The Prime Minister, in his interview on the Radio 4 Today programme on Monday said that everyone should pay their taxes. This followed a question from John Humphries about “aggressive tax avoidance” – a practice the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently branded “morally repugnant“.
But Humphries failed to challenge Cameron’s anodyne statement adequately, and to highlight Tory hypocrisy.
What he could – indeed should – have asked was: “If the Conservatives are serious about addressing tax avoidance, why did Tory MEPs vote against measures to combat tax fraud and tax evasion in the European Parliament only last week?
Tory MEPs were virtually alone in voting against a Resolution demanding concrete ways to combat tax fraud and tax evasion. It called for the introduction of automatic data sharing to crack down on those seeking to hide their money from the tax authorities. It also demanded that cross border companies from all sectors report on their payments to governments to better detect corporate tax avoidance.
The Resolution was backed by all of the major European political groups including Socialists & Democrats, European Peoples Party, Alliance of Liberals, the Greens and European Left/Nordic Green Left Party . . . . . . . . but not the British Tories.
They refused to take on the privileged tax dodgers and fraudsters, despite a recent damning report from HM Treasury. This showed that £18.5 billion of UK revenue was lost to tax evasion, and that Britain’s 20 biggest tax avoiders have used loopholes to legally reduce their income tax bills by a total of £145 million.
Perhaps no great surprise, but how many more times must we have the situation where the Tories say one thing in the UK, and do something totally differently in Brussels and Strasbourg. . . . and that it should go unreported by British TV and newspapers?
We may not expect a great deal from the Tories, but we should demand much more from our media.