“[W]ere an estimate to be made of the charge of the aristocracy to a nation, it will be found nearly equal to that of supporting the poor.” “[They] are not the farmers who work the land, and raise produce, but are the mere consumers of the rent; and when compared to the active world are the drones, a seraglio of males, who neither collect honey nor form the hive; but exist only for lazy enjoyment.” Thomas Paine, 1792.
Landed Drones on Benefits
The average British household contributes £245 a year to a pot of money which mostly goes, via the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), to the wealthiest landowners who are not required to actively produce food or other agricultural products. To make matters worse, in Britain, 70 per cent of land is owned by just 0.28 per cent of the population.
Some examples of those receiving these benefits:
- Duke of Westminster: owner of Grosvenor Farms and with a net worth of £7.4bn, was paid £748,716
- Duke of Buccleuch: owner of Langholm Farms Limited and with a net worth of £180m, received £260,273,
- Duke of Devonshire: owner of Chatsworth House and with a net worth of £700m, received £251,729
- Duke of Atholl: owner of the145,000 acre Blair Castle Estate, was paid £231,188
- The Monarch: owner of the The Royal Farms and the Duchy of Lancaster, received £415,817 and £314,811 respectively (in addition, of course, the ‘royal family’ costs the public an estimated £100 million per annum for, amongst other things, maintaining the many royal residences)
- Charles Windsor: owner of the Duchy of Cornwall’s lands, was paid £127,868
- Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia: owner of the 2,000 acre Glympton Estate in Oxfordshire (suspected of having been purchased using the ill-gotten gains deriving from the Al-Yamamah arms deal), was paid £273,905
- Sir Richard Sutton: owner of the 6,500-acre Settled Estates and with a net worth of £136.5m, was paid £1.7m
- The Parker Family: owner of Blankney Estates Limited, received £1,554,554
- The Vestey Family: owner of Thurlow Estate Farms Limited, received £1,069,731
- Lord Carrington: owner of Carrington Farms, received £794,895
- Earl of Plymouth: owner of Earl of Plymouth Estates Limited, received £675,085
- Matt Ridley: owner of Blagdon Farm Limited, received £268,206
- Harrow, Millfield and Eton College: received £11,422 between them
- Serco: with interests in transport and traffic control, aviation, military weapons, detention centres, prisons and schools, despite a history of problems, failures, fatal errors and overcharging, received £2.7m.
Unlike benefits for the poor, these benefits are not related to income, but are based on acreage alone.
Welfare for Corporate Britain
The average British household contributes £3,500 a year to companies in the form of grants, subsidies and tax breaks – a massive total of £93bn a year. At the same time corporations have reduced the amount of tax they pay on their profits in Britain from 17% in 2005/6, to 13% in 2012/13. Coporation tax in the UK is now half that in the US, and an OECD 2009 study found that the UK had more generous corporate tax benefits than the US, Germany or any of the seven other major economies it examined. An example of one of the corporate welfare beneficiaries is Amazon – one of the worst culprits for avoiding UK tax it was, nevertheless, awarded £16.5m in grants to help build distribution centres. Corporations may revert to blackmail to secure these benefits, such as threatening to cause job losses by moving overseas, just as HSBC did.
According to Dr. Kevin Farnsworth, a senior lecturer at York University, the elements of the £93bn corporate handout (“a conservative estimate” which does not include the continuing costs of bank bailouts and other crisis measures, estimated to be £35bn for the year) for 2012/13 are as follows:
- Subsidies and grants: £14.5bn, which includes cash to the train operators to run services, subsidies to defence firms and grants to businesses to induce them to invest.
- Corporate tax benefits: £44bn, of which the largest amount was spent allowing businesses to write off billions spent on plants, machinery and equipment among other items. In 2012-13, these benefits included a £20bn subsidy to private investment and more than £7bn in exemptions on new housing and land duty for the construction industry.
- Hidden transport subsidies: £15bn – airlines do not pay tax on fuel –worth about £8.5bn a year – and train companies also enjoy lower duty on fuel.
- Energy subsidies: £3.8bn – including the £2.3bn cost to the public of dismantling Britain’s nuclear power stations – most of which the government resists acknowledging.
- Insurance, advice and advocacy services: £406m, which includes the export credit guarantee scheme as well as government trade advisers and overseas business networks. But it does not include trade delegations abroad led by Cameron, Osborne and other politicians or the use of foreign aid to help British business win contracts in poor countries.
- Government procurement from the private sector: £15bn Capita, Atos, G4S and Serco alone received £4bn worth of public-sector contracts in 2012-13, many of doubtful value for money.
Partly as a result of these benefits, not only is 70 per cent of the land in Britain owned by just 0.28 per cent of the population; but Britain’s richest 1% have accumulated 53% of the total personal tradable wealth in the UK, whereas the bottom 50% have just 6% of this.