LABOUR MEMBER OF
(published in The Tribune,
was a time long ago when Labour saw its job as controlling
capitalism and protecting the people. Now we`re New
Labour in a new post-socialist age so our
reversed to befriending capitalism and controlling the people. After all, companies now have pious mission
statements pledging them to good behaviour while the people are prone
on an orgy of yobbery, drink, crime and salt and sugar intake.
we`ve lavished love, care and gifts on business, our new friend, has
been given huge new areas of profitability, particularly in the public
with PFIs and PPPs and huge swathes of consultancy work.
It`s been allowed to permeate the civil
service, protected from the terrors of European regulation, its taxes
reduced and it`s allowed to run schools, hospitals and housing because
it`s so much more efficient than the public sector.
It`s even been brought into the heart of
capitalism has neither lived up to its claims of social
responsibility nor been worthy of the trust we`ve given it. It hasn`t improved its behaviour.
It sill cuts corners, cheats on contracts,
fiddles the figures and abuses its power and puts profit and the fat
they permit above every social obligation.
Companies Rule. Not OK. Indeed all the old naughtiness, exploitation
of Labour, over-pricing dodgy accountancy to manipulate profits and
rewards at the top have gone into overdrive.
No Enrons here but plenty of lesser frauds in a climate where
ones are unlikely to emerge anyway because of Britain`s protective
ineffective regulation. Unless, of
course, the company goes belly up and all the scams emerge. There`s an increasing propensity to dodge
and tax obligations and regulation, a growing trend to fiddling company
through tax havens or use globalisation as an excuse to beat down
abandon workers and renege on long-standing associations with
closing down and exporting jobs and production lock, stock and barrel
profitable climes. Nothing can be
allowed to stand in the way of higher profits.
If these are better available in the Far East or Eastern Europe
it`s Goodbye Cruel Britain. Companies
don`t ……. like yobs, shave their heads or lie around drunk in the
street. Indeed they`ve got very polished
relations and their dirty work is always done in the dark, but then
consumers, beat up shareholders, stuff their pockets with other
and fiddle more than Yahudi Menuhin.
tried friendship and been spurned.
Trust and cooperation have worked as well as they would with any
wild animals. Carrots, grants, honours
and regular visits to Number 10 haven`t tamed companies` wild tooth and
claw. So why not try treating them in
the way we do real people? Offer rights
and responsibilities but if they abuse their rights and don`t fulfil
responsibilities then why not bash them?
Behaviour Orders are now being doled out in large numbers to
nasty neighbours, yobs, bullies, prostitutes, boozers and social
nuisances. Why shouldn`t they be imposed
on companies to require them to desist from anti-social practices? Joint Stock status was specifically designed
to give companies a legal personality so our New Labour mantra of
responsibilities must apply to them too.
So instead of being left to regulate themselves as they are in
“trust the chaps” system in which the mafia regulates the mafia they
the summary justice of ASBOs for bad behaviour and a requirement to
repentance and better behaviour before the ASBO is lifted.
companies could face tagging, a restriction and supervision
of activity with a compulsory notice displayed in their premises? Earnings attachments have been a useful way
of dealing with those who don`t fulfil their obligations to wives,
society generally. They would be equally
effective in siphoning off excess profits, such as those of banks and
companies make out of our misery. Use
them too on those who eschew obligations to redundant workers or areas
abandon, or fail to pay back government grants and incentives if they
overseas. Dispersal orders can be
invoked to deal with price fixing, restrictive practices and trading
arrangements or other forms of collusion which cause the public to lose
a nice armoury for Yob Capitalism but it
leaves the problem of how to deal with the company sins which are more
to tackle: the export of jobs and production and the tax fiddles or
laundered through tax havens to avoid tax and obligations to the
provided their markets, trained and educated their workers and maintained the
basic networks of transport, law and order which underpin their
operations. House arrest as is being
considered for terror suspects may be too extreme but imputation of
earned in this country for tax purposes and extraction of the money by
of earnings in this country can be applied to profits here.
service can also be invoked to ensure
that firms closing production in this country to take it abroad fulfil
obligations to the local community, to the workers made redundant, to
up the site and providing finance for new local jobs and retraining. Backed
by curfew and reporting-in arrangements to ensure that departure
delayed until all is done and that all
grants made available to set up there in the first place are repaid,
be a major deterrent to running out on this country and mugging its
from a hidey hole outside.
resources of civilisation to deal with our foot
loose predatory capitalism set free from its roots and obligations by
globalisation are neither exhausted nor as inadequate as our government
have us believe. All we have to do is
treat them as the legal persons they are and use the same weapons we
are so enthusiastically
applying to yobs, neighbours from hell, druggies, petty criminals and
too small to fight back. Treat nasty
business neighbours in the same way and the social inadequates we’re
depriving of their rights might even be helped to understand that in
small way they are pioneering processes which will bring huge benefit
society. It will certainly provide
higher tax revenue which we might even be able to use to retrain the
we`re bullying, and make
Of course we could try the obvious alternative and provide an effective independent regulator like American Securities and Exchange Commission but companies seem horrified at that prospect. Perhaps a short, sharp shock might make them think again.