Molly Scott Cato MEP, a member of the European Parliament’s special tax committee, today hit out at chancellor George Osborne over claims the UK government is leading on measures to prevent corporate tax avoidance. Dr Scott Cato told the European Parliament that the chancellor pretends to support something radical in London while doing all he can to block real progress in Brussels. She drew attention to the fact Conservative MEPs have consistently voted against amendments which aim to clamp down on corporate tax avoidance .
Molly points to a number of instances where the Tories have sought to block progress on anti-tax avoidance measures. For example, revelations over the weekend reveal how the Conservative government has been privately lobbying the EU to remove Bermuda from an official blacklist of tax havens, a place where Google has reportedly amassed £30bn in profits. Last December Tory MEPs voted against a package of measures for bringing ‘transparency, coordination and convergence’ to corporate tax policies and even voted against the establishment of the special committee on tax, set up to propose legislative measures to address corporate tax avoidance. Molly said:
“Through my work in Europe I see clearly how the Tories are encouraging tax avoidance by global corporations and their inherent Euroscepticism means that they are actually blocking EU measures to challenge corporate tax avoidance.”
During a debate on a new European Commission anti-tax avoidance package, Molly today told the European Parliament:
“We are tired of tax competition and even more tired of competition over tax rhetoric. We are tired of politicians who make the right noises when the latest scandal hits the headlines but then vote to protect corporations and their sweetheart tax deals. I will be watching how Osborne behaves when the Commission package reaches the Council. It is then that his words will be tested with action. The British people will not forgive him if he continues to protect the corporations and his words issued in the heat of the moment are seen to mean nothing.”
 Full statement by Molly Scott Cato MEP to the European Parliament plenary debate on the Commission’s anti-tax avoidance package.
I am convinced that the Commission’s tax package indicates a genuine desire to challenge the power of transnational corporations to use their cosy relationship with governments to minimise their tax payments. The era of there being one rule for corporations and another for the little people must come to an end.
I am less convinced about the commitment of Chancellor George Osborne to the fight against tax avoidance. He may be good at pretending to support something radical in London but in Brussels he is doing everything he can to make sure these proposals do not become law. So I was pleased to see him calling for public reporting of company profits and tax returns, but perhaps he needs to check the voting records of his own members here in this House who recently voted against an amendment to achieve just this.
As MEPs who represent small businesses and citizens who are bearing an unfair tax burden, we are tired of tax competition and even more tired of competition over tax rhetoric. We are tired of politicians who make the right noises when the latest scandal hits the headlines but then vote to protect corporations and their sweetheart tax deals.
As Greens we are determined to end corporate tax avoidance and as a shadow rapporteur on the country-by-country reporting part of the package I will be watching how Osborne behaves when the Commission package reaches the Council. It is then that his words will be tested with action and the British people will not forgive him if he continues to protect the corporations and his words issued in the heat of the moment are seen to mean nothing.