LONDON: Prime Minister David Cameron defended his tax affairs and announced a deal to open up Britain’s overseas tax havens on Monday as he confronted critics of his offshore dealings for the first time in parliament.
Cameron this weekend became the first British leader to publish his tax returns after admitting he held shares in his late father’s Bahamas-based investment fund, which he sold before he took office in 2010.
“I didn’t want anyone to be able to suggest that as prime minister I had any other agendas or vested interests,” he told the House of Commons in his first appearance since the Panama Papers put his finances in the spotlight.
Cameron used his statement to announce a new crackdown on tax avoidance and a new agreement with the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens to share information with British law enforcement and tax authorities.
“There’s no doubt that in some of these jurisdictions and countries there are some very bad things happening… and that’s why we want our authorities to go through everything they can,” the prime minister said.
While not illegal, Cameron’s offshore dealings risk undermining his efforts to lead international action against tax evasion, which will see him host an anti-corruption summit in London in May.
Cameron admitted he had not handled well the revelations about his father’s Blairmore fund following the leak of documents by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
But he rejected the “deeply hurtful and profoundly untrue” suggestion that his father was trying to avoid tax, saying it was a legitimate business to trade in dollar-denominated securities.
And while it was right to “tighten the law and change the culture” to crack down on evasion and aggressive avoidance”, Cameron said the government should “defend the right of every British citizen to make money lawfully”.