The Government were today challenged to come clean over how they acted over the allegations of tax avoidance and evasion at HSBC. Treasury Minister David Gauke repeatedly failed to answer questions posed.
There are now three key questions the Government must answer if we are to have any confidence at all in their commitment to tackling tax avoidance and evasion:
- Detailed information was passed to the Government in May 2010 about over a thousand HSBC clients allegedly guilty of tax evasion, and yet since then there has been just one prosecution. Why? The Minister was asked, but failed to answer.
- Lord Stephen Green was Chairman of HSBC 2006-2010 and was appointed as Trade Minister by David Cameron in January 2011. What due diligence did the Government do in advance of Lord Green’s appointment about the allegations against HSBC and what Lord Green knew about them when at the bank? The Minister was asked, but failed to answer – repeatedly.
- When the French authorities passed this information to HMRC in May 2010, who saw it and what was done with it; were Ministers informed and what communications did HMRC have with the Treasury and No10? The Minister was asked, but failed to answer – again, repeatedly
Without clarity over these matters, we will only conclude that the Government has failed to act over the deeply serious matter of tackling tax avoidance and evasion.
It is essential that we now hear from Lord Green himself about what assurances he gave on his appointment to be a member of David Cameron’s Government and what his role was over the HSBC allegations.
Shabana Mahmood MP is the Shadow Exchequer Secretary