June 25, 2024

Bits Blog: Eric Schmidt of Google to Meet With British Prime Minister

Given the grilling that Google has gotten this week in Parliament, you might think that Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of the company, would be persona non grata in London these days.

Not so, it appears. Mr. Schmidt is one of 16 high-level corporate executives who have been invited to meet with Prime Minister David Cameron next week. They are members of the Business Advisory Group, which regularly gathers at Mr. Cameron’s office to bat around economic issues.

While the talks are private, it is a safe bet that nobody at No. 10 Downing Street will call Mr. Schmidt “devious,” “unethical” or “evil” – at least not to his face. Those are just some of the terms that Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, used to describe Google during hearings this week on the strategies that multinational companies employ to minimize their taxes.

Ms. Hodge and other lawmakers are upset that Google paid only £6 million in corporate taxes in Britain in 2011, despite generating more than £3 billion in revenue there. Google, which reduces its tax bill in Britain and other European countries by routing sales via Ireland, where corporate taxes are lower, insists that the practice is perfectly legal.

A Downing Street official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said taxation would indeed be included in the discussions of the Business Advisory Group on Monday, which will focus on preparations for the Group of 8 summit meeting next month in Northern Ireland. “Nothing is off the table,” this person said.

“The prime minister has made it very clear that having strong international standards to make sure that global companies, like anyone else, pay the taxes they owe is a priority for the G-8 summit,” Mr. Cameron’s office said in a statement.

In addition to Mr. Schmidt, the advisory group includes prominent chief executives like Vittorio Colao of Vodafone, Tom Enders of EADS and Angela Ahrendts of Burberry. It has been meeting quarterly for more than two years.

One person familiar with Mr. Schmidt’s agenda said he planned to be in London for a number of events next week and would attend the meeting of the advisory group. Mr. Schmidt sits on the council in a “private capacity,” not as an official Google representative, this person added.

Article source: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/17/eric-schmidt-of-google-to-meet-with-british-prime-minister/?partner=rss&emc=rss