“LAST week the Echo revealed that out of four local MPs asked about their tax affairs, only one (Ben Bradshaw) answered the questions put. And one (East Devon’s MP, Hugo Swire) wrote an extraordinary furious letter to the paper in response.
While steadfastly refusing to address the queries put to him, Mr Swire embarked on a furious tirade against those of us he sees as intruding into personal issues.
Tax avoidance by big business has been a hobby horse of mine since I campaigned in the general election last year.
I find it shocking that there is one rule for super wealthy oligarchs and multi-nationals – which have the potential to make massive contributions to public services, and another for the rest of us. Last year, despite its monumental profits, Facebook paid just £4,000 corporation tax in this country!
Of course, such financial contributions to the treasury are especially vital at a time of austerity when public sector budgets are subjected to crippling and swingeing cuts.
Those with the least are always hit the hardest when this happens, as they rely more on public services, such as benefits, buses and care, than the wealthy, who can afford cars, private healthcare and have access to plenty of cash.
I organised a demonstration against aggressive tax avoidance outside the Sidmouth Conservative club, in February, where Mr Swire often holds his surgeries.
I also lodged a motion (which the Devon County Council Conservative leadership hopes they have kicked into the long grass) aimed at clamping down on tax avoidance by county council contractors.
The final debate on this will be on May 12 at full council.
Mr Swire dislikes that the prime minister and chancellor have published their tax returns, describing the move as a “difficult precedent.”
But Mr Swire, didn’t the prime minister publicly pillory Jimmy Carr for his tax avoidance activities?
And doesn’t Mr Osborne say how keen he is to get big business such as Facebook and Google to pay tax more equivalent to their income generated in the UK?
Mr Swire suggests that if MPs are to be asked about their tax affairs people in public life should also be scrutinised, including newspaper editors, BBC journalists and councillors.
This is perhaps an issue for discussion, however, as I see it there are two big distinctions between MPs and newspaper editors or BBC journalists. A journalist’s job is to report the news. But an MP’s job is to make decisions, pass laws and act for their constituents. They are in a position of trust and are paid very well for that position… with money from the British taxpayer.
The taxpayers who pay the East Devon MP’s generous salary deserve a bit of openness about his tax affairs, now the public interest has understandably rocketed in the ongoing scandal that is tax avoidance.”
No doubt we haven’t heard the last of this story.