Published: Wednesday 11th February 2015 by The News Editor
David Cameron has dismissed claims that he is a “dodgy Prime Minister” who is “up to his neck” in the HSBC tax avoidance scandal, accusing Ed Miliband of repeating “fiction after fiction” about the Conservatives.
The Labour leader compared Mr Cameron’s appointment of former HSBC chairman and chief executive Lord Green as a trade minister to the PM “turning a blind eye” to former spokesman Andy Coulson’s involvement in phone hacking.
But Mr Cameron hit back, pointing out that Lord Green was the head of Labour former prime minister Gordon Brown’s business advisory council and was invited on a trade mission by the party in 2013 – three years after the HSBC revelations first surfaced.
The pair also clashed over party donors, with Mr Miliband claiming that seven Tory donors who had given £5 million to the Conservatives were linked to the scandal, which involved the banking giant’s Swiss arm.
But the Prime Minister pointed out that Labour donor Lord Paul was also caught up in the revelations.
During Prime Minister’s questions in the Commons, Mr Miliband went on : “You can’t get away from it, you are a dodgy Prime Minister surrounded by dodgy donors.
“You didn’t just take the money you appointed the man who was head of HSBC as a minister.
“It was in the public domain in September 2010 that HSBC was enabling tax avoidance on an industrial scale.
“Are we seriously expected to believe that when you made Stephen Green a minister, four months later you had no idea about these allegations?”
Mr Cameron replied: “I’m glad you’ve brought up the issue of Stephen Green who was a trade minister in this government.
“This is the same Stephen Green who Gordon Brown appointed as the head of his business advisory council.
“This is the same Stephen Green who Labour welcomed as a trade minister in the government.
“And it’s the same Stephen Green who the shadow business secretary (Chuka Umunna), looking a bit coy today, invited on a trade mission as late as 2013.
“We know what happens – every week you get more desperate because you can’t talk about the economy, you can’t talk about unemployment, so you come here with fiction after fiction.”
Mr Miliband claimed former Conservative Party treasurer Lord Fink, who has donated £3 million to the party and was appointed and given a peerage by Mr Cameron, was involved in “tax avoidance activities”.
The Labour leader then said of the Prime Minister: “There is something rotten at the heart of the Tory Party and it’s you.”
But Mr Cameron said the donors have less influence in the Tory Party than Labour, claiming the trade unions, Labour’s largest donors, pay the party for policies and appoint its leader.
Responding to the PM’s claims that Labour had taken donations from people involved in the HSBC scandal, Mr Miliband said : “None of these people had given a penny on my watch and you are up to your neck in this.
“Let’s take Stanley Fink, who gave £3 million to the Conservative Party.
“You actually appointed him as treasurer of the Tory Party and gave him a peerage for good measure.
“So now can you explain what steps you are going to take to find out about the tax avoidance activities of Lord Fink?”
Mr Cameron replied: “I will tell you about the difference between you and me.
“When people donate to the Conservative Party they don’t pick the candidates, they don’t choose the policies, they don’t elect the leader.
“When the trade unions fund the Labour Party they pay for the candidates, they pay for the policies, and the only reason you are sitting there is because a bunch of trade union leaders decided you were more left wing than your brother.”
In a separate exchange Mr Miliband said: “You took the money, you gave a job to the head of HSBC and you let the tax avoiders get away with it.
“There’s something rotten at the heart of the Conservative Party and it’s you.”
Mr Cameron replied: “For 13 years they (Labour) sat in the Treasury, they did nothing about tax transparency, nothing about tax dodging, nothing about tax avoidance.
“This Government has been tougher than any previous Government.
“That’s why they are desperate, that’s why they are losing.”
Mr Miliband claimed that the Prime Minister must have talked to Lord Green about HSBC as a coalition minister issued a press release in 2011 referring to the investigation into HSBC’s Geneva account holders.
The Opposition leader said: “Do you expect us to believe that in Stephen Green’s three years as a minister you never had a conversation with him about what was happening at HSBC?”
Mr Cameron said the Tories had a far better record on tax avoidance with measures to stop hedge funds dodging levies, to make foreigners pay stamp duty and to tax all bank profits.
The PM claimed Mr Miliband and shadow chancellor Ed Balls are “friends of the tax dodger” as they were Treasury advisers when tax breaks were given to hedge funds.
Mr Cameron replied: “Why did Labour welcome Stephen Green as a trade minister? Why were they still booking meetings with him in 2013?
“My responsibility is the tax laws of this country and no one has been tougher.
“Let me remind you about what we have found: hedge funds cutting their taxes by flipping currencies – allowed under Labour, banned under the Tories.
“Foreigners not paying stamp duty – allowed under Labour, banned under the Tories.
“Banks not paying tax on all their profits – allowed under Labour, banned by the Tories.
“Those two (Mr Miliband and Mr Balls) in the Treasury were the friends of the tax dodger, we’re the friend of the hard-working taxpayer.”
Mr Miliband then compared the appointment of Lord Green to the PM’s hiring of disgraced former News Of The World editor Mr Coulson’s appointment as Downing Street director of communications.
The Labour leader said: “You are bang to rights just like your donors.
“And doesn’t this all sound familiar?
“The Prime Minister appoints someone to a senior job in Government. There are public allegations but you don’t ask the questions, you turn a blind eye.
“Isn’t this just the behaviour we saw with Andy Coulson?”
Mr Cameron dismissed his accusations as “desperate”, saying Labour had made enemies of business, Scotland, women and even nuns in the past week.
Mr Cameron replied: “It is desperate stuff because they (Labour) can’t talk about the economy because it’s growing.
“They can’t talk about unemployment because it’s falling.
“They can’t talk about their health policy because it’s collapsing.
“What have we seen this week? You can’t even go in front of a business audience because you have offended every business in the country.
“You can’t go to Scotland because you are toxic.
“They can’t talk to women because they have got a pink bus going around the country.
“They have even offended Britain’s nuns – no wonder people look at Labour and say they haven’t got a prayer.”
Published: Wednesday 11th February 2015 by The News Editor