Sunday, September 26, 2004

Booker column

Somewhat belatedly, we have finally got down to looking at this week’s Booker column, a process somewhat delayed by the inordinate time it took to write the piece on the special relationship.

Not entirely coincidentally, Booker picks up this same theme in his second story, which the subs have kindly given the headline, "How to lose old friends". It refers to our piece on the Green Paper on Defence Procurement and our earlier piece on the White Paper on space policy, both of which deal with issues which are pulling the UK further into the maw of the EU common defence and security policy.

But what Booker has noted is that Tory defence spokesman, Gerald Howarth MP has taken up the issue and has tabled a series of probing parliamentary questions put last week to the Secretary of State for Defence, is trying to make the Government come clean about the immense military implications of the EU's proposed Galileo satellite system.

And, as Booker writes – and out readers need no reminding - "this could be the final straw in ending Britain's close defence alliance with the United States."

On the other hand, Booker’s "picture story" deals with another facet of the EU - a surreal dispute between HM Customs and Excise and the charity running a Cotswolds opera company, which is having to face a £60,000 VAT bill – some of it retrospective - because one of its trustees offered to underwrite its losses.

This is entirely as a result of HM Customs and Excise interpreting the requirements of "the second indent of Article 13(2)(a) of the EC 6th VAT Directive", which states that for VAT purposes charities must be administered "by persons who have no direct or indirect interest" in "the result of the activities concerned" – under which diktat, a willingness to underwrite losses is deemed to be a financial interest.

Since the proceeds of the opera house go to charitable causes, my wife remarked that there should be a special place in hell for the people who devised this diabolical instrument. Then, on the other hand, why reserve it just for them?

Booker also deals with the Neil Herron’s enterprise, in serving a writ on Prescott over the misleading government information booklet on the North East region elected assembly, and adds a delicious twist to the story of the rival NESNO (North East Says No) campaign, run by the Tories, noting that, since one of NESNO’s objections to any assembly is that it will not be given enough powers, it has been dubbed the "YESNO" campaign".

The column concludes with an update on the Eursoc poll, noting that it was running at 76 percent in favour of the Falkland Islands for the permanent seat of the European parliament. The poll currently stands (Sunday evening) at 85 percent – and it is still not too late to vote.

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