Marina Hyde’s article (Richard Branson’s bailout plea proves there’s no one more shameless, 21 April) is a one-sided account of Richard Branson and the Virgin Group. It is misleading to link to the 2018 Guardian article “NHS trusts win legal fight over Virgin Care child health contract”, as Virgin Care had no part in, and had no choice over, the action the NHS trusts took, other than placing a bid for a contract offered by a public authority under procurement legislation.
Virgin Group has invested more than £75m to date into the NHS and neither Richard nor Virgin have ever taken a penny of profit out of the NHS, nor do they ever intend to do so. If Virgin Care ever does make a profit, we have committed to reinvest 100% of that back into the NHS.
Hyde also fails to paint an accurate picture of the tax affairs of the Virgin companies, all of which pay taxes in the countries in which they operate. That includes the brand-owning business, which is based, and pays taxes, in the UK.
Richard spends the vast majority of his time starting not-for-profit ventures and raising millions for charity through speeches and other charitable engagements. Since he gives 100% of any monies he earns from these activities to charity, it makes no difference for his personal tax purposes whether he is located in the UK or the British Virgin Islands.
We were also saddened to see Hyde suggest that, if she were religious, she might think the fire on Necker Island and Hurricane Irma were some sort of punishment from God for Sir Richard Branson. Hurricane Irma devastated the BVI and further afield, and Sir Richard worked tirelessly to support the community and implement long-term projects to rebuild the region in the immediate aftermath. To use the hurricane in this context is a disservice to all those deeply affected by that natural disaster.
• Is Marina Hyde being a little harsh on Richard Branson? On a Virgin flight home from Los Angeles several years ago I answered the call for a doctor (the third call, actually, as hardened medics wait for somebody more gung-ho to respond) and saved the life of a businessman who had swooned during his in-flight massage (no, please, it was nothing).
The crew were so relieved when I spared them the expensive inconvenience of an unscheduled landing that they gave me a free orange juice as they ushered me past the empty business seats and back to steerage. It was followed up by a letter of gratitude and a promise of 10% off my next trip. I later found out that anybody could get 10% off by booking online.
So don’t tell me Branson seems to feel entitled to the free benefit of others’ generosity – I already know.
Dr Richard O’Brien
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