Today's letter from the Editor
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Page 3 Profile: Eric Schmidt, Google executive chairman
Here to say sorry?
Google was humiliated before the Commons Public Accounts Committee as MPs attacked the firm’s (incredibly successful) attempts to pay less tax. The internet behemoth managed to pay just £6m in corporation tax on £3bn UK sales in 2011 by routing the money through Ireland, then on to the Netherlands, and then to a holdings company in Bermuda. Committee chairman Margaret Hodge mauled Matt Brittin, Google’s head of operations in Northern Europe, using the company’s “Don’t be evil” slogan against them. “I think that you do do evil in that you use smoke and mirrors to avoid paying tax,” she said. Now Brittin’s superior, Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt, will meet David Cameron on Monday.
Another stormy encounter?
Perhaps not. Mr Schmidt, 58, Princeton-educated and worth $8.2bn, making him the world’s 138th richest person, is heading to No 10 for a quarterly meeting of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group, of which he is a member. The panel, set up in 2010, offers “high-level advice on critical business and economic issues facing the country”. Let’s hope those issues include the immoral practices of the world’s biggest search engine. A No 10 source warned that “nothing is off the table” in the talks.
Will Cameron take action?
Last year, it was revealed that there had been at least 23 meetings between Tory ministers and Google bosses over a two-year period, so don’t hold your breath. Sceptics note that Rachel Whetstone, Google’s communications bigwig, is an old friend of Mr Cameron. Schmidt has rubbished the “don’t be evil” motto, saying that when he joined the company in 2001 he thought it was the “stupidest rule ever”.
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