Monday 26 September 2016

Panama Papers: Three questions David Cameron must answer

Michael Wilkinson

Published 06/04/2016 | 11:48

David Cameron. Reuters/Joshua Roberts
David Cameron. Reuters/Joshua Roberts

David Cameron has sought to draw a line under questions over his family's personal tax arrangements after his late father Ian's offshore fund was linked to the Panama Papers scandal.

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Questions still remain, however, that the Prime Minister will need to answer as critics continue to pile pressure on him.

On Tuesday, Mr Cameron said he had "no shares, no offshore trusts, no offshore funds" but did not directly respond to whether anyone in his family could still benefit from an arrangement set up by his father.

"In terms of my own financial affairs, I own no shares," Mr Cameron said. "I have a salary as prime minister and I have some savings, which I get some interest from and I have a house, which we used to live in, which we now let out while we are living in Downing Street and that’s all I have. “I have no shares, no offshore trusts, no offshore funds, nothing like that. And, so that, I think, is a very clear description."

In response to demands for clarity, Downing Street later issued a further statement which said: “To be clear, the Prime Minister, his wife and their children do not benefit from any offshore funds.

“The Prime Minister owns no shares. As has been previously reported, Mrs Cameron owns a small number of shares connected to her father’s land, which she declares on her tax return.”

But what questions are still to be answered?

Has David Cameron benefited from his father's fund in the past?

Mr Cameron's statement did not clarify whether or not he has benefited in the past from Blairmore Holdings Inc.

Labour MP Wes Streeting, for Ilford North, described Mr Cameron's statement as "partial" and claimed that "it raised more questions than perhaps it answered".

Mr Streeting, a member of the Commons Treasury Committee, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think there are still questions about whether or not he's benefited in the past and I think we could do with having far more tax experts coming out and saying that actually he has squared off all possibilities."

Will David Cameron publish his personal tax return?

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, has urged Mr Cameron to show leadership on the issue of tax transparency and publish his personal tax return.

He said: “When asked in 2015 about his tax affairs the Prime Minister said he was ‘very relaxed’ about providing transparency.  He should stick to that approach now and be as open as possible about his finances. 

“However this issue is about the sunny places that shady things happen and I again call on the Prime Minister to live up to his promises and end the tax avoidance culture of UK territories.”

Has David Cameron been evasive about his family's tax affairs?

While David Cameron might have tried to draw a line under discussions about his family's tax affairs, his critics have inevitably tried to drag him further into the debate over the Panama Papers scandal. Jeremy Corbyn called for an independent investigation into tax arrangements, including those of the Prime Minister.

As questions continued about the past and future benefits the Camerons may have reaped, No 10 put out a fresh statement stating the PM, wife Samantha and children would not benefit in the future.

A spokesman said: "There are no offshore funds/trusts which the PM, Mrs Cameron or their children will benefit from in future."

The statement, however, does not mention Mr Cameron's wider family, including his mother Mary.

So, just how open has Mr Cameron been about his own family's arrangements?

"I think the clarification about whether or not he or his family will benefit in the future is a welcome clarification," said Mr Streeting. "I think where David Cameron made a rod for his own back yesterday was issuing what was quite a qualified statement, that then led people to think, 'is he being shady about this, is he being evasive, are there further questions to ask?"'

Mr Streeting said the issue about tax havens was about openness and transparency.

He said: "It's really clear that the UK, acting independently but also in conjunction with other countries, still has far more to do to tackle aggressive tax avoidance and tax havens.

"And so from a public point of view the question will be, when our Prime Minister says he's serious about tackling it, he's said it many times, are we absolutely certain he doesn't have a vested interest, and even if he does have a vested interest would he be upfront with us about it."

Telegraph.co.uk

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