Mark Leftly: There's no hedge with Margaret Hodge and no avoiding a tax outcry


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The Independent Online

Westminster Outlook If there is any fire left in the belly of the House of Commons, then it is to be found in the perpetually incandescent form of the Public Accounts Committee chair, Margaret Hodge. In allegations that HSBC’s Swiss arm might have helped the wealthy avoid or even evade tax, she has an issue suited to her unique brand of fury and indignation.

When Lin Homer, the boss of  her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, faced Ms Hodge on Wednesday, the Labour MP fumed that the tax authority had failed to deal with the bank properly.

“If your main objective was to get the money in, you’ve not done as well as either the French or Spanish,” she seethed.

Ms Hodge recently dropped plans to seek Labour’s nomination to be a candidate for London Mayor, which is a bit of a shame as it would have livened up a race that will be devoid of Boris Johnson’s charisma this time around. However, it also means that, after the election, Ms Hodge can focus on tax avoidance. That could be by continuing at the helm of the Public Accounts Committee or by speaking out from the backbenches, using parliamentary privilege to blast anyone who has ever saved a more than a pound or two in tax. She has been a fine champion for this cause.

Lord Fink – the former hedge  fund manager and ex-Tory party co-treasurer whose tax affairs were questionably singled out by Ed Miliband – surely had a point when he said that “everyone does tax avoidance at some level”. Can’t wait for him to explain that one to Ms Hodge.