Thursday, 12 January 2012

New Year, New Uppal?

Is Paul Uppal MP planning to turn over a new leaf?

Sadly not. He was up on his hind legs again yesterday, talking about exempting empty commercial property from tax:
Regarding regeneration, in my constituency, I have found that empty property rates often make individuals who own commercial or industrial property view that property as a problem. Consequently, they will sometimes consider measures to try to mitigate the empty property rate tax. So the tax actually changes the mindset of property owners; it changes how they view the property. They do not view it as an opportunity but as a millstone around their necks.
There are two problems with this statement, one a point of general principle, and one of simple honesty.

On the point of general principle first: Paul Uppal MP claims to be a capitalist. As such, he accepts that the market sets a price, and the owner of an asset should accept that price. Therefore if a property is empty, the owner should reduce the rent until he finds a level at which tenants will show an interest. Also as a capitalist, Uppal claims to believe that government should stay out of commercial affairs, yet here we have him arguing that the state should subsidise commercial property owners: let's not forget that despite a building being empty, it's still serviced by transport links, policing and all the other things local authorities provide. Why should the rest of us pay more to help out a landlord determined to take his ball home until someone meets his imaginary price? Shamefully, not one of the MPs in the debate took the view that landlords should adapt to the market - though at least Mark Pawsey MP declared an interest.

When Uppal talks about 'property owners' considering trying to 'mitigate the empty property rate tax', he's openly suggesting that landlords are forced to avoid paying their taxes, a view with which the minister agrees. It's an interesting concept: we should change the law because some people are trying to break it - not a view taken in other legislative areas, but apparently perfectly acceptable when the interest of the rentier class is involved.

Unfortunately, the minister's reply to Uppal is entirely sympathetic.

The personal matter is perhaps of more immediate importance. MPs are under a moral duty to acknowledge any personal involvement when they talk about a subject in Parliament. When Paul Uppal MP talks about 'commercial property owners' in his constituency, it's a dishonest way of cloaking his personal interests: Uppal is the owner of Pinehurst Securities Ltd… a commercial property speculation company from which he has made millions of pounds. Pinehurst owns '£10m of property in the southeast', according to Property Week (link now hidden behind a members-only site, but you can read the quote here). He also holds constituency surgeries in the company offices of Uppal and Singh Properties - presumably there's a family connection there too, though only Pinehurst makes an appearance in the Register of Interests.

(To be a nerd for a second, Pinehurst also seems to be the registered owner of, his MPs website:

Uppal, Paul
    Winwood Heath Road
    Ronsley, West Midlands B62 0LU

 yet there's no declaration that the company is providing the MP with a commercial service).

But leaving that aside: here we have an MP telling a minister that people in his constituency are being forced to avoid paying their taxes by an unjust law, when in fact he's simply referring to his own private commercial interests, and those of his family, from whom he receives a benefit in kind (again, there's no declaration that he gets free or renumerated (clarification: I mean that he pays them, not vice versa) use of the Uppal and Singh offices on the Register). He doesn't want to pay for services he's receiving from the council because he wants to make more money. For an MP to abuse the privileged position and access he has is disgraceful… and simply part of a pattern of behaviour Uppal regularly indulges in. And yet nobody other than myself appears to care.

In case you haven't read the comments section, Mr Uppal contacted a third party to clarify that he rents a room from Uppal and Singh, and that there's no family connection. It's a bit weird that he'd communicate with them rather than me, but I'm happy to accept that. So we're left with the question of who pays for Uppal's website, and why he didn't mention, while lobbying for commercial property tax breaks, that he's a commercial property developer and he rents a room from a commercial property developer.


CC said...

In the interests of fairness, Paul Uppal MP has emailed the website today to say:

-----Original Message-----
Sent: 12 January 2012 15:48
Subject: Contact Form Submission from Paul Uppal

Name: Paul Uppal


Subject: Plashing Vole Retweet

Message: A article that you retweeted today, New Year, New Uppal?, has caused me concern, and I would like to make you aware of some of the content which I believe to be misleading. The article states that there is a family connection between Uppal and Singh Properties, who we have a tenancy agreement for our constituency and myself. This point is reiterated when the article states that we receive "free or remunerated use of the Uppal and Singh offices".

The tenancy agreement has been passed by IPSA and the parlimentary office of Paul Uppal MP does not receive free or remunerated use of the constituency office, nor I am I any way related to any member of Uppal and Singh properties, and any reason to be believe so is purely coincidental. Such an agreement would be in violation of the expenses regulations and contrary to the way I conduct my expenses.

If you wish to discuss this matter further please do not hesitate to call my office.



Plashing Vole said...

Thanks for sending this on. Shame the great man doesn't feel he can clarify things directly here. Of course I accept his word on this: a pity his website doesn't make such things clear.

There are some unresolved matters. Which organisation funds Uppal's website costs? Him, or Pinehurstt Securities? If the latter, why isn't it declared.

As to Uppal and Singh Properties, does Mr Uppal not see that an MP lobbying for tax breaks for property speculators is under a moral duty to declare that he is one potential beneficiary, and his landlords are another?

cartermagna said...

Actually, I think that he's cleared up the one inaccuracy in your post. Everything else you say about him, failing to mention his vested interest in empty property taxes for example, must be spot on.

Good work, sir. You've nailed him ;o)

CC said...

No problem. Yes it is strange that he replied to us, as a third party and not directly to your blog or original Tweet.

But i did tell Mr Uppal by email that i would post his reply, emailed curiously to - although we have no direct interest, I would imagine it was simply because he follows our Tweets and not yours (yet)!