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Windfall tax a backward step.

Byline: Bill Gleeson

ELLEN MacARTHUR set an extraordinary record this week by sailing solo around the world in 71 days.

It is a remarkable achievement by anybody's standards, yet people have been knocking her for all sorts of spurious reasons. ``Her boat sails itself'' and ``she's not feminine enough'' are just two of the comments I heard yesterday. One radio commentator even described her as ugly, as if that has anything to do with it.

I know that I would not countenance putting up with the hardships she has endured for the sake of sport or fame, but I am impressed by her perseverance and determination.

Britain is a maritime nation. We have a tradition of sailors setting records. People, and to some degree, the media need to develop the maturity to say well done. We should be proud of her. The detractors should shut up and let her enjoy her moment of glory.

But in Britain, we have a bit of a history of putting down the successful. And so it is with corporate profits. Just like Ellen, a number of British businesses have set records in recent days.

Last week Shell reported the biggest profits in British corporate history. Now BP has chimed in with a multi-billion pound profit.

Shortly we shall hear from the major high street banks, which will undoubtedly report profits of a similar scale.

And, like Ellen, these businesses have their detractors. Many would like to see them pay a windfall tax.

Yet, of course, they are already taxed. They pay billions a year in corporation tax. Then, on top of that, they pay billions more in dividends to shareholders. And their shareholders are the big pension funds, who look after the retirement plans for you and me. One way or another, most of BP's billions benefit ordinary people.

Britain's economic growth in recent years has been very strong. We are in the 13th year of consecutive economic growth. It's a historical record for Britain and surpasses anything achieved in the United States. In comparison, the economies of France and Germany are hardly moving. As a result our GDP per capita exceeds that of these last two countries.

This economic performance has been built on a strong market economy with a stable and predictable business environment. Britain's reputation as a home for some of the world's most successful and profitable businesses would be damaged by a windfall tax. Its reputation as a wealth creating nation would be enhanced even further if the moaners went away.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 9, 2005
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