The Google Executive Chairman was at Hay to examine the future of a connected world. Chaired by Marcus du Sautoy, Schmidt gave due credit to the UK’s role in creating the digital age, saying that the whole digital world was invented here in 1930s and ’40s by Alan Turing and the smart people who worked at Bletchley Park.
After a fascinating insight into our changing world from one of its leading change agents the atmosphere took on more of an edge when it came to questions. “You obviously have a strong sense of responsibility for doing good in the world” said the person to ask a question “I just wondered where you feel paying tax responsibly come into that?” There was resounding applause from the Hay crowd. Schmidt claimed to be perplexed. “If I were in charge of the international tax regime it would not be operating this way. No rational computer scientist or mathematician would have erected such a system.” He went on the that Google maximised its cash revenue in order to provide free services. “We understand the complaint but we can’t fix it…the British government can fix it…the government should be in charge of the question.” The audience didn’t let up and despite the Google boss saying “I do love your country” the second questioner up replied “we’d rather have you money than your affection.”
Eric Schmidt was resolute “It is normal for companies to do what Google is doing…If the government chooses to change the law we’ll absolutely follow it…we’ll do whatever you guys decide.”