Friday, 5 December 2014

In the Media



The Institute picks interesting stories and news items every week from the worlds of art, culture and social study and presents them in the blog. This week the stories have been chosen by Taina Cooke.


A fairer year of 2015 - the new transparency law for oil, gas and mining companies

A miracle has happened! All the UK oil, gas and mining companies woke up on Monday with a newfound social conscience and thought that maybe they should exploit the developing countries a bit less. As a New Year’s resolution they have decided to end the shadiness of global trade and start publishing details of the payments they make to different governments across the world for access to natural resources. The 1st of January 2015 will mark the beginning of an era characterised by more trust, more transparency and less corruption!
Okay, the UK government might have helped them a bit. Or a lot, to be more precise. The Parliament, you see, passed a historic transparency law for oil, gas and mining companies which helps to fight poverty and corruption in resource-rich but poor countries. The new law brings hundreds of billions of pounds worth of taxes, licence fees and royalties available to public scrutiny making it more difficult for companies and governments to make shady deals behind closed doors. Companies failing to report truthfully and accurately could face criminal prosecution.



UK is the first EU member state to fulfill the requirements of the EU Accounting Directive by passing the transparency law. All 28 EU countries are required to implement the directive by July 2015 and Finland, alongside five other countries, has publicly committed to early adoption. Passage of the law in Europe sends a strong signal to the US and Canada too encouraging them to join the fight against corruption and the “resource curse”. Fingers crossed, in 2015 an increasing number of governments will help the oil, gas and mining companies to wake up their sleeping consciences and start acting in a more open, more honest and more responsible way.  


Labour’s plan to strip private schools’ tax privileges causes mayhem

The class war is back on. The Labour party and Tories are fiercely fighting over private schools’ tax privileges and the troublemaker at the frontline seems to be Labour’s Shadow Secretary of Education, Tristram Hunt. Or this is the picture painted for us by newspapers such as The Telegraph. In reality, Mr Hunt has acted on a concern raised by many: why do private schools receive tax reliefs based on their charity status when so many of them do so little to earn it?

Mr Hunt has announced that a Labour government would remove business rates relief worth £165m a year from private schools that were not doing enough to help neighbouring state schools. According to Mr Hunt, in order to justify their charitable status private schools should, for example, run more summer schools, sponsor academies and support teacher training. Several advocates of the current tax relief system, however, suggest that removing the reliefs would result in increased fees or severe cut backs on some areas.



Tristram Hunt, as you might have guessed already, comes from a wealthy background and is privately educated himself. He’s been criticised for threatening private schools and effectively trying to deny children the same privilege he enjoyed. On the other hand, having in-depth knowledge about the system in practise hardly invalidates the criticism made of it. Also, if Labour’s suggestion about the relief removal being equivalent to just over 2 per cent of the private school’s fee income is correct, there certainly is room for some well grounded cuts.  

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