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Uploaded: 04 November 2005

Daylight robbery

I read today the government is exercising itself rigorously on our behalf in its crusade against terrorism by returning to the unlovely Terrorism Bill, or, more correctly, it is wondering who to lock up for acts that might glorify terrorism. There is a wonderfully obscure bit in clause 21 which considers whether there might be people who could "reasonably be expected to infer that what is being glorified, is being glorified as -

"(a) conduct that should be emulated in existing circumstances, or (b) conduct of a description of conduct that should be so emulated."

Quite what any of that means is, of course, anyones' guess, but in these ever more oppressive times we would be foolhardy to ignore it. So let's just grab a random (sic) example of a situation that might be considered as glorifying conduct that should be emulated in existing circumstances. 

Philip Green who owns the Arcadia fashion chain, which owns such businesses as Etam, Top Shop, Wallis, Evans and Burton, has awarded himself the biggest pay cheque in British Corporate history, a tidy sum of 1.2bn. Unfamiliar as I am with such ludicrously large numbers I believe that is 1,200,000,000 pounds. Put another way, that's 1,200 million pounds. Or even another way, you'd have to work a long time and not offer your hard earned pay to such places as Etam, Top Shop, Wallis, Evans and Burton, to save such a huge fortune. In fact spare yourself, you could never amass such a fortune even if you saved your entire salary for the rest of your natural life. Assuming you took home 1000 a week, which you definitely wouldn't at Top Shop, and saved the lot for 50 years (remember not to eat) you'd come up with the princely sum of 2,704,000 plus interest, so you'd be a bit short. And you'd smell, so get a flat, have a shower, a good meal and forget it.

However Mr Green has siphoned this stunning amount of money out of the country into the account of his missus in Monaco, who is the real (sic) owner of Arcadia, neatly circumventing certain inconveniences, like paying tax on all that money to the country in which he has amassed this singular fortune from the likes of you and me. This is of course legal theft, so no need to dwell on it other than this brief mention. 

There is another side to extricating this princely sum from the hands of the exchequer into a tax haven though. Money that might conceivably have been spent to combat terrorism, paying policemen and women, training and, oh a billion other things to benefit the country that has so benignly supported him, is no longer available to us. This practice is not only behaviour that accountants across the land will seek to emulate on behalf of anyone who cares to hire them, the fact that the Guardian published this information could be seen as action being 'glorified as conduct that should be emulated in existing circumstances', leaving the country further impoverished in its attempts to combat terrorism. 

Far be it from me to bring this to the attention of the government, they need no encouragement in their ever more draconian attempts to curb our freedom and make life a misery for us, but you have to wonder where it's all going, eh? Not the money, you understand, just life, the universe and everything.

Keith Lindsay-Cameron 2005

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