‘The Spiders Web: Britain’s Second Empire’ documents Britain’s central role in creating and orchestrating a web of offshore tax havens that help the rich and powerful across the world, avoid their obligations to society, to build up ever greater piles of wealth in companies incorporated in British Crown Dependencies such as Jersey, or Overseas Territories such as the British Virgin Isles.

The film is being screened on Wednesday 27 June, 7pm, at Three Minute Theatre, Afflecks Arcade, 35-39 Oldham Street, Manchester M1 1JG – and entry is free and open to all. The screening has been organised by the Manchester & Salford Branch of the National Union of Journalists as one of the events marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of the TUC.

The screening follows closely behind Theresa May’s announcement of a £20 billion funding boost to the NHS that will be paid for by higher taxes that when announced, are most likely to hit the poorest hardest. If the UK treasury actually collected all the tax it was owed there would be no need to raise taxes to pay for the NHS, and still have plenty left over to adequately pay for public services.

Richard Murphy, author of the ‘Joy of Tax’ and a prolific blogger at Tax Research UK suggests that if the government collected all the tax owed to it there would be no need for austerity driven cuts, or extra taxes to fund the NHS. The government provides a yearly estimate of the tax gap, the difference between the greater amount owed in tax and the lesser amount collected. In 2017 HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) estimated the tax gap at £34 billion a year, Murphy thinks the figure is much higher at £120 billion a year. More than enough to turn the UK’S annual budget deficit into a surplus.

The irrational and dogmatic nature of government tax policy becomes readily apparent when considering HMRC itself has been subjected to austerity driven cuts, reducing its ability to collect taxes owed to the government.

The screening will be followed by a Q & A session with Grace Blakeley researcher with Institute for Public Policy Research. John Pye from the Manchester Trades Union Council describes Blakely as, “one of the most interesting and influential economic thinkers in the Labour Party”.

The award winning documentary film was inspired by Nicholas Shaxon’s book ‘Treasure islands’ and co-produced with the help and advice of John Christensen, co-founder of the Tax Justice Network. The film also traces how Britain transformed from a colonial power into a global financial power. A global player that facilitates an estimated half of all global offshore wealth to be be hidden in British offshore jurisdictions – making Britain the largest global players in the world of international finance. How did this come about, and what impact does it have on the world today? This is what The Spider’s Web sets out to investigate.


Conrad Bower

Feature image: The Spiders Web

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  • Conrad Bower

    Reporting interests include social justice, the environment, and human rights. A staunch advocate for the scientific method and rational debate for understanding the world - he believes only greater public understanding and engagement with the problems affecting society, can produce the progressive change we need. Co-founder of The Meteor.

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