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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:35 pm on 3rd February 2016.

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Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Scottish National Party, Glasgow South West 4:35 pm, 3rd February 2016

Let me first declare that this morning I was elected chair of the all-party Public and Commercial Services Union group, succeeding the shadow Chancellor, who of course will be a hard act to follow. I will be referring to HMRC staff.

Such is the widespread scepticism and lack of public confidence following this deal that the term “to google it” now has a new meaning on the streets of the UK. No longer does it mean logging on to a computer and exploring a search engine; “to google it” now means something else. When members of the public grab their self-assessment forms, they might ask themselves, “Should I google it?”

The Minister had four opportunities—four tests, in my view—to address that widespread scepticism and lack of public confidence. The issue is about the messages that this sends. First, there was no real answer on what methodology was used to make the calculation. More worryingly, although the Minister praised HMRC staff, he did not address why 120 compulsory redundancies were issued to HMRC staff on 28 January. Worse still, there has been no explanation for why the chief executive of HMRC has refused to meet the PCS to try to help mitigate those job losses. That is a message that will be sent to multinational companies. They will wonder why HMRC offices are closing in towns, in many of which it is the largest employer, and why there are staff reductions. They will wonder whether the UK Government are serious about dealing with tax avoidance and tax evasion.