Opposition Day — [18th Allotted Day] — Tax Avoidance and Multinational Companies

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 3rd February 2016.

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Photo of Roger Mullin Roger Mullin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury) 3:32 pm, 3rd February 2016

Many people throughout Britain will think that the hon. Gentleman has made a very fair point. That is why I have been arguing that we must have a proper investigation and why, perhaps in the longer run, we need to do something about greater transparency. It will be very difficult for us to bring a proper critique to bear if we do not get such clarification.

It must, of course, be admitted that this is not a new phenomenon. I first became aware of concerns about multinationals paying their fair share of UK taxes back in the early 1970s, when I briefly worked for the multinational IBM, and I am aware of concerns predating that. This has not been going on for just one or two years; Governments have not been able to resolve this issue satisfactorily for decades, which emphasises its complexity. The issue has been around for a long time, regardless of whether this country had a Labour or Tory Government and regardless of which parties formed Governments in many other countries.

I remember that the concerns back in the early 1970s were about what was called “transfer pricing”. For example, a company could buy a handle from a parent company in another country and charge an exorbitant fee for it, which allowed them easily to transfer profits from one area to another. I would be the first to admit that there have been moves to tighten up many such matters since the 1970s, but it remains a fundamental problem to this day. Corporation tax seems to be very susceptible to avoidance by multinational corporations because of the way in which they can, quite legally, operate.