Justice and fairness is an endemic part of the British psyche and that national trait is being sorely tested with, what appears to be, an open free pass for financial institutions. This doesn’t sit well with the rigid enforcement that is invariably applied to the ordinary individual. The failure to address these anomalies is causing the Conservatives a serious problem and is probably a major factor in their inability to get past the early 30’s in support percentages and very probably one good reason why so many of us former Conservative supporters have chosen another path. Quite simply, I don’t like the excesses of patronage and financed lobbying routinely dismissed by establishment whitewashes. I’m sure I’m not alone. Foremost at the moment is the quite unbelievable position of Stephen Green as the boss, not only of HSBC as a whole but, at the time, the section carrying out the illegal activities. The ‘nothing to do with me mate’ is a risible response and rather confirms the position of the Conservatives and their out of touch and dismissive elite.
It truly is on a par with Jean Claude Junker’s denial of anything to do with Luxembourg’s tax haven set up despite being prime minister and finance minister. When powerful people simply dismiss their former activities their contempt for ordinary people is never more exposed.
If there is no consequence to unwanted behaviour, be that outright illegality or borderline activity then quite simply such behaviour will continue regardless of empty censure or a bit of short term adverse publicity. In such a lax and comfortable environment the bigger players know that much of the dirt will never see the light of day anyway as the main broadcast and print media are pretty much headline driven and, of course, have their own ownership practices to protect. The recent Telegraph coverage, or lack of it, towards massive illegal financial shenanigans by HSBC being a case in point.
The pattern of recompense for dodgy actions, which is ineffective, seems to consist of fines, not prosecutions, for businesses and individuals that breach practice, or even the law. It must be clear to most people that the real culprits never actually pay anything or suffer any lasting censure. Whether it is pharmaceutical companies lying, covering up bad results and bribing doctors, or banks fraudulently manipulating Libor rates, actively encouraging tax evasion, or large accountancy firms up to their necks in tax avoidance schemes or insolvency fiddles, the people responsible are rarely brought to book. Fines, of course, are paid by the customers and it is all too easy for revenue to be manufactured by banks and other large corporations to mitigate the effect of, what are usually, quite small amounts in comparison with the overall value and turnover of the enterprises concerned.
The simple premise of justice is that miscreants should suffer some consequence. In modern society we recognise that consequence should be balanced and proportional but to dispense with it altogether isn’t a part of that social agreement and to allow, or even support, such evasion of personal consequences is tantamount to an undermining of the very fabric of civilisation.
Over recent years we’ve seen criminal cases brought for sexual offences committed many years before. There is a view that the passing of time alone or the age of the offender should not mitigate the judicial process. I suspect that a similar view of justice and proper process might hold that criminal activity may only be judged by a court of law and that sweetened agreements between interested parties may not preclude eventual prosecution and it may well be that we are being invited to challenge that anomaly and perhaps consider prosecution, not only of the participating criminals but also the implied abuse of judicial process by the officials involved.
It appears that HMRC has been systematically compliant with irregular activities for some time and that is a matter that cannot be allowed so simply pass by without further close scrutiny. In September of 2011 Dave Hartnett the then HMRC boss signed an agreement with the Swiss government which effectively gave bankers, involved in illegal tax evasion, immunity from prosecution. In January 2013 Hartnett took a job on a new ‘Financial system vulnerabilities’ committee with; yes, you guessed it, HMRC. This stinks. You might also remember that this was the same Hartnett that let Vodafone off around 6bn of corporation tax for no good reason when at the time it seemed likely that they (Vodafone) would suffer a loss in court.
The legality of these arrangements needs a greater scrutiny than has hitherto obtained.
So far we as UKIP are happy to sit back and watch the spat about who has the dodgiest donors play out to an inevitable nothingness. We’re also content for the hypocritical Labour mud-slinging over dodgy banks and others to highlight the lack of attention this out of touch government displays for all to see but, at some point UKIP will have to present a view on all of this and I can’t think of a better approach than to support a thorough investigation of all these activities through the last 15 years or so and, critically, to also re-visit earlier decisions not to prosecute when evidence of wrongdoing clearly exists. Perhaps a principle area to be viewed from a different perspective might be to challenge the legality of sweetheart deals that did not benefit the taxpayer and may themselves, have been entered into unlawfully.
With no consequences there can be no behaviour change. Regulation, restriction and law form the framework of how businesses should behave but, without appropriate consequence for deviation as a part of the regulatory mix these abuses will simply continue.
Photo by HM Revenue & Customs