Leading article: Tax clampdown must start at home

Share
Related Topics

Every so often, observers of our body politic have to pinch themselves. Did they really hear that? Did the minister say that? So it proved yesterday, when the Chief Secretary to the Treasury was dragged to the Commons Chamber to answer an urgent question from Labour on the revelation that the head of the Student Loans Company had his salary paid gross to a private company, enabling him to reduce his tax and national insurance payments.

Said Danny Alexander: "There is no place for tax avoidance in this government." The minister went on to say that in future Ed Lester would be subject to PAYE – the same, you might have thought, as all public servants. Not a bit of it. Mr Alexander added that he had asked the Treasury to review the "appropriateness of allowing public sector appointees to be paid through this mechanism" – a clear hint there could well be others availing themselves of the same ruse.

Successive governments have said they are opposed to tax dodging – as far back as 1993 this paper's sister, The Independent on Sunday, caused a sensation when it broke the story that John Birt, then director-general of the BBC, was being paid as a freelance, enabling him to offset all manner of expenses against his income and reduce his tax liability.

It beggars belief that, despite all those assurances, the Government's own workers are indulging in such schemes. Protestations from the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, that Mr Lester was "an exceptionally useful individual who has helped to turn round that organisation" [the Student Loans Company] are risible.

No one is doubting Mr Lester's qualification for doing his job. What matters is his paying less tax than his colleagues on PAYE. The very existence of this arrangement right under Whitehall's nose only brings into focus the Government's professed drive against the rich hiding their earnings in offshore tax havens. It is made worse for this being a period of austerity when other officials have been losing their jobs.

Mr Alexander is right: there is no place for tax avoidance in this government. But words on their own are not enough. He must also show that he means it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mechanical Design Engineer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: MECHANICAL D...

SQL DBA (2005/2008/2012, projects, storage requirements)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Copywriter - Corporate clients - Wimbledon

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Copywriter - London As a Copywrite...

Horticulture Lecturer / Tutor / Assessor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Tiger skin seized from a smuggler by customs officers in Lhasa, Tibet  

Save the tiger: Poaching facts

Harvey Day
 

Save the tiger: 7 saddening facts about the extinction of Javan tigers

Harvey Day
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried