Photo by epSos.de (Creative Commons)
The revelations contained in the so-called ‘Panama Papers’, which have come to light following a leak from just one law firm in one overseas jurisdiction, have rightly caused public outrage and indignation. My inbox has been divulged with people asking the fair and obvious question: ‘If I pay all my taxes fairly, at source, then why should things be different for anyone else?’.
The level and number of senior figures named is deeply disheartening. They include close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, Iceland's now former prime minister, as well as Barcelona striker Lionel Messi.
So what can be done against this outrageous abuse? Parliament discussed this on Wednesday, and the answer is quite a lot. I voted for an immediate public inquiry into the revelations in the Panama Papers, for HMRC to be properly resourced to investigate tax avoidance and evasion, for greater public sector transparency to ensure foreign companies wanting to tender for public sector contracts publicly list their beneficial owners, and for consultation on proposals for foreign companies wanting to own UK property to have their beneficial owners listed publicly.
We also need to see the swift implementation of full public country-by-country reporting as well as ensuring robust protection for whistle blowers. Crucially we must ensure stricter standards of transparency over company and trust ownership for Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.
The Government didn't agree, and I think they risk failing to appreciate the scale of public anger over this matter. Everyone must contribute fairly to the Exchequer that funds our schools, our health service and our armed forces. At a time when government austerity measures are hitting those on lowest incomes so harshly, it is all the more imperative that everyone with high levels of personal wealth pay their fair share.
You can read the full debate here and see what you think.