Make your mind up, Dave – should peers’ tax affairs be private or not?

Confusion reigns in the Conservative Party over whether or not MPs’ and Peers’ tax affairs should be private.

Back in December, Cameron said

If you want to be in the Houses of Parliament… you need to be, or be treated as, a full UK taxpayer. We would pass that law if we get elected… as rapidly as we could.

Now we have Eric Pickles saying

Lord Aschcroft is entitled to his privacy.

and George Osborne saying

We live in a country where people are entitled to a private relationship with the Inland Revenue.

So which is it?

Are MPs and peers entitled to a private relationship with the Inland Revenue? Or should all MPs and peers have to show that they’re full UK taxpayers – something that rather precludes that private relationship?

When the Conservatives make up their minds, perhaps they’ll be good enough to let us know.

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  • Malcolm Todd 15th Feb '10 - 8:55am

    I know Ashcroft’s a good story, and we’re in election-ready, any-stick-to-beat-em-with mode, but in the interests of honesty and logic, let’s be clear: these statements are not contradictory. The Tories’ declared policy (and ours, I think?) is that any person who is a member of parliament will be treated by the inland revenue as resident and domiciled for tax purposes. It doesn’t require the public disclosure of any additional information by anyone; it simply removes the possibility of claiming non-resident or non-domiciled status for those affected. That’s entirely consistent with allowing individuals to keep their tax affairs private between themselves and the Revenue.

    And to anticipate the attacks: no, I’m not defending Ashcroft, or the pathetic Tory attempts to weasel out of being open about his status, or indeed the supine decision by the Labour government to allow him/them to get away with this ridiculous non-commitment in the first place. I’m just pointing out that there is absolutely no inconsistency in the statements quoted here.

  • Malcolm Todd 15th Feb '10 - 11:18am

    “The question is: how can the Tories at the same time be saying that whether he’s a UK taxpayer should remain private and say that all MPs and peers should be UK taxpayers – by definition meaning that the information on that key question would not be private.”

    Because a rule that applies to a whole class by default is a very different thing from a negotiated individual position within the context of rules that allow for different positions. Only the latter can reasonably be described as private.

  • Malcolm Todd 15th Feb '10 - 2:14pm

    Osborne’s comment doesn’t “apply to a whole group”, it’s about the relationship of all individuals as individuals to the authorities. I don’t understand your question about Pickles.

    And before we go too far down this route, can I repeat: I’m not defending the Tories’ position, or Ashcroft’s. I just don’t think there’s any contradiction in the things you’ve quoted.

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