The week ahead: Corporate tax evasion, police commissioner elections, first libor damages trial

If last week was the all-guns-blazing Hollywood blockbuster of current affairs, the next 7 days offers a more understated, Almodóvar-inspired, roundup of events. Monday sees the beginning of the end for a long-running saga that has fuelled plenty of anti-EU sentiment as Mohammed Othman, better known as Abu Qatada, hears the result of his latest bid to block deportation. The Jordanian national has been fighting extradition to Jordan to face terror charges for the past seven years, but this ‘scraping the barrel’ Special Immigration Appeal could prove to be his last.

Speaking of trying the public’s patience, corporate tax avoidance comes under the spotlight in Parliament on Monday, when the biggest of big fish come before the Select Committee to discuss the ‘Taxation of Multinational Corporations’. The Chief Executive Officer of Google UK; the Managing Director of Starbucks UK and Amazon’s Director of Public Policy are all in the firing line, after it was revealed just how little tax they pay. Everyone likes an efficient search engine, a convenient cup of coffee and a cheap online purchase, but perhaps not at that price.

Completing a trinity of alleged wrongdoing, the investigation by the Parliamentary Commission into the behaviour of the banking industry continues just a few doors down. On Monday, Sir John Vickers, former chair of the Independent Commission on Banking Standards, gives his two pence worth.

That leads us nicely into Tuesday, when the first Libor damages trial in the UK comes to court. Guardian (no relation) Care Home Group from Wolverhampton is suing Barclays for up to £38 million for allegedly selling them manipulated interest rate swaps between 2007 and 2008. The case is seen as a testing of the legal ground for redress in the rate-rigging scandal, and, depending on the outcome, Barclays’ record £290 million fines may be set to soar.

Is there any enthusiasm for US politics left out there? If there is, you can squeeze out the last drops as the US Congress convenes for its lame-duck session on Tuesday. The 435 members of the House of Representatives and the 100 members of the Senate head back to thrash out a few ideas before Congress starts up for real in January. The fiscal cliff – tax hikes and spending cuts – looming on the horizon will dominate the discussions, and Obama will be aiming to secure some sort of consensus.

About 200 miles North of Washington another important assembly will be taking place as the UN gathers for its annual vote on the five-decade long US embargo against Cuba. Cubans greeted Obama’s re-election with a collective sigh of relief, and some feel his presidency offers a glimmer of hope for improving relations between the two countries. He did relax certain restrictions in his first term, but whether he lifts the embargo remains to be seen.

Last week it was Greece, this time around it’s Portugal, as the CGTP, one of their main trade union groups, has arranged general strike for Wednesday. The country, recipient of a £63bn bailout, is struggling to cope with the crippling austerity that came as a condition of the loan. Unemployment hovers around the 15% mark. In a nod to Iberian camaraderie, and with a quarter of its own population out of work (50% of under 25s), Spanish trade unions have called for a strike on the same day. With Greek protests still potentially ongoing, all that remains is for Ireland and Italy to join in, and we’ll have the set.

What a world to bring a child into. With Europe erupting, Africa preparing for war and famine in Pakistan, the UN publishes is annual ‘State of World Population’ report. With 7 billion of us, the publication looks at the trends behind the numbers and examines the state of family planning across the world.

Anything the US can do, we can do better, with our own ‘Election Super Thursday’. They may not boast snazzy graphics, bemused billionaires and combative ‘experts’ but the Police and Crime Commissioners elections represents a new addition to British democracy as local communities elect police representatives across England and Wales. Theresa May said that latest figures showed 62% of the public know the elections are taking place, but there are fears they’ll nonetheless have the lowest voter turnout in British history.

The election bonanza continues as three constituencies in England and Wales hold by-elections. In Cardiff South and Penarth and Manchester Central the Labour MPs decided to stand down and run in the aforementioned police commissioner elections. Both seats, one of which represents Wales’ biggest constituency, are considered safe Labour territory. The third by-election, in Corby and East Northamptonshire, promises to be a more absorbing affair. Louise Mensch won the seat in 2010, but left it earlier this year citing a desire to spend more time with her family. This will be the first time the government has had to defend one of its seats; both Labour and the Conservatives have a point to prove, and the vote could go either way.

As the leaves fall from the trees and winter really starts to bite, Britain’s energy suppliers are introducing a timely price hike, effective from Friday, to help stave off the cold. British Gas announced a 6% rise in both gas and electricity prices in October. Npower, confusing the announcement for an auction, increased its prices by around 9%. SSE has already brought in increased prices.

On Friday Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy hosts the Cumbre Iberoamericana, a summit that brings together leaders from Latin America, Spain and Portugal. This year’s gathering has a number of intriguing sub-plots. First of all, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, whose attendance would be of particular interest following Argentina’s appropriation of the Spanish-owned petrol company YPF, is not confirming she’ll go. Reports say that she’ll send the Vice President and Chancellor in her place, but there has been no official word from the Casa Rosada. One reason she might not go is because of the potential presence of Paraguay’s President, Federico Franco, who controversially seized power in July and has since been snubbed by the other Latin American leaders.  The Spanish Secretary of State was sent across the Atlantic to dissuade him from coming in September, but there has been no official word from him either.

On Saturday, the annual gathering of London councillors takes place at the Guildhall in London. The Mayor of London Boris Johnson is the keynote speaker at the event which brings together politicians and representatives from business, public and voluntary sectors.

As the weekend draws to a close, another international gathering destined for controversy takes place, as the ASEAN Summit begins in Cambodia. The event is a meeting between the heads of state of South East Asian countries, with the three guest additions of China, Japan and South Korea. At the last meeting, the dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands took centre stage, leaving little time to discuss other issues which prompted the Philippines’ Foreign Minister to leave early in protest.

And finally, after being hand-picked by a blindfolded boy, Bishop Tawadros will be enthroned as the 118th Coptic Pope in Egypt.

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