The series of statements by the Prime Minister in relation to his own tax affairs has seen quite a dramatic turnaround from him insisting it was a “private matter” to him and a number of other senior politicians feeling obliged to publicly release their tax returns. The fact that these didn’t reveal anything illegal but still led to him having to make an emergency statement to the House of Commons shows how much this issue has captured the public’s imagination and how little public confidence there is in the Government being trusted to tackle tax avoidance. It’s a basic question of fairness and I know that the thousands of people who live and work in Ellesmere Port & Neston who pay their taxes feel that the richest have been able to use clever accountant’s wheezes to avoid paying their fair share. We already know large multinational companies like Google and Amazon do their best to avoid paying tax anywhere through the use of off-shore havens and devices but the “Panama papers” also shone a light on the many individuals living and working in this country who have also avoided tax.
The latest figures from HMRC put the tax gap at £34 billion each year – that’s money that could be paying for more doctors, nurses and teachers. The deficit could easily have been cleared by now if all the tax due had been collected and when it transpires the Prime Minister lobbied against EU measures to increase transparency for offshore trusts people can be forgiven for concluding we have had one rule for the super rich and another rule for everybody else. I accept that clamping down on tax avoidance is always going to be a challenge but when those entrusted with policing this appear to come from the same world as those they are trying to stop, it is unsurprising that it becomes such a big political issue.
I had the pleasure of attending a couple of major fundraising events in the constituency recently. One was the Hillsborough fundraiser in memory of the 96 people who died in the disaster held at the Whitby Sports and Social Club. As well as honouring their memory a number of local charities benefited from the money raised on the day. The other was the National Autism day fundraiser held at the Hope Farm Community Centre. Both events would not have happened without the dedication of the small group of volunteers who make these things happen with many months of advance planning and I would like to thank everyone involved for their contribution.