Right and left united over tax avoidance

  • 13 February 2013
  • From the section England
  • comments

It's a first for the Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland - but not one that you would expect.

Mr McPartland is the first Conservative MP to have an article published in the left wing newspaper the Morning Star.

This may have come as a surprise across the political divide and Mr McPartland himself admits that some will find it shocking.

He wrote the article calling for companies to pay their fair share of tax as part of his campaign against tax avoidance.

The MP for Stevenage claims the problem of tax avoidance was not only a problem for Britain but for the world in general, especially developing nations.

"Fancy corporate lawyers can eloquently describe the differences between tax avoidance and tax evasion, with the lines between them becoming increasingly blurred," he said.

The idea of making global companies pay more tax has been a growing campaign associated with the political left in recent years and the basis of groups like the Occupy movement.

Paying a fair share

But it's also a subject close to Mr McPartland's heart.

He has raised it both in the House and in a debate in Westminster Hall in recent weeks when he claimed: "tax evasion is clearly wrong, illegal and unfair to the rest of society because everyone else has to pay more in taxes to make up for those who do not pay their fair share.

"We cannot have mob rule and many members are very much in favour of the positive contributions that large FTSE 100 companies make to the larger overall tax take."

He recounted how he'd had a meeting with Christian Aid supporters in his constituency when the "Tax Justice" bus visited Stevenage.

They believe that tax dodging by international companies costs the UK about £35 billion a year.

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke replied: "I want again to put on the record the Government's view that companies must pay tax in accordance with the law, and it is crucial that they are seen to do so."

Mr Gauke added: "as a Minister, I have said for some years that businesses need to do much more to explain the taxes that they pay and how they comply with their obligations."

"Such transparency can go a long way towards building greater trust between them and their customers, and might end up having commercial benefits", before he detailed the government's efforts to get to grips with the problem.

It is an issue that has been taken up by George Osborne and Danny Alexander at The Treasury but it's a notoriously difficult area.

Despite taking up this predominantly left-wing supported cause, an unrepentant Mr McPartland said he believed it would be the companies themselves who make these changes, but only if the customers drag them "kicking and screaming towards tax transparency".

So the ball's in your court.