Saturday 16 December 2017

David Cameron 'misled the public' over offshore fund scheme - Jeremy Corbyn

British PM David Cameron Photo: Reuters
British PM David Cameron Photo: Reuters

David Hughes

David Cameron has "misled the public" and "lost the trust of the British people" after admitting he had benefited from an offshore fund set up by his late father, Jeremy Corbyn said.

The Labour leader said the Prime Minister should make a statement to Parliament and give a "full account of all his private financial dealings" as he claimed the revelations raised issues about his "personal integrity".

The Prime Minister sold his and wife Samantha's shares in Blairmore Holdings - one of the tax haven schemes exposed in the Panama Papers leaks - in 2010 and insisted it was not set up as a tax dodge.

He paid income tax on dividends but the £19,000 profit on the sale was insufficient to attract capital gains tax.

In a strongly-worded statement, Mr Corbyn demanded "decisive action" against tax dodging which the Panama Papers leak revealed was taking place on an "industrial scale".

Mr Cameron has insisted it was a "fundamental misconception" that Bahamas-based Blairmore was set up by his father Ian to avoid paying UK tax and stressed that his interest in it had been "subject to all the UK taxes in the normal ways".

Pressure has been mounting on the Prime Minister for days after Downing Street initially claimed his financial affairs were a "private matter".

Mr Corbyn said: "It is now clear that the Prime Minister has misled the public about his personal involvement in offshore tax avoidance schemes.

"It took five weasel-worded statements in five days for the Prime Minister to admit that he has personally profited from an undeclared Caribbean tax haven investment deal.

"After years of calling for tax transparency and attacking complex offshore tax arrangements as 'morally wrong', the Prime Minister has been shown to have personally benefited from exactly such a secretive offshore investment.

"His determination to conceal that arrangement over many years raises serious questions over public trust in his office and his willingness to be straight with the public."

He added that "the revelations of industrial scale tax dodging and corruption from Panama haven't just raised issues about the Prime Minister's personal integrity" but "also highlight his Government's failure to take decisive action to crack down on tax avoidance and evasion".

Mr Corbyn said: "The Prime Minister has lost the trust of the British people. He must now give a full account of all his private financial dealings and make a statement to Parliament next week.

"Only complete openness from the Prime Minister, and decisive action against tax avoidance and evasion, can now deal with the issues at the heart of this scandal."

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said while Mr Cameron had previously "talked a good game on tax avoidance, we've found out this week the reality doesn't always match the rhetoric".

Ms Sturgeon said: "I think David Cameron has given the impression that he's been trying to hide something over the past few days, he's had several statements and started by giving the impression there was nothing to hide before last night saying he had benefited from an offshore trust.

"I think he has to be completely open and transparent about this now."

The Prime Minister could face a sleaze investigation over claims he should have declared his shares in Blairmore in the register of members' interests.

Labour MP John Mann intends to report the Prime Minister to the parliamentary standards commissioner, Kathryn Hudson, after repeatedly calling for Mr Cameron's resignation.

Mr Mann is expected to argue the PM should have declared his stake in Blairmore in the register, which details the financial interests of MPs.

A No 10 spokesman said: "The Prime Minister's interests have always been recorded in line with the rules as they stood at the time."

Tory MP Victoria Atkins suggested that Mr Cameron could have revealed he benefited from the offshore fund earlier.

Ms Atkins, who prosecuted tax fraud cases before becoming an MP, said "it must have been a bit of a shock" for the Prime Minister to have his father's financial affairs in the spotlight on Monday, when Downing Street insisted it was a "private matter".

"So I think it's a completely natural instinct that you draw back a bit from that," Ms Atkins told Channel 4 News. "But hindsight is a wonderful thing.

"If we were to replay this week, who knows whether the Prime Minister would have had that interview a day or two earlier.

"But the fact is now he has been completely frank and transparent about his affairs."

The programme also reported that Ian Cameron had links to a third offshore fund, PMG Eagle Fund based in Jersey.

As well as Blairmore, the Prime Minister's father was also known to have a connection to Close International Equity Growth Fund on the Channel Island.

Press Association

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