And now it’s Google’s turn, this time it’s privacy

Simon Davies, who writes a Blog called the Privacy Surgeon has today commented on the EU Commission’s latest intervention against Google. His article, Europe to Google: respect our laws or face the consequences details the actions taken by the EU’s regulators, led by France which has amongst the strongest data protection and privacy laws in the EU. His article’s title sums up his views as to what is happening.

I have been meaning to write up my views that Google may have jumped the shark, but it’ll have to wait ’till another day, meanwhile, here’s another piece of evidence. …

#FreeGary to stay in the UK

Today, Theresa May announced that she was prohibiting the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the United States on computer hacking charges. She did this via an announcement to the House of Commons which can be watched on I come to the conclusion that she’s a class act. I also watched her yesterday dealing with Parliamentary Questions on the #snooperscharter. PQs are difficult for the opposition, the government always gets the last word, and so with only one intervention it can be desperately hard to get one’s point across; it’s too easy for a Minister to ignore the question and answer one they want too. Today she announced, in an hour long question and answer session that

  1. she was exercising her right of prerogative to stop the McKinnon extradition
  2. she was going to introduce new procedures to ensure that British Citizens get to be prosecuted in the UK for crimes committed in the UK
  3. she was not planning to demand that the US, (or other extradition counterparties) present their evidence to UK courts
  4. she would seek to end politician’s role in extradition process

Her decision is taken because on review of the evidence she believes that McKinnon’s Human Rights would be breached if he were to be extradited to the US. She has received medical evidence that he was a significant suicide risk and his European Convention , Article 3 rights, the right to life would be at risk.

I am deeply unsure that this makes good or fair law.

She has abdicated the fundamental tests of extradition, that it must be a serious crime in both states to the courts; the treaty prohibits that British Courts from evaluating the evidence to determine if there is a British legal case to answer, the Home Secretary can now only use prerogative to defend a suspects Human Rights, and she wants to give that away.

Despite this most MPs on both sides of the house seemed pleased, although some Labour MPs raise the issue of Babar Ahamd and Syed Talha Ahsan who may have both benefited from forum bars since their alleged illegal acts cannot have taken place in the USA; they have never been there. Despite this, their families expressed their solidarity with McKinnon and his family.  Only Alan Johnson MP raised the issue that when the medical evidence was reviewed in an open court, it rejected the arguments that McKinnon was too ill to face trial, or punishment, in the USA.

Keith Vaz made a good argument that the British Courts should evaluate if there is sufficient evidence that there is a case to answer, and that politicians should keep the prerogative power to ensure that extraordinary clemency in the case of McKinnon or extraordinary vengence in the case of Pinochet can remain part of the system. (Although the last case didn’t work so well, did it; but that’s because Jack Straw left it to the judges.)

Yvette Cooper made a very balanced speech, welcoming the ruling, offering parliamentary help in sensible reform of the extradition laws and asking what precedents this created both for international pursuit of computer criminals and for others currently under threat of extradition, including Richard O’Dwyer. No answers were forth coming on the latter two questions.

For more on the Mckinnon case, read this at the Guardian and this, from David Allen Green in the New Statesman, who documents the changing arguments of the Mckinnon defence.

I wish Richard O and Julia the best, but I don’t think the law reform proposed will be quick enough, although McKinnon dragged it out for 10 years, so there’s still hope, but I think May closed doors for Richard today.


Does anyone know if Richard can have the extradition hearing reviewed; I still stand to the view that what he did isn’t a crime in the UK and so he shouldn’t have to face trial in the USA.

The Director of Public Prosecutions must now decide if there is a case to answer in the UK and if it’s in the public interest to prosecute. Do we then need to see if anyone will seek to bring a private prosecution if they decide not. …

The Right to Work

At the Tory Party conference, the Chancellor, George Osborne proposes legislation that will allow employers to “buy” employment protection rights in exchange for shares.

Better read and experienced economists than I are writing about how the threat of dismissal will lead to talent leaving; it’s always the confident and good that go first. The Trade Unions are also quick to comment. I just want to mention four points which might otherwise be missed.

Will the difference in treatment between the very highly paid and those less well paid remain? At the moment, senior staff required to leave, sign a compromise agreement and walk into their next job laughing all the way to bank? I can’t see Osborne having made life more difficult for these people, and the preferential treatment of senior staff is an act of collusion between the Boards, the CxO and the remuneration committees. Empowering management is not going to change any of that. The fact is that one company’s board of directors, is another company’s remuneration committee is part of the problem of massive overpayment to CEOs.

I can’t see a small company wanting to dilute its shareholding, and most small companies are not quoted on an exchange i.e. they have no value! Furthermore, where small, particularly patron run companies pay significant dividend payments for tax efficiency purposes, they’ll now have to share these dividend payments with their workers. Those companies whose initial and second stage growth are funded by venture capitalists will also not want their ownership stakes diluted in this way.  Large companies don’t on the whole want to behave unfairly, its the redundancy commitments they don’t want to meet, although it seems that redundancy rights are included in what’s being “bought”. However, large companies have other strategies for the avoidance of paying for employment rights. Large companies avoid redundancy and other rights by outsourcing and employing contractors.

The attitude of both sides of this deal will depend upon if the employer is a succeeding or failing company. As suggested above a succeeding or growing company is unlikely to want to dilute its shareholding or share the dividend payments and needs to be a quoted company or will need a public offering plan to make their shares of interest to employees; but a succeeding company may be able to make this work. A failing or even a stagnant company which may be more likely to want such a deal will be much less attractive to the employees. If a stagnant or failing company is quoted, the risk on the value of the shares is high. i.e the sale price of the employee rights is uncertain, because the likely direction of the share price is downwards. In a failing company, this is a deeply unattractive deal. Also it is in the case of failing companies, that the opportunity to dismiss people for individual performance related causes, rather than undertake redundancy programmes becomes more likely; although on reading the speech, Osborne also plans to allow companies to shirk their redundancy commitments, so there’s no need.

In the Guardian article, John Cridland, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, is quoted as saying,

“In some of Britain’s cutting-edge entrepreneurial companies, the option of share ownership may be attractive to workers, rather than some of their employment rights. But I think this is a niche idea and not relevant to all businesses.”

We are fortunate however in that we have a prototype for this policy.

Companies today can contract wholesale business functions from other companies, such as security, catering and/or cleaning. Some companies outsource large parts of their HR function to specialist companies, although in the UK, this is often poor value. Basically, management theory suggests that you should outsource non core competency work where the transaction cost is less than the internal management cost. In addition, we permit individuals to incorporate themselves and sub-contract in competition with wage earners. There has been some controversy about how the public sector is using these contracts, but in the public sector the primary purpose at the moment is to avoid their grading commitments in their collective bargaining agreements. These contracts allow them to pay more than they have agreed the job is worth. In both the private and public sector, these contracts do not attract employer’s national insurance, although they do attract VAT, if the quarterly fees are above the VAT threshold. Both sides use the NI relief to fund the enhanced pay rates. Contractors, with limited terms, and no accrued rights are invariably paid more than staff with rights. They are paid more for each day worked. These rights are not bought on the market for a risible option price of £2,000 worth of scrip. Bottom line, employers that offer only ‘rights free’ jobs for less than the going rate may find it very hard to fill them.

For most small companies this isn’t an issue, if they want to get rid of someone, they just bully them into leaving, or fire them on notice. NB No one with under two years service has rights anyway and it takes two years to earn minimum redundancy rights greater than 1 month’s notice pay.

This is the “Same Old Tories, reprising the nasty party!”, and it was a Tory that first called them that!

The Daily Mash and News Thump have also now commented,

Your boss doesn’t see ‘what the problem is’

Nation’s workers excited to retain financial ties to companies that sacked them

I’d be interested in comments from others on the balance sheet effects of this proposal, and the impact on an IPO of having an outstanding share grant liability. …

#lab12 conference diary

#lab12 Despite being a member of the Labour Party for 38 years, I have never been to conference before; I have just returned from Manchester, where I attended for 2½ days. It was rather fun, jolly useful and thanks to some of the people I met, inspiring.

I got there late-ish on Sunday and met up with my comrades from Lewisham Deptford CLP, including @vickyfoxcroft, @joe_dromey, @joeperryuk, @mjrharris and @Len_Duvall in a bar near the conference centre. I had been disappointed that the conference and fringe running order had not been sent to me until after I bought my train ticket. This meant I missed part one of the shenanigans and the debate on “Refounding Labour” which I had wanted to attend. After the Lewisham meetup, I moved on to the New Statesman party. I think as a subscriber, I should have had an invite, I didn’t, but anyway, I got in OK. I met up with one of their staff, and expressed my views that I didn’t want to pay to read Dan Hodges and could they stop publishing his stuff. I was advised to write to the Editor, Jason Cowley, with that view, but I can’t find his email or twitter handle! Poor show! …