David Cameron has rejected growing calls for public record of MP’s tax returns. While the other benches remained quiet at the news, it was met with cheers from the Conservatives (4 seconds in):
In parliament on Monday, Cameron justified his decision by championing the ‘robust rules’ at parliament:
We already have robust rules on members’ interest and their declaration and I believe that’s the model we should continue to follow.
The very same ‘robust rules’ that allowed two general elections to take place without the public being aware that the two-time winning candidate – the current Prime Minister himself – engaged in tax avoidance. This has now elicited an over 130,000 strong petition calling for a snap general election, and volleys of calls for Cameron to resign.
Considering MPs are on our payroll they are accountable to us. Personally avoiding tax is evidently a conflict of interest if you are an MP, the same as any other financial interest. If MPs benefit from tax avoidance they have a financial interest in maintaining the loopholes they are hired to close.
All MPs publicly publishing their tax returns would restore trust in politicians. Trust that would be valuable to the politicians themselves. So even without such a brazen display of joy from the Conservative benches, it is suspicious that MPs are not volunteering to publish their returns to gain political capital.
The howling hypocrisy of the government
The public do not need to know what MPs have had for lunch, just their potential conflicts of interests. Yet the government are denying a basic level of transparency, with the Prime Minister initially calling his own tax affairs a “private matter”.
Meanwhile, they are looking to pass legislation that will make unbridled mass spying on us, the people who pay their salary, totally legal. As I wrote previously:
As revealed by Edward Snowden, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) indiscriminately collect data from every visible user on the internet. The initiative was launched seven years ago, but with “no public debate or scrutiny”.
The programme was found to be illegal, throughout these seven secretive years, yet nobody has been prosecuted. This is because when the Tories’ mates break the law, they simply change it. Last year, the UK government rewrote the surveillance laws so that GCHQ’s activities were no longer illegal.
These documents also show that GCHQ has the ability to turn on our microphones and cameras on our computers, listen to our phone calls and track our locations, while collecting all sorts of data about what we do online.
Now, Theresa May’s Investigatory Powers Bill or ‘snoopers charter’ seeks to make mass surveillance official government policy. Ostensibly, this is to prevent terrorism, but there is no evidence it works. In fact, treating the entire country as suspects is likely detrimental for terrorism prevention. It’s the equivalent of building a breathtakingly unnecessary and humongous haystack to find a handful of needles in.
The government want unrestricted access to all of our personal information, yet will not even publicly declare their own financial interests in full. The phrase ‘do as I say, not how I do’ has never been so applicable.
Even without the joyous reaction from the Conservative benches, MPs not willingly publishing their tax returns to garner trust, is suspicious.
Featured image via Youtube screenshot.
We need your help ...
The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.
Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.
We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.
Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?