Financial News

  • 18 May 2013, 5:50

Cameron Set For Talks With Google's Schmidt

David Cameron will meet next week with Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google, just days after a fresh political row erupted over the internet search giant's UK tax affairs.

I understand that Mr Schmidt is to attend a meeting scheduled for Monday of the Prime Minister's Business Advisory Group (BAG), which includes the bosses of some of Britain's biggest companies.

Downing Street sources said that the agenda for the quarterly meeting did not include a discussion about corporate tax avoidance, adding that Mr Cameron had not asked Mr Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, to step aside from the group.

The BAG's members include Angela Ahrendts, boss of Burberry, Philip Clarke, chief executive of Tesco, and Tidjane Thiam, chief executive of Prudential.

Google's UK tax bill made headline news again on Thursday when Matt Brittin, one of the company's senior London-based executives, was grilled by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) over its payment of just 6m in British corporation tax in 2011.

The search giant generated more than 3bn in revenue that year but claims that UK transactions actually take place in Ireland, where the corporate tax rate is significantly lower.

Mr Schmidt's continued status as an adviser to Mr Cameron has attracted growing criticism from parliamentarians, including Margaret Hodge, chairman of the PAC, and Lord Oakeshott, the Liberal Democrats' former Treasury spokesman.

A Downing Street spokeswoman declined to comment specifically on Mr Schmidt but said:

"Companies should pay the tax that they owe. The Government is committed to creating the most competitive corporate tax system in the G20; but this commitment goes hand in hand with our call for strong international standards to make sure that global companies, like anyone else, pay the taxes they owe - a key theme of our G8 agenda.

"The global economy has changed massively over the last decade, but global tax rules have stood still for almost a century, and Britain is leading the international effort to bring them into the twenty first century. That's why we, along with Germany and France, have asked the OECD to scrutinise the international rules."

Some other members of Mr Cameron's advisory group are also thought to have misgivings about Mr Schmidt's involvement in the group, given public pronouncements by the CBI and other business organisations about the need for a level playing field on taxation between UK-based and overseas companies.

A Google spokesman declined to comment on whether Mr Schmidt would attend Monday's meeting.