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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:39 pm on 3rd February 2016.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Scottish National Party, Glenrothes 4:39 pm, 3rd February 2016

First, I apologise to the shadow Chancellor for missing the first 60 seconds or so of his speech.

It has been suggested that we are criticising the team manager for not winning by a big enough margin. If this was such an important victory, why is the team manager refusing all interviews, choosing instead to send the reserve team goalkeeper—not to do interviews about the game, but to talk about everything and anything apart from the great victory?

The Government have tabled an amendment that is four times as long as the motion they seek to amend, and it doesnae mention Google or the £130 million great victory anywhere. It is a strange victory indeed if the Government are trying to hide it under the biggest, deepest, darkest bushel they can find. It is to the Government’s eternal shame, and it exposes Parliament to ridicule and brings it into disrepute, that every time over the last week that Opposition Members—not only from Labour, but from other Opposition parties as well—have asked for a justification for this deal, every Minister has answered by batting the issue across to the Labour Benches, like the most expensive ping-pong ball in the history of sport.

I commend the shadow Chancellor for being prepared to acknowledge that the previous Labour Government’s actions might not stand up to much scrutiny on this issue. Labour’s downfall started when it got far too cosy with the big, anonymous multinational institutions. I suspect that quite a few people on the Labour Benches today would accept that with hindsight.

If all that the Government can say to defend their actions is that the previous Government were even worse, that sends the message to the people of these islands that the actions of both Governments are indefensible. A Government who try to defend the indefensible by saying that somebody else was more indefensible really are not delivering much for the people of these islands.

If we are to believe the selective information that Google has put out about how productive its 2,300 employees have been, the equivalent, taking a generous Back-Bench MP’s salary, would be for each of us to deliver less than 25p value added per year for each of our constituents. I doubt whether any of us would fancy the next election if that was all that we were delivering. It simply is not credible for a major successful multinational business to suggest that it employs so many people to deliver so little profit for its shareholders.

This is not just about the technicalities of what is admittedly very complex legislation; it is about Parliament holding HMRC and Google to account and about allowing the public to hold us to account. The clear message coming from the overwhelming majority of the 60 million-plus people represented in this Chamber today is that this Google deal stinks. It cannot possibly be justified, and it is interesting that the Government are not even attempting to defend it in the amendment.