Of course we need a business-friendly tax environment, but we should also recognise, just as I find when I talk to many international businesses, as I do in my shadow ministerial position, that the vast majority of businesses want to be compliant. Sadly, a small number of firms are not necessarily complying with the letter of the law and some are also not complying with the spirit of the law. That is leading to a situation where our public services are starved of the funding we need, which has a huge impact on business, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware through his discussions with businesses in his constituency.
Let me return to the matter of overseas territories, which strangely appear to be referred to in pictorial form in material released by Conservative central office. This Government were forced kicking and screaming by this House to require our overseas territories to produce public registers of beneficial ownership, but I understand that all that has happened since the vote that forced that change in policy is one conference call, leading to a vague commitment to convene a technical working group—but it is not going to meet until 2019. So we have had many months since that vote in this House but almost no action. In addition, rather than fulfil the commitments the Opposition were given that our Government would work with Crown dependencies towards transparency, tax treaties were presented to this House last week that included no such provisions whatsoever.
The Minister has, as ever, opined that his Government have reduced the tax gap, and indeed other Members have just referred to that. I am sure, however, that he will not illuminate us with the fact that his Government’s tax gap measure excludes the costs of profit shifting and that it starts from the assumption that companies are declaring the correct amount of tax, which surely begs the question. The tax gap for this Government is assessed on the basis of whether Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has found errors or evidence of avoidance on tax returns, an approach that has rightly been criticised by the Public Accounts Committee, given that it leads to a situation where much of the tax lost through avoidance simply does not count as part of the tax gap. The Government’s tax gap does not appear to include cases of avoidance or evasion that do not fall under existing legislation, so it fails to capture numerous loopholes that continue to be exploited simply because they are exactly that: loopholes.