London | British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday described as deeply hurtful and profoundly untrue comments about his late father’s investments as he faced MPs in the House of Commons for the first time since the Panama Papers row.
In a statement to Parliament, Cameron said, aspiration and wealth creation are not some how dirty words, a day after he had taken the unprecedented step of publishing his tax return figures in an attempt to establish transparency. We should defend the right of every British citizen to make money, he said.
Explaining why he sold his shares in his father’s Blairmore Holdings the firm at the heart of the debate around the alleged off-shore investments to evade tax in 2010, the year he became the Prime Minister, Cameron said: I sold all the shares in my portfolio that year because I did not want any issues of conflict of interest.
Selling all my shares was the clearest and simplest way to do that. On a personal note, he said, There have been some deeply hurtful and profoundly untrue comments made about my father. He stressed that millions of people in Britain owned shared through investment funds or unit trusts off-shore and in his father’s case, Blairmore was registered with the UKs Inland Revenue from the beginning and submitted returns every year.
It was not a family trust. It was a commercial investment fund forany investor tobuy units in. UK investors paid all the same taxes as with any other share, including income tax on dividends every year. This is an entirely standard practice and it is not to avoid tax, he said. Meanwhile, UK Chancellor George Osborne followed Cameron in publishing his tax return for the 2014/15 year.
He made 33,562 pounds from renting his Notting Hill home and 44,647 pounds from shares dividends last year. Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also followed suit, describing Cameron’stax affairs as a masterclass in the art of distraction. He said: There is now one rule for the super-rich, and another for the rest. I am not sure that the Prime Minister fully appreciates the anger that is out there. What has been revealed in the past week has gone far beyond what the Prime Minister calls his ‘private matters’.
Away from the personal focus, Cameron stressed that his government is providing 10 million pounds of funding for a cross-agency that will analyse the information from the Panama Papers. Under current legislation it is difficult to prosecute a company that assists with tax evasion, but we are going to change that, so will legislate this year for a new criminal offence to apply to corporations who fail to prevent their representatives from criminally facilitating tax evasion, he told Parliament.