Panama Papers: George Osborne repeatedly dodges questions on family's tax affairs then ends interview

'Do you now or will you in the future benefit from any offshore funds?'

Ashley Cowburn
Wednesday 06 April 2016 18:32
Osborne on tax evasion

George Osborne has repeatedly evaded questions on whether he has personally benefited from offshore funds.

The Chancellor, who was visiting the Ocado Customer Fulfilment Centre in Hatfield, was asked: "Do you now or will you in the future benefit from any offshore funds?"

Rather than answer the question directly, Mr Osborne responded by saying that members of the Commons record all their interests in the register of members' interests.

He added: "But I thought it was very striking you had a Labour Member of Parliament this morning praising the Prime Minister’s leadership home and abroad on this issue of tax evasion where frankly this British government has done more any previous British government to make sure they pay the taxes that are owed.”

He was then asked a second time “are you going to benefit at all?” and again referred to the government’s record on issues of tax avoidance.

“As I’ve said all of our interests as ministers and MPs are declared in the register of members’ interests and we’ve made our position very clear,” he said.

“As I said this Conservative government has done more that any Labour government or any previous government to tackle tax evasion, to tackle tax avoidance, to get money into the exchequer that is owed to the public."

When the ITV interviewer attempted to ask another question, Mr Osborne said “thank you” and ended the interview.

A source close to the Chancellor, speaking after the ITV interview, said to The Independent: "George has no offshore interests, in shares or anything else, and as he made clear earlier all his interests are properly declared in the register of interests."

The source also denied that Mr Osborne had terminated the interview, adding the interviewer simply asked more questions than had initially been agreed.

It comes as Prime Minister David Cameron hit back at critics as Downing Street issued further clarification of his tax affairs. He had been under pressure to give a clear explanation of how he, or his immediate family, stood to benefit from Blairmore - the company set by his late father, Ian, in Panama and the Bahamas, and which has avoided ever paying tax in Britain.

Downing Street had issued three partial answers about the fund on Tuesday before clearing up whether his family would gain in the future from the investment fund.

Richard Burgon MP, Labour's Shadow Treasury Minister, responding to the leaked Panama Papers, said: “As for the Prime Minister’s involvement, the story seemingly changes by the hour with four different statements already.

"Far from clearing up the matter questions remain and now it seems like George Osborne is being dragged into the row. It’s time for the drip, drip of revelations to end - David Cameron needs to put the record straight once and for all and so does George Osborne.

“When it comes to ensuring tax fairness, the Conservatives clearly have a problem from top to bottom in their party. They say one thing and do another. If they can’t even get their own house in order what faith can we have that they are going to properly enforce the rules and hold the banks to account?"

The Chancellor was interviewed on the issue as politicians across the globe came under intense scrutiny in the wake of the leaked cache of Panama Papers from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

In the biggest data leak so far, 11 million documents were passed to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with 107 media organisations around the world. The Icleandic prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has stepped aside for an unspecified period of time following the leak.

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