Cameron just refused to give a straight answer about whether he'd benefited from tax avoidance - big mistake

The inquiry that Jeremy Corbyn called for earlier today should be given every resource to investigate for us if our Prime Minister refuses to clarify whether his father was deliberately avoiding tax

Liam Young
Tuesday 05 April 2016 17:09
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David Cameron holds a Q&A session on the forthcoming European Union referendum with staff of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Birmingham
David Cameron holds a Q&A session on the forthcoming European Union referendum with staff of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Birmingham

If there was ever a time a straight question demanded a straight answer, it was this afternoon when David Cameron was asked about his family’s involvement with offshore tax avoidance. But unfortunately for the British public, the Prime Minister wasn’t in the mood to provide a straight answer – and instead chose to dodge the issue of his late father’s offshore business dealings altogether.

The Prime Minister was speaking at PwC this afternoon and, at the end of his speech, took just two questions from the press. He had previously implied that he would take more but this opportunity didn’t materialise, meaning that journalists were unable to probe the non-answer he provided.

Cameron was asked directly whether he or his family had benefited from the offshore Blairmore Holdings fund mentioned in the Panama Papers and established by his father, Ian Cameron. In reply, he spoke about British efforts to reduce tax avoidance and outlined his personal financial situation. He detailed his salary as Prime Minister, his savings and interests and the proceeds of the rental of his Witney home.

While it’s great to see the Prime Minister open up about his personal finances, he didn't exactly answer the question. Perhaps this new period of openness will lead to him releasing his tax return, as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn promised to do earlier today. Perhaps not.

The disappointing fact is that today, Cameron answered the question he wanted to answer. On an issue as important as this, that simply is not good enough. If it’s true that at the same time as the Tories have been talking tough about tax havens and tax avoidance – not to mention legislating for some of the harshest cuts to public services – our own Prime Minister has known all along that he benefited from offshore accounts which didn’t pay UK tax, then we deserve proper answers.

“Have you benefited from tax avoidance?” is a pretty straightforward question. If the answer really is no, then why didn't Cameron just say it? If the answer is yes, then we have a serious problem on our hands.

Cameron dodges Panama question

The prospect of a sitting Prime Minister having benefitted from offshore funds stashed there so as to avoid tax is a frightening one. Though this may do the Prime Minister some short-term political damage, avoiding an honest and direct answer does more harm in the long-term.

When the same question was posed yesterday, the Prime Minister's spokesperson replied that it was 'a private matter'. But realistically it isn't. This is a very public matter and interest in it has been fuelled primarily by the Prime Minister himself. His shady-sounding answer has only fuelled calls for clarification and further statements.

His decision to take no further questions has only raised the eyebrows of commentators and the public alike. If the Prime Minister has nothing to hide from, he should release relevant documents and confirm neither he or anyone in his direct family benefits from the proceeds of offshore tax avoidance wrangling.

Let’s give Cameron one final chance to state his position before we send him to the naughty step. If he does choose to supply a straight answer, great. If he doesn't, then the inquiry that Jeremy Corbyn called for earlier today should be given every resource to investigate and clarify for us. Because if we’re really all in this together, then there can’t be one rule for him and one rule for the rest of us.

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