Google boss Eric Schmidt may snub David Cameron over company's House of Commons grilling

Schmidt has also pulled out of an interview with the BBC, without giving a reason

The internet giant Google has thrown a veil of corporate secrecy around its billionaire executive chairman, putting in doubt his scheduled attendance at a meeting in Downing St tomorrow with the Prime Minister.

Eric Schmidt, a member of the elite group of global company leaders on David Cameron’s Business Advisory Group, has effectively gone to ground after Google was mauled by a Commons committee last week over how little it paid in tax despite generating billions in annual revenue.

No 10 does not know whether Mr Schmidt will attend the meeting of 16 business leaders, which includes Sir James Dyson, the founder of Dyson, Ratan Tata from the Indian company Tata, and Dick Olver, the chairman of BAE Systems.

The BBC was due to interview Mr Schmidt for its Hardtalk current affairs programme, with the presenter, Stephen Sackur, expected to chat to the Google boss about his new book The Digital Age. The corporation confirmed that Mr Schmidt had pulled out of the programme without giving a reason.

Last week Google’s head of operations in northern Europe, Matt Brittin, received a kicking from the Commons Public Accounts Committee, whose chair, Margaret Hodge, said Google “do evil” and use “smoke and mirrors to avoid paying tax”. Mr Brittan said that there was no cover-up at Google and that nothing had been illegally hidden.

The trashing of Google by the PAC, allied to recent comments from both No 10 and the Chancellor, George Osborne, that they will ensure reform of international tax rules and co-operation is high on the agenda of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, has increased speculation that Google’s global boss is about to remove himself from Mr Cameron’s advisory group. Downing St said it was aware of no plans for the Google executive to do so.

Despite Google’s media team saying the company never disclosed its executive chairman’s diary, over the next week Mr Schmidt is in England, where he will have to run a gauntlet of public appearances linked to publicity for his book.

On Monday and Tuesday he will be at the Grove hotel in Hertfordshire for his company’s annual “Big Tent” event, where invited guests will use “Chatham House” rules of confidentiality to discuss behind closed doors the global changes wrought by digital technology and how innovation will effect future generations.

Alberto Gonzales, the former US attorney general, Alec Ross, Hillary Clinton’s State Department innovation adviser, Arkady Dvorkovich, an aide to President Putin in Moscow, and the Swedish foreign affairs minister, Carl Bildt, are among the guests. The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, is scheduled to speak at a public session of the conference on Wednesday.

Sources close to Mr Cameron have suggested that any decision by Mr Schmidt to ditch Downing St in favour of his own company’s global summit will not go down well, given the background noise in Whitehall over Google’s tax bill. Mr Schmidt is also due to attend the Hay book festival next week, although his BBC pull-out now puts that in doubt.

Ahead of the G8 gathering at Loch Erne, No 10 emphasised that the UK government would lead a global call for “strong international standards to make sure that global companies pay the tax they owe.”

Though Google was not mentioned by name, the comments from No 10 build on the PAC’s political attack which branded Google “devious, calculating and unethical” over the £6m it paid in corporation tax in 2011 despite generating more than £3bn in overall income in the UK alone.

The exposé of Google’s tax affairs, coming after revelations that Amazon also paid a fraction of its profits in corporation tax, have increased the perception that HMRC is, as one government source put it, “operating by 20th-century tax rules that need to be urgently updated”.

Although the tax affairs of other companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Starbucks have been scrutinised by the UK taxman, Mr Cameron recently wrote to the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, that “the loss of revenue resulting from tax evasion and aggressive avoidance is staggering”.

Following Starbucks’ statement over its UK tax affairs and its promise to pay the Exchequer an additional £20m, there was an expectation that Google could engage in a similar exercise in public contrition.

That now appears unlikely. The company told The IoS there would be no change to Mr Brittin’s account to the PAC and “there are no plans to follow Starbucks”.

In a further development today, a former Google executive accused the firm of running an 'immoral' tax avoidance scheme for the past decade.

Barney Jones, 34, who worked at the company between 2002 and 2006, told The Sunday Times: “The real victims are ordinary taxpayers in Britain who are being cheated by Google.

They don't have the means to hire accountants to pretend they make their money in Ireland, Bermuda or the British Virgin Islands.”

He claimed he was ready to hand over more than 100,000 emails and documents to HMRC.

Peter Barron, Google’s director of external relations, told the paper: “These questions relate to Google’s business in the UK going back a decade or more.

“None of the allegations put to us change the fact that Google pays the corporate tax due on its UK activities and complies fully with UK law.”

The Google players called to account

Matt Brittin

Born 1 December 1968 in Surrey. 6ft 3in. Educated Hampton School, Middlesex, University of Cambridge and London Business School. Three times Cambridge Blue. Bronze medal in 1988 World Rowing Championships. Joined Google 2007, managing director from 2009. Previous non-executive director of Sainsbury’s (2011). Owns a microdog called Wilf. Dinghy sailor. (Joint) Guinness world record holder in Greek dancing (2008) and beatboxing (2011). Married Katherine Betts in 1995. Two sons (born 1999 and 2001). Cycled Land’s End to John O’Groats for charity (2011).

Eric Schmidt

Born 27 April 1955 in Washington DC. 138th richest person in the world, 45th richest in America, worth $8.2bn (Forbes 2013). Previously married to Wendy Boyle, co-founder of Schmidt family foundation charity. Two daughters, Sophie and Allison. Divorce cost $1.5bn, second most expensive divorce in history. Has homes in Atherton and Montecito, both California. Owns a $70m yacht (the ‘Oasis’). Trained commercial pilot, owns a $42m Gulfstream V Jet. Recent girlfriends include concert pianist and composer Chau-Giang Nguyen and Lisa Shields, of the US Council on Foreign Relations.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?