Lackadaisical: Theresa May has refused to commit herself to a public inquiry into tax avoidance. She simply couldn’t care less. Oh, but look – she’s doing her patriotic duty by wearing a poppy! Some of us believe patriotism extends to paying the right amount of tax.

We should start by laying out the story. You may already know much of it:

The world’s biggest businesses, heads of state and global figures in politics, entertainment and sport who have sheltered their wealth in secretive tax havens are being revealed this week in a major new investigation into Britain’s offshore empires.

The details come from a leak of 13.4m files that expose the global environments in which tax abuses can thrive – and the complex and seemingly artificial ways the wealthiest corporations can legally protect their wealth.

It reveals:

The disclosures will put pressure on world leaders, including Trump and the British prime minister, Theresa May, who have both pledged to curb aggressive tax avoidance schemes.

Embarrassingly for Theresa May, she was keen to highlight the Conservative Party’s record in tax avoidance at Prime Minister’s Questions last week. But the release of the Paradise Papers means this has only served to show how weak the Tories’ activities have been.

Labour’s John McDonnell has responded as follows:

“These are deeply worrying revelations. Despite all the Government’s claims of cracking down on tax dodgers, this evidence confirms that tax avoidance is clearly continuing on an industrial scale. Either the Prime Minister or the Chancellor needs to explain how this scandalous behaviour has been allowed to go on unaddressed for so long and what action is to be taken now.

“Here we have proof that we have seen a lot of bluster from the government about tackling tax avoidance but no real action. Only last week the Government was blocking Labour amendments to the Finance Bill to bear down on this abuse.

“Every pound avoided in tax by the super-rich is a pound desperately needed by our NHS, our schools and our caring services.  To put this in context it’s been recently reported that children’s care services are at breaking point as a result of a £2 billion funding gap. Even the Government has admitted to a tax gap of over £30 billion.

“If the identification of Lord Ashcroft, a major Tory party funder, on the list and if the allegations of tax avoidance are true, it means that the Prime Minister has questions to answer. What did she and the Conservative Party know about Ashcroft’s tax affairs and what due diligence checks were applied before she agreed to the Conservative Party accepting significant donations from him? Questions will inevitably be asked about the Prime Minister’s judgement about allowing him to return to being a major party donor. Many individual Conservative MPs and candidates will also need to answer what checks they made also before they accepted donations to their campaigns in their constituencies.

The next Labour Government will stand up for the tax payers and implement a comprehensive plan to restore transparency to our tax system. Where the Tories refuse to act, Labour will end the era of government turning a blind eye to the scandal of tax avoidance by clamping down on tax havens and ending the loopholes.”

But it is the response of the public that has been truly revealing.

After more than seven years in which public services have been squeezed so tight that thousands upon thousands of UK citizens have died…

Let that sink in for a moment: Tory policies have killed thousands of people

… while the super-rich have been allowed – no, encouraged – to squirrel their cash away in offshore tax havens using avoidance schemes that the Conservative government has not bothered to close.

This should come as no surprise as some of the biggest firms advising these people on how to avoid tax also happen to be in the Treasury, advising the Tories on how to write tax law.

People are furious, and I think the tweets that follow speak for themselves:

Mr McDonnell has said the forthcoming Labour government will end the era of government’s turning a blind eye to tax avoidance.

This is not going to go away quickly – the Queen is implicated, as are public figures like Lord Ashcroft, and people want these people to account for themselves.

But the British public have an unfortunate tendency to vent their rage loudly and publicly – and then do nothing.

This scandal broke on Fireworks Night. It would be a tragedy if we allowed it to fizzle out like a used-up sparkler.


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