Cameron sets out transparency measures as Corbyn, Osborne publish tax returns


David Cameron has set out new measures to make it harder for people to hide the proceeds of corruption offshore, as Jeremy Corbyn and George Osborne published details of their tax returns.

The Chancellor's release showed he received a total taxable income of £198,738 in 2014/15, including £44,647 in the form of dividends and rental income of £33,562, and that he paid income tax of £72,210. The figures showed Mr Osborne was earning enough to benefit from his cut in the top rate of income tax from 50p to 45p.

Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn declared just £1,850 of taxable income in 2014/15 over and above his parliamentary salary. The Labour leader had to pay a £100 fine after filing the return late.

In a Commons statement, Mr Cameron - who published details of his own tax return at the weekend - said he believed there was a "strong case" for the Prime Minister, leader of the opposition, chancellor and shadow chancellor to make their tax affairs public, but did not think the same should apply to all MPs.

"If this were to come in for MPs, people would also ask for a similar approach for those who ask us questions, those who run large public services, or lead local government, or indeed those who edit the news programmes or newspapers," he said.

"I think this would be a very big step for our country, it certainly shouldn't take place without a long and thoughtful debate and it is not the approach that I would recommend."

Labour complained that Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne had avoided "full disclosure", as they published summaries of their returns which were "as transparent as dishwater" rather than releasing the original documents.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell repeated Labour calls for an independent inquiry, adding: "This is not about individuals, it's about trust and fairness at the top of government. As we now know, when the Chancellor was cutting the top rate of income tax for people like himself, while at the same time saying he wasn't wealthy enough to benefit, he was also cutting public services and support for some of the most vulnerable in our society."

Mr Cameron accepted that he had not handled the row over his father's Blairmore unit trust well, after a torrid week in which Downing Street's response to the leak of the so-called Panama Papers changed several times.

But he said he had  been "angry" over "some deeply hurtful and profoundly untrue allegations" against his father Ian Cameron, who died in 2010.

"I know he was a hard-working man and a wonderful dad and I'm proud of everything he did to build a business and provide for his family," the PM told MPs.

Mr Cameron, who inherited £300,000 from his father and received gifts worth £200,000 from his mother Mary, said it was "natural human instinct" for parents to want to pass assets on to their children.The tax rules "fully recognise" that parents may make gifts to their children tax-free while they are alive, and this was "something that we should not just defend but proudly support", he said.

The Prime Minister said it was right to "tighten the law and change the culture" to crack down on evasion and aggressive avoidance", but the Government should "defend the right of every British citizen to make money lawfully".

Mr Cameron announced that most British crown dependencies and overseas territories have now agreed to share information in future with UK police and law enforcement authorities.

"For the first time UK police and law enforcement will be able to see exactly who really owns and controls every company incorporated in these territories - Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Isle of Man, Jersey, the lot," Mr Cameron said.

The Prime Minister said similar agreements were expected soon with Guernsey and Anguilla. And he confirmed plans to legislate this year on the Conservatives' manifesto commitment to create a new criminal offence for companies which fail to prevent their representatives facilitating tax evasion.

Meanwhile, the Government will provide £10 million for a new cross-agency task force to analyse the information contained in leaks linked to Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

But Mr Corbyn dismissed the PM's statement as a "masterclass in the art of distraction" and accused Mr Cameron of failing to appreciate the public anger over the "scandal of destructive global tax avoidance" revealed by the Panama Papers.

"What they have driven home is what many people have increasingly felt - there is now one rule for the super-rich and another for the rest," he said.

"I'm honestly not sure that the Prime Minister fully appreciates the anger that is out there over this injustice."

And tax fairness campaigners said the new measures did not go far enough.

Christian Aid said that the announcement amounted to a "climbdown" on Mr Cameron's previous support for public registers of companies' beneficial ownership.

"The Prime Minister himself knows that central registers do not solve the problem and that to curb the sort of activities exposed in the Panama Papers, the public, journalists and other businesses must be able to see those registers," said the charity's Toby Quantrill, who challenged Mr Cameron to announce a date for overseas territories to make information public ahead of an anti-corruption summit he is hosting in London on May 12.

Oxfam also called for public registers, saying that Mr Cameron "needs to do better than this", while ActionAid's Charlie Matthews said: "Today's proposals will not be enough to curb the massive corporate tax avoidance connected to UK-linked tax havens like the British Virgin Islands."