Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I did not expect to be called so early.
I am a little at a loss about what we are trying to achieve here: is this about tax evasion or is it about offshore companies? The reality is that offshore companies are legal entities, and a lot of them, especially across the Commonwealth countries and the overseas territories, have been set up using HMRC guidelines. That has to be clarified here and now: is this about tax avoidance per se or is it about overseas territories having tax advantages? What is it about? Yesterday, when the debate was being granted, I was standing to the side of you, Mr Speaker, and I was absolutely of the mind that this was about overseas territories or tax evasion under certain forms of tax advantages in certain countries. The UK can do its bit, as it is doing and as this Government have done.
The Labour Government did very little for 13 years, to be quite frank. Now, it is about the perception of who pays the taxes in this country. I can give the House a basic economic argument. It is like a piggy bank. Someone earns their money and puts it in an offshore piggy bank, and they pay tax on it at source and when they take it back into this country. So there is really no tax evasion there.
I can remember the Leader of the Opposition talking about the Isle of Man Government. I have lot of time for the Isle of Man Government and they have a lot of links to my constituency. The problem I have is that the Isle of Man is the most highly regulated offshore tax haven, if we want to call it that, in the whole world.
The Isle of Man Government told me:
“Amongst other things, the Customs and Excise Agreement removes the need for customs barriers between the Isle of Man, the UK and the EU”— even the EU is loth to draft any legislation on this matter—
“and makes the Island part of the European VAT territory. The Agreement also makes provision for the Revenue Sharing Agreement (RSA), the agreed formula by which VAT and most other indirect tax revenues are split between the UK and the Isle of Man.”
On the subject of private jets, the Isle of Man Government told me:
“Since 2011, Isle of Man Customs and Excise has raised more than 30 assessments for under-declared or over-claimed VAT against businesses in the aircraft leasing sector, protecting approximately £4.7million of VAT” for the Exchequer. So what are we arguing about? Are we arguing about reforming tax laws or reforming tax havens? I might add that most tax havens in overseas territories have been sorted out by this House.
I shall keep it short, Mr Speaker, but I think that this debate is a grand waste of time. More to the point, it is confusing to the public.