Newspaper headlines: Google raid, diabetes 'cure', Burt Kwouk

A raid on Google's Paris offices by the tax authorities in France is reported across Wednesday's UK press, with several papers suggesting HMRC could take a leaf out of its French counterpart's book.

The Times says Britain's "sweetheart tax deal" with the US technology giant is "under renewed scrutiny" after Tuesday's French raid, which involved 100 officials including five investigating magistrates and 25 computer specialists. The paper notes that while Google agreed with HMRC to pay £130m in back taxes, France is seeking the sum of £1.3bn, including penalties.

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According to the Financial Times, Google "channels profits through Ireland, resulting in a payment of only 5m euros (£3.8m) in corporate tax in France in 2014, against revenues that year of 225.4m euros (£171.8m)". France's finance minister, the FT says, has previously stated that the amount Google would have to hand over would be "way bigger" than the UK deal.

The Sun argues the UK government "could have taken similar robust action against the US web giant" and says the £130m paid to cover the last decade "was a fraction of what was owed".

The Guardian says there was "uproar" at the time of January's UK deal with Google because it "meant that HM Revenue and Customs had effectively allowed the firm to continue routing its UK sales through Ireland".

Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP and former chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, is quoted in the Daily Mail saying the tough approach by the French "raises serious questions about British authorities".

A Google spokesman, as reported by the Daily Telegraph and other papers, insisted the company complied with the tax law in France, and in every other country in which it operates, and said it was co-operating fully with the authorities in Paris.

Referendum round-up

What the papers are saying about the 23 June in/out referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union:

  • Twelve retired senior military officers say they are backing Veterans for Britain, a group seeking to encourage serving and retired personnel to vote for "Brexit", reports the Daily Telegraph. Among them is Maj Gen Tim Cross, who commanded UK forces in Iraq. He writes in the paper of the EU: "do we really have no choice but to engage with the world locked in an institution that is so deeply flawed?"
  • Bank of England governor Mark Carney has said he is not putting out Treasury "propaganda", reports the i paper. Appearing before MPs, Mr Carney was accused by Conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg of being "politically involved" and "colluding" with the chancellor. The governor said there was no political bias, reports the paper, and the Bank had a responsibility to warn the chancellor and public "about the risks of a "Brexit".
  • More than 300 historians, including Simon Schama and Niall Ferguson, have signed a letter in the Guardian, saying leaving the EU would "condemn Britain to irrelevance". In a separate story, the paper adds that while the Treasury has been issuing "doom-laden warnings" about the economy after a "Brexit", the government is keen to draw "more positive voices into the debate, and focus on Britain's role in the world".
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  • The Sun reports that think tank the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) believes "slashing EU immigration after 'Brexit' will not hit the UK economy hard". According to the paper, the NIESR predicts UK economic output would be 9% lower in 50 years than if the UK had stayed in the European Union.
  • The Daily Mail reports another think tank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, has said leaving the EU "could provide Britain with an annual £8bn 'independence dividend'". But the IFS also warned the savings "could be outweighed by the cost of slower economic growth" with gross domestic product "up to £40bn lower by 2020, wiping out any savings".
  • Both sides of the EU debate "faced ridicule for botched attempts to attract the youth vote", reports the Times. The campaign group Leave.EU "faced embarrassment after Alesha Dixon and two members of the boy-band 5ive pulled out a concert it is promoting, saying it was 'more of a political rally'", says the paper. However, the Remain camp has been accused of "patronising " the under-25s with a video and poster campaign urging them to be "votin'" on 23 June.

Diabetes 'cure' hailed

A recommendation that people with type 2 diabetes should have "stomach-shrinking" surgery to save the NHS money on their long-term care is reported by the Guardian, among other papers.

It says more operations, costing between £5,000 and £6,000, "would save money on diabetes medication and treating complications including heart attacks, strokes, blindness and foot amputations" according to international experts.

Image copyright Science Photo Library

Researchers have hailed the idea of using bariatric surgery to control diabetes "as the the biggest development... since insulin was introduced a century ago", reports the Daily Mirror.

The Daily Mail says researchers have identified 100,000 patients "who aren't controlling the illness, who they believe should be considered for weight loss surgery immediately". The experts, the paper adds, say the procedure can "reverse" type 2 diabetes, which is linked with obesity, and that "up to half of surgery patients no longer need drugs and are effectively cured".

The Daily Telegraph reports that gastric bypass, in which the digestive system is re-routed past most of the stomach, was considered the most-effective treatment. "Changing the anatomy altered the body's macrobiotic environment, which had a dramatic and almost immediate impact on blood sugar," the paper says.

In its leader column, the Times says the arguments are "compelling and [Health Secretary] Jeremy Hunt and NHS regulators should pay attention to them". The paper argues that "in straitened times, with an ageing population and spiralling diabetes-related costs, NICE and the NHS need to think outside the box and embrace the band".

Eye-catching headlines

  • Deliver to Isis Close? Computer says no - "When Isis Close came up on the system, one can perhaps understand why PayPal's algorithms panicked," reports the Times. The paper says the internet payments firm "shut down" when a customer attempted to send cash for haberdashery to an online store based in Oxford, where the River Thames is also known as Isis. PayPal says government regulations require it to scan payments for references to terrorism.
  • 'Barmy'... health and safety ban on strimmers at homes of stars - the Daily Express tells us the council responsible for trimming grass verges in the genteel bit of Cheshire popular with Premier League footballers has curbed the use of strimmers over fears "flying stones and debris could hit passers-by, wealthy homeowners' houses and their flash cars". The council has told workers to use weed killer instead, the paper says.
  • Teenagers will earn £1m by age of 46 - reports the Daily Telegraph. It says analysis by the Prudential of official statistics shows an 18-year-old starting work this year on the average salary will have earned a £1m by the time they've worked for 28 years. Such earners will also have paid £238,000 in tax and national insurance, the paper adds.
  • The high street is now full of beans - caffeine is a thing dear to the heart of your paper reviewer, who is required to work through the night, so it is of interest that the Sun reports there are now 20 times as many high street coffee shops than there were 18 years ago. There were 215 outlets in 1998, it says, compared with more than 4,300 now.

What the commentators say

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Media captionPaul Johnson of the Guardian and former Tory MP Tim Collins review the papers

'An affable man'

All the papers mark the death of actor Burt Kwouk, and few can resist using a picture of him playing his most-famous role, Inspector Clouseau's manservant Cato, from the Pink Panther movies.

"The character became a hit with fans, and was known for causing mayhem by constantly jumping out at Clouseau, played by Peter Sellers," the Daily Mail says.

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The Daily Telegraph notes Kwouk was sanguine about Clouseau referring to him as "his little yellow friend", saying "they can call me what they like, as long as I get paid and my name is spelt correctly".

In its obituary, the Times says the Pink Panther films' success "ensured Kwouk, who was born in Britain of Chinese parents, a stream of acting work as Chinese (or, for that matter, Japanese or Korean or Malaysian) characters in British films and on television".

The role that "revealed his underused talents as an actor was Major Yaumauchi, the honourable commandant of the women's PoW camp in Tenko", says the Guardian's obituary, referring to the BBC TV drama series of the early 1980s.

According to the Daily Mirror, when asked what his favourite film that he appeared in was, Kwouk chose his first - The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, which he made in 1958.

The Daily Express notes that Kwouk's career "underwent a late revival" in 2003, when he was cast as Entwistle in a "reboot" of the long-running BBC comedy series Last of the Summer Wine. The part was written with him in mind, says the paper, and he played the role for seven years.

"Burt Kwouk was an affable man who liked a glass and a smoke," concludes the Telegraph.

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