Thursday, October 21

David Cameron to face public grilling over £72,000 secret shares stash claims



Shamefaced David Cameron faces a public grilling over his personal tax affairs amid questions about a second secret stash of shares worth £72,000.

The under-fire Prime Minister will make a humiliating statement to Parliament after his tax returns showed he secretly sold off another huge tranche of shares in 2010 alongside the £31,000 stake in his dad’s offshore fund.

Downing Street is refusing to say which other investment funds or private firms the PM held a stake in – and if any more of them were based in dodgy tax havens.

“There are big questions that have to be put to him by Parliament,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said.

After a week of pressure Mr Cameron finally published details of his last six annual tax returns on Saturday night, revealing a huge second income as a London landlord and raising questions about a possible £200,000 inheritance tax dodge.

With the PM’s total earnings since 2009 topping £1million, the papers also reveal he shamelessly cut his own taxes less than two years after taking office to trouser an extra £200-a-month.

While delivering brutal cuts to the incomes of the poorest in society in the 2012 Budget, Mr Cameron also cut the top rate of income tax for those earning more than £150,000-a-year.

And while the PM’s publicly-declared salary at the time was just below this level at £142,000, the tax return details show that both he and wife Sam have each been pocketing nearly £1,000-a-week from renting out their luxury pad in Notting Hill.

That pushed the PM’s earnings beyond £200,000-a-year – meaning his decision to cut the top rate of tax from 50p down to 45p has netted him an extra £2,500-a-year since 2013.

“(I) can see now why Cameron was so keen to cut the 50p rate,” said Labour ’s shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith.

The latest scandal comes with Mr Cameron’s ‘Cabinet of millionaires’ facing mounting pressure to follow his lead and publish their own tax returns.

Mega-rich Tory Ministers like Chancellor George Osborne and Business Secretary Sajid Javid have so far refused to reveal their own financial interests, or admit if they have ever profited from shady offshore investments.

Mr Osborne repeatedly refused to answer questions about any past offshore investments when asked in a live TV interview last week.

Appearing on the Marr Show, Mr Corbyn said the PM’s move towards transparency was long overdue and warned all MPs may now need to publish details of their personal finances.

He said: “I think it’s probably a good thing if we move generally in that direction, so that we know what influences are at play.”

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who has already published his tax return, went further and directly called for all MPs to publish their personal incomes.

“It happens in other European countries, I don’t see the problem with it,” he said on Radio Five’s Pienaar’s Politics.

Publishing tax returns has been a long-standing practice for politicians in America and has been undertaken by candidates standing to be London Mayor.

Mr Corbyn and Lib Dem leader Tim Farron have both pledged to publish their tax returns in the coming days.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has already done so.

But Tory Cabinet Minister Amber Rudd battled to resist the plan, claiming it would put rich people off standing for Parliament.

“I think we have to think very carefully about the balance between transparency and privacy,” she said on Sky’s Murnaghan show.

“We don’t want to put people off who might have substantial assets… I don’t think it’s necessarily the right way to go.”

The SNP’s leader in Westminster Angus Robertson said the first priority must be to make clear whether senior members of the Cabinet who make decision on tax laws have themselves benefited from offshore investments, as Mr Cameron has now admitted to doing.

“The Cabinet has responsibility for making the rules covering taxation, tax loopholes, offshore trusts,” he said.

“What involvement have Cabinet members have in relation to tax havens? Have they had any connections, yes or no? I think the public deserves to know.”

It follows a disastrous week for Mr Cameron since details first emerged in the ‘Panama Papers’ leak of his late father Ian’s financial dealings in tax havens.

After four days of dodging questions the PM finally confirmed on Thursday that he and wife Sam profited to the tune of almost £20,000 after buying thousands of shares in Ian’s offshore firm Blairmore, based in Bermuda.

Under mounting pressure, Mr Cameron took the unprecedented step at the weekend of publishing all his personal tax dealings dating back to the year before he became Prime Minister.

But the publication raised more questions than answers, with revelations that his mother Mary gifted him £200,000 at around the time his father died in 2010 and left him £300,000 in his will.

If 82-year-old Mary lives for another two years the PM will effectively avoid paying up to £80,000 in inheritance tax on the gift.

Tory Armed Forces Minister Penny Mordant admitted people’s faith in the PM has been badly damaged.

“I think what this is about is trust,” she said on the BBC’s Sunday Politics. “And he has to now demonstrate and build up that trust and rapport with the general public.”

In a bid to get back on the front foot Mr Cameron will today (MON) use his statement in the Commons to announce he is bring forward plans to introduce a criminal offence for corporations who fail to stop their staff facilitating tax evasion.

The scheme was actually announced last year, but the PM is desperate to show he is taking action and will say today the new law will be brought in before the end of 2016.

“This Government has done more than any other to take action against corruption in all its forms, but we will go further,” Mr Cameron will say.

“That is why we will legislate this year to hold companies who fail to stop their employees facilitating tax evasion criminally liable.”