Saturday, 30 June 2012

Tax Avoiders Coming to Town

P&O Cruises Ventura in Southampton Water   
P&O Cruises are celebrating their 175th anniversary as all seven of their cruise ships will sail from Southampton on the same day, 3rd July.

Southampton, recently announced as the second busiest cruise port in Europe, does not have capacity to handle all 14,500 passengers at once, and permission was granted in March for the Rose Ageas Bowl to act as a temporary check-in terminal with passengers being transferred to and from Southampton docks by coach.

Eastleigh Borough Council estimates an additional 840 cars and taxis on the roads of West End and Hedge End, and more than fifty coach trips back and forth over the three days of P&O's huge corporate shindig. 

175 years is an impressive milestone for P&O who have a long relationship with Southampton's maritime history, and industry insiders estimate that the cruising business brings £300 million to the Southampton area.  That's an economic benefit not to be sniffed at, but there is a dark side to the cruise industry

Sadly the whole celebration is tainted by the fact that P&O's parent company, Carnival Cruises, are serious long term corporate tax avoiders.  Between 2002 and 2008 they paid just over $60 million in tax on profits of $4.3 billion (about 1.4%) according to Christian Aid.  And a maritime lawyer reports that in the last five years they have managed to bring their tax bill down to an even more scrooge-like 1.1%.

So if you are held up this weekend by the additional traffic as you sit in your taxed car, burning taxed petrol, try to think how you will spend your share of the £300 million benefit that cruising brings to our area, and try not to think about all the millions that don't get paid in tax by the corporate giants that now run the cruise industry. 

Unsurprisingly, the current "Life President" of P&O and Executive Chairman 1983-2005 is a Conservative Life Peer, Lord Sterling of Plaistow.  One of Margaret Thatcher's "favourite businessmen", he established his "all in it together" credentials in 2010 when he insisted that plebeian ferry passengers at Portsmouth be segregated from his posh Swan Hellenic cruise customers who would not want to consort with "semi-lager louts smelling of body odour".

He went on loyally to support the Con Dem Coalition's Health and Social Care and Welfare Reform bills.  

Reform of the House of Lords can't come soon enough.

Carnival's Offices in Southampton

Thanks and acknowledgement are due to the excellent Tom Pride and his irreverent Pride's Purge blog for a lot of the research and links in this post.

Picture credits:
P&O Cruises Ventura in Southampton Water - Iveco 59-12
Southampton Offices of Carnival UK - Rod Allday


  1. Very interesting thanks for blogging!
    this is from a P&O check in staff member.

  2. Makes jimmy Carr seem generous!

  3. As the parent company are American would the Southampton businesses and eceonomy benefit directly from any additional taxes harvested from Carnival?

    What would the impact be if they pulled out of Southampton (head office included) and moved operations to, say, Liverpool?
    I am not only talking about the P&O arm, but also the 3 Cunard ships, and various Princess ships that use Southampton as their UK port.

  4. Carnival are actually dual-listed - in New York and London - itself a tax avoidance practice.

    Apologists for dodgy business practices have often in the past used the "don't upset them or they will move out" argument, and the inability and unwillingness of our elected representatives to stand up to them has led to a degenerate newspaper industry, casino bankers, energy cartels and huge multinationals getting tax free monopoly status during the olympics.

    You and I can't avoid taxes by threatening to emigrate, why should big corporations?