry long term which would fund the transition to the new model. That did not happen, unfortunately. I hate to say it, but some of the company results make it clear that instead of being reinvested, those profits were used for sizeable shareholder dividend pay-outs. In addition, the pay of newspaper executives was enormous.
Another issue that has affected the sector over the past 10 years is the rapid closure of local presses. As a result of such closures, any new entrant to the regional newspaper market is forced to choose between bearing the virtually prohibitive expense of a new press, entering into contract arrangements with potential competitors, or printing outside the UK and building import costs into their overheads from the outset
I repeated the statement in...
On April 12th the Stop Heathrow Expansion group are welcoming all to Harmondsworth to raise awareness of the great threat to our communities. Whilst this beautiful historic village is the one earmarked for demolition, it is merely a focus point to highlight all the villages that would be destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by airport expansion. Tens of thousands that would be adversely affected by noise and pollution might like to stand here and be counted now, prior to the general election, to ensure all political parties know people’s strength of feeling on this issue. Efforts to kick it into the long grass until we have already cast our votes must not be allowed to silence us.
We have a number of photo opportunities on the day including: tree planting for the future on land that would be compulsory purchased, a boundary mural showing where the new airport fence is being forced upon us and the Great Barn, newly restored, will be open to the public for the first time this year. All visitors will be also be able to investigate the other historic and listed buildings, and the threatened natural delights of Harmondsworth Moor, with the help of guides and illustrated leaflets. The two local pubs serve great food and fine beer making this potentially the most civilised opportunity to protest possible.
Please pledge support and advise of numbers possibly attending to firstname.lastname@example.org
In replying to the budget statement in the Chamber on 20th March John criticised the target set by the Government of recovering just 3% of the tax gap and the implementation of this legislation.
The Budget sets a target of raising £3.1 billion through tackling tax evasion and avoidance. The Government have identified a tax gap of £35 billion, which has remained almost static for the past few years. However, an auditor from the World Bank auditors has said it is nearer £100 billion. The tax justice campaign and the Public and Commercial Services union, which represents the tax collectors themselves, has put it at £120 billion. Therefore on the Government’s own figures at best, we are simply going to tackle, if successful, less than 10% of the tax gap, but more realistically less than 3% which is a dismally low target.
John expressed his concerns about the regulatory bodies who police the professional standards. He points out that if they are given greater responsibilities in setting and enforcing professional standards, they will in fact be policing themselves because these committees are populated with representatives of firms promoting tax avoidance schemes.
He went on to question who is going to prosecute these firms. The Serious Fraud office is not equipped to take on these giant corporations. The Crown Prosecution Service is hardly visible with regard to prosecution of big corporations, and HMRC staffing cuts have denied it the professional expertise needed. The real issue is that no matter how many policy statements, reports and legislation we have, it is all rendered pointless if HMRC does not have the staff and resources to implement them.
John said MPs on a cross-party basis...
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