Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Queen, Aberfan and the BBC

Did you know that this year Queen Elizabeth II celebrates 60 years of rule over us commoners.

Not that you could have easily missed this fact,  BBC Wales is there to ensure that.

Which brings me to my moan of the day....

On Friday, the Queen on her second and last day of her 'tour' of Wales, visited Aberfan to remember and commemorate the disaster that devastated the village.

And I'm sure she gave comfort to those present, but that is not my moan of the day.

My moan of the day is the fact that BBC News including BBC Wales said, and I paraphrase - Queen Elizabeth visited Aberfan almost 50 years since the disaster.

The tragic man made disaster at Aberfan occurred on 21 October 1966, or just over 45 years ago.

That's 45 years ago, in October it will be 46 years ago, so how you can say that is almost 50 years ago is beyond me.

Or on that basis - did you know I celebrated the Queens jubilee back in 2008, well it was almost 60 years since she was crowned Queen, wasn't it?

And there 'endeth' my moan of the day.

Monday, 23 April 2012

The Olympics and some tax evasion.

Did you know that:

Regulations, which [came] into force on 1st January 2011, implement tax commitments made by the UK in bidding to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games (“the Games”). The Regulations exempt from income tax the income and profits of specified individuals who come to the UK temporarily to take part in or assist in the hosting of the Games. They also prevent the activities of certain of those individuals from creating a permanent establishment of their employer for corporation tax purposes, if one does not already exist.

The above are not my words, they are from the Explanatory Note of the The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Tax Regulations 2010

For example Regulation 8 says: This regulation applies to income received by a London 2012 Partner worker, wholly and exclusively in return for carrying out a London 2012 activity in the UK during the relevant period.

But what are London 12 Partner Workers for the purpose of this regulation?

In brief: A London 2012 Partner worker is an individual who is neither resident nor ordinarily resident in the UK in the tax year during which the London 2012 activity is carried out[...]

The "relevant period" means 30th March 2012 to 8th November 2012.

Therefore if you are a competitor, media worker, representative of an Official Body, service technician, team official, technical official whom is neither resident nor ordinarily resident in the UK in the tax year during which the London 2012 activity is carried out and have an accreditation card you will be exempt from certain tax such as income tax and tax on profits.

A “competitor” means an individual who has been entered by a NOC or NPC to perform in a sporting event which forms part of London 2012;

“media worker” means a media manager, a media producer, a media technician, a media support worker, a radio or television worker or a written, photographic or electronic journalist;

“Official Body” means a Sovereign, a Head of State, a Government, a NOC , a NPC, a city that has been selected by the IOC or IPC to host a future Olympics and Paralympics or Youth Olympics, a city that has been selected by the IOC or IPC to be a candidate to host a future Olympics and Paralympics or Youth Olympics, a city that the IOC or IPC recognises as an applicant to host a future Olympics and Paralympics or Youth Olympics, the IOC, the IPC, an IF, an IPSF, CAS or WADA;

“representative of an Official Body” means an individual who represents, is part of the support staff of, or is a closing ceremony production worker of, an Official Body, or provides observer, drug testing, analysis or arbitration services to CAS or WADA;

“service technician” means an individual who repairs, operates or maintains the equipment on which competitors rely for their performance or safety;

“team official” means an individual who is part of the reserve athlete, support athlete, coaching, technical, carer or medical staff of a NOC or NPC;

“technical official” means an individual who has been selected by LOCOG, an IF or IPSF to officiate at London 2012 and includes technical delegates, classifiers, judges and referees.

After that it gets a bit complicated to say the least - take Regulation 10(1) i.e. an individual who works for an organisation responsible for producing international television and radio signals and providing broadcasters with the facilities and services necessary for broadcasting London 2012, the income received by the employer of the individual is exempt from income tax that would otherwise be chargeable, even for workers whom are resident or ordinarily resident in the UK in the tax year during which the activity is carried out. But only as long as the 'person' does not obtain a benefit as result of regulation 10(1) in respect of the activity.

Did you follow that, I'm not sure I did, and seeing that I'm no tax expert it's no surprise.

Any-hows, based on my basic understanding of this regulation it seems that persons from overseas if working between 30 March and 8 November 2012 for the Olympics (as specified by the regulations) will be exempt tax, whereas the majority of UK residents whom do similar jobs will not be exempt from tax.

Now apparently this tax evasion was a precursor to the UK being awarded the 2012 Olympic Games, and the actual figure of tax evasion may not be significant in the great scheme of things. But I question if that is the case, and in the interest of fairness (latest popular government phrase me thinks), why are (it seems)the majority of accredited UK residents working for the Olympics also denied similar tax exemption during the relevant period as specified?

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Is the UK's nuclear future in jeopardy?

At the end of March, BBC News reported:

The energy minister Charles Hendry admits that the withdrawal of the German energy giants E.ON and RWE from a big nuclear power project in Anglesey is "clearly very disappointing".

He points out however that "the UK's new nuclear programme is far more than one consortia" and that "plans from EDF/Centrica and Nugen are on track".

However, recent reports in The Times and the Financial Times say that Centrica may be close to pulling out of their joint venture with EDF Energy to build a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point, Somerset.

Tim Yeo, chairman of the influential energy select committee, said [to the Financial Times] Centrica's withdrawal would be a “hammer blow to the future of nuclear [power]..

See also:

A bit more Abu Qatada & human rights

It concerns me, that there appears to be a growing call for the UK to 'withdraw' from the European Convention on Human Rights, and also the European Court of Human Rights.

It is claimed by some that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is 'interfering' with UK law; or that the Human Rights Act (1989) has made English law poorer. Back in August 2005 David Cameron said [...]that if Britain wanted to be able to deport terror suspects, the government should amend the human rights laws "or, if necessary, leave - perhaps temporarily - the ECHR". - BBC News.

This matter has been brought to sharp focus by the case of the 'radical' cleric Abu Qatada.

Sadly, this issue is also confused by those saying we should leave the European Union, as if they were one and the same. There follows therefore a short and brief lesson in history.

In December 1948 the UN General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In May 1949 the Council Of Europe was founded by 10 countries. Sir Winston Churchill was one of the founding fathers. You can read a transcipt of the speech he made about the Council of Europe at the Winston Churchill Centre Website.

In November 1950 the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms came into being. The UK was one of the original countries to sign, with the convention coming into force in the UK in September 1953.

Under Article 19 of the above convention the ECHR was founded:

To ensure the observance of the engagements undertaken by the High Contracting Parties in the Convention and the Protocols thereto, there shall be set up a European Court of Human Rights, hereinafter referred to as “the Court”. It shall function on a permanent basis.

Also in June 1987 the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) came into force.

But let me return to the case of Abu Qatada. He arrived in the United Kingdom in September 1993, having previously fled Jordan and gone to Pakistan.

You can read a detailed account of his history in the UK in the judgement of the ECHR at Strasbourg dated 17 January 2012. (see ECHR Application no. 8139/09)

This is the judgement that has led to the recent 'confusion' about when the three month deadline came to an end.

In respect of the judgement it needs to be recognised that in the majority of the arguments put forward, the ECHR found in favour of the UK Government.

For reasons contained within the judgement the Court unanimously:
  1. Declares the application admissible;
  2. Holds that the applicant’s deportation to Jordan would not be in violation of Article 3 of the Convention;
  3. Holds that there has been no violation of Article 3 taken in conjunction with Article 13 of the Convention;
  4. Holds that the applicant’s deportation to Jordan would not be in violation of Article 5 of the Convention;
  5. Holds that the applicant’s deportation to Jordan would be in violation of Article 6 of the Convention on account of the real risk of the admission of evidence at the applicant’s retrial of obtained by torture of third persons.
In terms of it's final ruling of the real risk of the admission of evidence obtained by torture ECHR says in paragraph 285:

In the present case, the situation is different. Extensive evidence was presented by the parties in respect of the applicant’s re-trial in Jordan and thoroughly examined by the domestic courts. Moreover, in the course of the proceedings before this Court, the applicant has presented further concrete and compelling evidence that his co-defendants were tortured into providing the case against him. He has also shown that the Jordanian State Security Court has proved itself to be incapable of properly investigating allegations of torture and excluding torture evidence, as Article 15 of UNCAT requires it to do. His is not the general and unspecific complaint that was made in Mamatkulov and Askarov; instead, it is a sustained and well-founded attack on a State Security Court system that will try him in breach of one of the most fundamental norms of international criminal justice, the prohibition on the use of evidence obtained by torture. In those circumstances, and contrary to the applicants in Mamatkulov and Askarov, the present applicant has met the burden of proof required to demonstrate a real risk of a flagrant denial of justice if he were deported to Jordan.

Article 15 of UNCAT says:

Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.

Paragraph 266 of the ECHR judgement says: ....It imposes a clear obligation on States. As the United Nations Committee Against Torture has made clear, Article 15 is broad in scope. It has been interpreted as applying to any proceedings, including, for instance, extradition proceedings...

Therefore in this respect of the burden of proof; that Abu Qatadar would not stand trial in Jordan on the basis of evidence obtained by torture, it was now up to the UK Government to demonstrate that they had received such assurances from the Government of Jordan.

The Home Secretary Theresa May is satisfied that she has received such assurances from the Government of Jordan. This was confirmed by the Special Immigration Appeal Commission (SIAC) on April 17, 2012.

SIAC said in judgement that the light of existing and new factors produced by negotiations at the highest level with the Government of Jordan over the last two months, the risk that caused the Strasbourg Court to block, in so far as it could, the deportation of the appellant to Jordan has now been satisfactorily removed. Consequently, the Secretary of State has announced her intention to deport the appellant "on or about 30 th April 2012".

Meanwhile or subsequently, Abu Qatada's lawyers where preparing an appeal against the part of the ECHR's ruling that stated it was satisfied that he would not face torture if he was deported.

This is in relation to Article 3 of European Convention on Human Rights:

Prohibition of torture - No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

In their judgement of 17 January ECHR said on this matter in Paragraph 205. For the foregoing reasons the Court concludes that, on the basis of the evidence before it, the applicant’s return to Jordan would not expose him to a real risk of ill-treatment.

It is now up to the Panel of the Grand Chamber to decide as to whether the appeal was made within the 3 months time-limit, and whether to accept the request for final determination by the Grand Chamber.

Article 43 of the Convention says:
  1. Within a period of three months from the date of the judgment of the Chamber, any party to the case may, in exceptional cases, request that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber.
  2. A panel of five judges of the Grand Chamber shall accept the request if the case raises a serious question affecting the interpretation or application of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, or a serious issue of general importance.
  3. If the panel accepts the request, the Grand Chamber shall decide the case by means of a judgment.
This is due process as governed by national and international laws and conventions. Such laws and conventions are there to protect our fundamental human rights.

But not only our rights, but everybody's human rights. Irrespective of what we know, or what we feel about a person, they shouldn't  be treated worse than what we would expect and demand for ourselves.

And what would we expect and demand?

We would expect and demand to be treated in accordance with national and international laws, that our basic and fundamental human rights are respected and protected.

We would expect due process to be followed, which if inconvenient to the agenda of some politicians could not be changed at their whim.

Over 60 years ago great leaders including Sir Winston Churchill founded the Council of Europe, and set in law the European Convention on Human Rights.

I can see no reason that could be reasonably argued that we should now; in haste and desire for political advantage, disengage ourself from these well established international safeguards of all our human rights.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Abu Qatada's time limit to appeal.

On January 17, 2012 the European Court of Human Rights passed judgement on the case of Abu Qatada. The 'radical' preacher had 3 months to appeal, and ask for his case to be heard by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The Home Office argues that the deadline for an appeal to be lodged was midnight Monday 16 April, 2012. However,  Abu Qatada's legal team say that the deadline was midnight Tuesday 17 April 2012.

But who is right?

The first thing you need to do is forget the English and Welsh legal definition of time-limits in this case. This says that a calendar month is A period from a specified day in one month to the day numerically corresponding to that day in the following month, less one. (Source:

Instead you need to look at the European Convention on the Calculation of Time-Limits and accompanying Explanatory Report.

Things to note are:

Article 1 states The rules for calculation of the time-limit are mandatory in the case of time-limits established by law or by a judicial or administrative authority. (see Paragraph 16 - Explanatory Report.) So contrary to some reports it seems that the ECHR has no discretion in deciding whether the time limit had passed.

Article 3 states that the time-limit starts at midnight of the day that the time limit starts. Therefore the start of the 3 month appeal period was midnight 17 January 2012. ( See Paragraph 21 - Explanatory Report.)

In Article 4 you will find the definition of a month (see Paragraph 27 - Explanatory Report.)

Examples given in the explanatory report are:

A time-limit of one month:

- starting on 5 January, expires on 5 February; starting on 30 April, expires on 30 May (not on the last day of May);

- starting on either 30 May or 31 May, expires on 30 June; - starting on 31 January expires on 28 or 29 February depending on whether it is a leap year or not.

Therefore it seems; if my understanding of the European Convention on the Calculation of Time-Limits is correct (and I'm no lawyer), the time-limit of three months started on midnight 17 January 2012 till midnight 17 April 2012.

See Also: BBC News - Abu Qatada appeal: May stands by deadline.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Welsh council elections and some poor manifestos.

In May, the rest of Wales shall vote for the councillor of their choice. Meanwhile, we on Ynys Môn will wait patiently until next year, before we decide whom we want. Hopefully by then, together with multi member wards, we can get rid of those disgraced Councillors whom have made the island such a laughing stock.

However, we can still take an interest in what the main parties are saying to the rest of Wales in their manifestos.

I think we can all agree that in order to encourage people to participate in democracy you need transparency and accountability. Take voting for a councillor, first of all their should be a genuine choice of candidates.  Then that choice should be based on a clear understanding - what a councillor says will be their priorities, what their aims and aspirations are, what their fundamental beliefs are.

This is why a manifesto is important, it is where candidates can spell out what they stand for, be that a national or local manifesto.

If we look at the Welsh Conservative Manifesto 2012 we have things like:

We are committed to abolishing business rates for small businesses. This will allow firms to expand and hire new staff,stimulating local economies. To further boost the economy, Welsh Conservatives are committed to the introduction of enterprise zones in Wales, to offering tailored support for the unemployed and to freezing Severn Bridge tolls.

Now do remember this is a manifesto for local Council elections, and whilst the Welsh Conservatives maybe committed (Thesaurus - bound or obligated, as under a pledge to a particular cause, action, or attitude; "committed church members"; "a committed Marxist") to do many things, what it does lack is details on how it hopes to achieve them. Take the commitment to freeze Severn Bridge tolls, surely that's a matter for the UK Government, unless they wish to have responsibility devolved to the Welsh Assembly. If so why not spell it out, and even then, what has that to do with election of councillors, especially to ratepayers in North Wales?

At least their coalition partners at Westminster, the Liberal Democrats, can in their Manifesto make claims (if disputed) about actions and results of Councils i.e Wrexham and Cardiff, where they have been the ruling party.

For me Plaid Cymru's  Manifesto is the most comprehensive.

As an example their manifesto says: The transport system in Wales is the main source of air pollution. Local councils have an important role to play in ensuring we have a transport system in Wales which meets our economic and social needs but also reduces our carbon emissions. Plaid Cymru-run councils will build on Plaid Cymru’s successes as part of the previous Welsh Government in ensuring that more money is spent on public transport than on road-building. In Cardiff, Plaid Cymru has more than doubled spending on cycle infrastructure, created new park and ride schemes and a bike hire scheme.

A manifesto for local council elections that actually mentions local councils - surely not?

As for Labour, the least said the better. According to BBC News: Labour is not publishing a national manifesto, saying it will not offer voters "blanket promises" - yes go figure.

See also:
Welsh Ramblings - Not fit for purpose
Insideout Swansea - Back on the stump.

Monday, 16 April 2012

UK to subsidize nuclear power via EU?

In August 2010, Chris Huhne the then Energy Secretary told BBC News

"My position and my party's position was always one of scepticism about the economics of nuclear power, but what we did in the coalition agreement is recognise the differences between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

"We responded with an agreement which will say very clearly there will be no public subsidy for nuclear because it is an old technology... But at the same time, if investors come forward with proposals it is absolutely clear they will go through. "We believe that will happen. We believe there are investors who will be investing in new nuclear,"

But since then, there has been the nuclear disaster at Japan, the decision of Germany to close all of their nuclear plants by 2022, a world wide slow down and jittery investors as shown by E.ON UK and RWE npower decision to abandon their plans to build nuclear plants at Wylfa and Olbury.

All of this begs the question - will nuclear power ever be viable without subsidy from the public purse?

A post in the blog Zerohedge "Suddenly A Nasty Fight over Subsidies for Nukes in Europe" brought to my attention allegations that the UK was trying to get a subsidy for nuclear power from the EU.

The French newspaper also ran this story.

According to the German press, four countries among which France and Britain have demanded that nuclear power is subsidized by the European Union, as well as renewable energy. The France denies such an initiative....

...An article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Friday, France, Britain, Poland and the Czech Republic have sent letters to Brussels in order to subsidize the EU nuclear energy such as wind or Solar, in preparation for a meeting of energy ministers next week.

Meanwhile on Friday Reuters had the headline "EU states say renewable goal not fair on other fuels"

"Renewable energy does not have more right to an EU target than other fuels, according to pro-nuclear states and coal-intensive Poland, as debate heats up over updating a 2020 goal to have a 20 percent share of green fuel in the energy mix.

The comments from Britain and France, as well as Poland, have been made as part of consultations on the Energy 2050 Roadmap....

The British government in a position paper said "any targets set should be neutral with respect to different low carbon technologies."

All of which is based on leaked documents, but what seems clear is that there are moves afoot lead by the UK, France and Poland to include nuclear power and other 'neutral technology' as green fuel in the energy mix.

Whether this would lead to the EU funding nuclear power in the UK is unlikely, as Germany which pays 20% of the EU bill is most likely to veto such move.

All of which means that if the Conservatives cannot get the Liberal Democrats to change the coalition agreement to allow subsidy of the nuclear sector, then it seems there is little chance of investors coming forward.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Water is essential to life, and not some commodity to be traded to the highest bidder.

At a basic level there are many things we can do without and there are some things essential to life. Water for instance, without which none of us would be here.

So the idea that we should profit from this essential natural resource is in my opinion wrong.

But why are we talking about selling water for profit? - that'll be down to a perceived shortage of water in Southern England. Now you could blame a lack of rainfall for this current crisis, however I'm more inclined to blame to privatisation of  water companies.

It's a simple equation after all - spend on infrastructure or pay a dividend to share holders?

Now we know that water companies in South England have being spending a lot improving their network - but I ask you would they have done so if it weren't for Ofwat, and should they have spent much more?

Take Thames Water as an example, which as reported by Metro newspaper:

"Thames Water, one of seven companies imposing a ban from Thursday, loses 665million litres of water a day.

The country’s biggest supplier, with 8.8million customers, tops the first leak table of British water companies based on figures from industry regulator Ofwat. Its 25.7 per cent leak rate is five times higher than the five per cent that will be saved by the hosepipe ban.

Thames’ leaks would fill Wembley Stadium every 36 hours.

The other six providers banning hosepipes – Southern Water, South East Water, Anglian Water, Sutton and East Surrey, Veolia Central and Veolia South East – had an average leak of 17.7 per cent.

The total amount of water leaked by water firms in England and Wales – 1,226billion litres – would fill Lake Windermere, England’s largest lake, four times a year."

In other words a lack of forward planning, a lack of sufficient investment in infrastructure and a simple case of profits and shareholder dividends trumping all other considerations.

Not that consumers can exactly escape the blame, no doubt we could all do things to reduce our water consumption, but a hose pipe ban is rather silly. A recent test on Radio 4 showed that when washing a car, a hosepipe if used with an attachment, actually used less water than someone using a watering can.

But back to Wales, and the idea that we should profit from water by selling it to those in need. Apparently we should treat water the same as we do oil, and profit from the very simple fact that because Wales is on western side of the UK and hence has more rainfall than counties to the south and east of England.

Now I'm not saying that we shouldn't supply water to them counties in need of water; to make up for the water that leaks from their system, or to wash cars or water gardens, however it's not as easy as that.

There's the cost of doing so, Nigel Annett, Welsh Water's managing director, told BBC Wales it was possible but the cost was "truly prohibitive".

And this also assumes that we in Wales have sufficient storage of water. Alun Attwood, water resources manager of Environment Agency Wales speaking to BBC Wales, said the idea of whether there was enough water in Wales to support a national water grid, or large-scale transfers across the border, was something that needed to be considered in much more detail. Mr Attwood said: "Our recent forecast suggests that because of the limited water available in Wales - and already some rivers are at their sustainable limit in terms of how much water can be taken from them without affecting the environment - it means that there might not be enough water to provide surplus water, or further water to England."

In other words it would cost too much and we haven't enough water storage or any sufficient spare capacity to supply others, without our needs and that of the environment being put at risk.

Of course the logical conclusion to an argument that Wales should make the most of this natural resource is too maximise potential, and to do that you'd need more storage, either by increasing the size of existing reservoirs or by building new reservoirs. And I doubt anybody is really suggesting that are they?

Monday, 9 April 2012

Dylan's Restaurant @ Porthaethwy


In these times of austerity, recession and bad news concerning employment prospects on the island, I was pleased to be contacted with some good news.

In June of this year a new restaurant will open on Menai Straits' waterfront.  With its glass and timber clad boat house design at the water’s edge; a contemporary reference to Anglesey’s maritime culture and history, Dylan's Restaurant will aim to be a friendly, high quality, family oriented restaurant at the heart of the local community, and will work hard to promote Menai Bridge, the wider area, welsh language and culture.

Dylan's Restaurant has been awarded a 'local investment fund grant' by the Welsh Assembly, to help create new jobs. Venture Wales assisted with the application, and the owners of the 'soon to be open' Dylan's Restaurant speak highly of the Economic Development Office at Ynys Môn Council for their support in  turning an aspiration into reality.. The funds will go directly towards capital expenditure items and in particular, the fitting-out of the kitchen at Dylan's Restaurant.

If you want a job at this new restaurant, you can apply online at Dylan's website.

Alison Bell tells me that we should all "look out for Dylan's vintage Citroen HY van around the Island and North Wales coastline, which will be advertising the arrival of the new restaurant. The van will be visiting caravan and camping sites, beaches and nearby towns, providing information and distributing sample slices of pizza. We are also aiming to visit local schools to deliver educational and fun baking demonstrations to primary school children as part of Dylan's commitment to the principles of healthy eating.

The upstairs space in the restaurant will be available at selected times as a meeting place for local interest and social groups; as a gallery space for local artists; as a venue for lectures and talks about local issues; for wine tasting evenings, celebrations etc."

For more information visit Dylan's Facebook page.

Porthaethwy (Menai Bridge), need I remind you, is used as the backdrop to the popular S4C soap opera Rownd a Rownd

Post updated 2/6/2012 Picture of van added and changes to text.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

'Pasty Tax' - Vat on freshly prepared food when sold hot or warmish..

In last week budget the Chancellor, George Osborne announced a consultation on a change to VAT rules on freshly prepared food, dubbed the 'pasty tax'. But what exactly is being proposed?

Sadly, this was rather lost by the media with an obsession as to whether David Cameron or George Osborne had eaten any pasties, furthermore it was reported by some newspapers that hot takeaway food would now be subject to VAT.

However, as the law currently stands, standard rate of VAT already applies to food ‘specifically sold for consumption whilst still hot’ (see HMRC Notice 709/1 Catering and take-away food.)

But what if you sell the product cold and provide a microwave for the customer to heat the food themselves? The tax-man has already covered that possibility:

"If you sell food to be taken away for consumption elsewhere, but you make a microwave oven available for your customers to heat up the food, either before or after the till point, you are making a supply of hot food which must be standard-rated. This is the case whether or not you make a charge for the use of the oven."

No, what the Chancellor will be consulting on is a change to the following provision in relation to freshly prepared products:

"If you sell freshly cooked products for consumption while they are still hot they are standard-rated..... Some of these products are, however, not sold with such an intention They may only be hot/warm as they are in the process of cooling down. Examples include pies, pasties, sausage rolls and similar savoury products, cooked chickens or joints of meat, bread products and croissants. The liability will depend, therefore, on how you prepare and sell them."

And if they are sold "warm simply because they happen to be freshly baked, are in the process of cooling down and are not intended to be eaten while hot; or cold or chilled at the time of purchase" then the VAT can be zero rated.

From October it is being proposed that even freshly cooked products if sold hot (warmer than the ambient temperature outside) will have a standard rate of VAT.

Whilst you think about what is actually different between the supply of foods that are cold, be they consumed immediately or not being zero rated, and similar 'warm food' (even if cooling down) which may in the future have a standard rate of VAT, let me talk about the European Union.

The European Union has over the years been legislating with the aim of harmonising VAT across member states. There are currently two VAT rates member states can apply a standard rate (minimum 15%) and a reduced rate (minimum 5%). The UK has a derogation allowing a zero rate of VAT on certain goods.

What is allowed at the reduced rate is specified in Sixth Council Directive 77/388/EEC of 17 May 1977 as subsequently amended. You will recall I've talked about this directive before in my post about Wales Air Ambulance and VAT.

Which brings us on to Mr Manfred Bog of Germany.

"Mr Bog sold drinks and food prepared for consumption (in particular, sausages and chips) from three identical mobile snack bars at weekly markets. The mobile snack bars were equipped with a sales counter with a glass splashguard, below and around which ran a ‘board’ made from a material sold under the name ‘resopal’ which could be used for the consumption of food on the spot. To the sides of the vehicle, above the drawbar, there was a folding ‘tongue’, which was in the form of a table at the same height and from the same material as the ‘board’ running round the vehicle. The area where customers could consume the food was protected from the rain by a folding roof."

In his tax declaration for 1994 Mr Bog declared the turnover from the sale of drinks as subject to the standard rate of VAT, while the turnover from the sale of food was declared as subject to the reduced rate. The German tax-man disagreed and said that the sale of hot food for immediate consumption should be subject to the standard rate of VAT.

Cutting the story short, in the end the Bundesfinanzhof (German High Court) decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:
  1. Is the sale of food or meals prepared for immediate consumption a supply of goods within the meaning of Article 5 of [the Sixth Directive]?
  2. Does the answer to Question 1 depend on whether additional service elements are supplied (provision of facilities for consumption)?
  3. If Question 1 is answered in the affirmative: is the term ‘foodstuffs’ in category 1 of Annex H to [the Sixth Directive] to be interpreted as covering only foodstuffs to ‘take away’ as typically sold in grocers’ shops, or does it also cover food or meals which have been prepared for immediate consumption by boiling, grilling, roasting, baking or other means?’
You can read preliminary rulings on the European Court of Justice website.

The European Court of Justice(Third Chamber) preliminary ruling was:
  1. Articles 5 and 6 of Sixth Council Directive 77/388/EEC of 17 May 1977 on the harmonisation of the laws of the Member States relating to turnover taxes – Common system of value added tax: uniform basis of assessment, as amended by Council Directive 92/111/EEC of 14 December 1992, must be interpreted as meaning that:

  2. – the supply of food or meals freshly prepared for immediate consumption from snack stalls or mobile snack bars or in cinema foyers is a supply of goods within the meaning of Article 5 if a qualitative examination of the entire transaction shows that the elements of supply of services preceding and accompanying the supply of the food are not predominant;

    – except in cases in which a party catering service does no more than deliver standard meals without any additional elements of supply of services, or in which other special circumstances show that the supply of the food represents the predominant element of a transaction, the activities of a party catering service are supplies of services within the meaning of Article 6.

  3. In cases of the supply of goods, the term ‘foodstuffs’ in category 1 of Annex H to the Sixth Directive 77/388, as amended by Directive 92/111, must be interpreted as also covering food and meals which have been prepared for immediate consumption by boiling, grilling, roasting, baking or other means.
Not unsurprisingly the UK Government says this case and others, does not apply to the UK, and it may only be resolved following a lengthy court case.

The VAT Blog in their post HMRC don't believe the WURST will happen here in the UK gives a good summary of HMRC position as detailed in Revenue & Customs Brief 19/11

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Mad Cows and Mad Men!

The following is a quote from Michael Moore's top selling book, and book of the year (2002) 'Stupid White Men':

"In Britain, it seems that all the attention in recent years has been on the evils on Mad Cow - with little or no heed paid to the Mad Men! Just because you don't eat the Mad Men is no reason to ignore the serious safety issues here. British politicians and corporate executives are running amox, trying to catch up with the Unites States and show the world that your British SWM can go head to head with the best of any stupidity that the Americans can produce. You need only consider the state of the train system in Britain to see where following the American Way (in this case, of privatizing formerly well-run public entities) will get you.

There is nothing sadder than seeing leaders of other countries trying to mimic the leaders of our country. American decides to bomb some country - and your head of state joins right in. We accept a dumbed-down mass media - and your nightly newscasts soon start to resemble ours. We decide to eliminate the safety net from our poor, and your legislative bodies can't wait to start cutting numerous social services that have been in place for decades.

And that last one has been the real shock to this observer. To see you in your countries start to beat up those who are less fortunate, to make life more difficult for the m, I'm convinced that this will be unravelling of your soul. If you get a kick out of watching Americans open fire in their school and workplaces on a monthly basis, if you think it's progress to have infant mortality rates in your cities that are worse than Nairobi, if you'd like to live in a world with even less civil liberties than you now enjoy, just keeping following your path. You'll only end up being a Mini-Me-America, you'll get every invitation to join us in out attempts to exploit the poor in other countries so we can all have really cheap running shoes to wear! HOW CAN YOU PASS THIS UP?!

Well, maybe you can. Maybe there is still hope for you...."

But 10 years on since Michael Moore wrote the above, think about the words and how apt they have been ever since, and ask yourself is there still hope for us?

'Stupid White Men' by Michael Moore is published by Penguin Books