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Slippery as an eel, the submarine Chancellor has surfaced from whatever hiding-place he has been using for the last week or so, insisted that the pursuit of people who evaded tax on advice from the HSBC Bank is nothing to do with him, and re-submerged before anybody could point out that this isn’t entirely true.
As Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne doesn’t have a hand in individual prosecutions – but he does set the conditions under which such investigations are undertaken.
Alex Little is therefore correct in pointing out that Osborne is notably not saying that HMRC will have all the resources it needs to carry out a full and exhaustive investigation into the HSBC scandal, and that he needs to appoint financial regulators who actually want to stamp out abuses, rather than those who live in sublime ignorance (such as the gentleman mentioned in Mr Little’s article).
None of the government’s actions have satisfied Labour. Chris Leslie, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “George Osborne has finally emerged, but he still hasn’t answered any of the key questions over the HSBC scandal. He cannot continue to duck responsibility for HMRC’s failure to act or the decision to make Lord Green a Conservative Minister.
“Why has there only been one prosecution out of 1,100 names? Why did George Osborne and David Cameron appoint Lord Green as a Minister months after the government received these files? Did they discuss tax evasion at HSBC with Lord Green, or did they turn a blind eye?
“And why did the Treasury sign a deal with the Swiss authorities in 2012 which prevents the UK from actively obtaining similar information in the future?”
According to The Guardian, a YouGov survey for the Times Red Box found 62% of people want the chancellor to answer these questions.
The longer he leaves it, the less electable his Conservative Party becomes…
… and the more like a gang of crooks covering their friends’ backs.
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