Labour urged to end PwC unpaid help


Published: Friday 6th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Labour has been urged to end the practice of taking unpaid help from the accountancy giant, PwC, after the firm was accused by MPs of promoting tax avoidance schemes on an “industrial scale”.

Margaret Hodge, the chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and a senior Labour MP, said the secondment of PwC staff to work in the offices of opposition frontbenchers was “inappropriate”.

“The Conservatives took money from PricewaterhouseCoopers when they were in opposition, the Labour Party does and probably the Liberal Democrats too. I think that’s inappropriate, I wouldn’t do it,” she told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.

Her comments came after the PAC issued a blistering report condemning the way that PwC devised “complex strategies and contrived structures” to help big companies dramatically reduce their tax bills.

In a statement, PwC said that its secondees provided “limited and fully disclosed technical support” to the main political parties on areas in which the firm had particular expertise or knowledge of the business environment.

However Mrs Hodge said that the rules governing such arrangements were too weak and needed to be tightened.

“When you are thinking about tax, you want to talk to the accountants, but the current rules by which we make sure that when you get that stakeholder input it doesn’t become disproportionate so it doesn’t influence an outcome that supports the stakeholder interest rather than the wider public interest – I don’t think they are strong enough or tight enough,” she said.

Labour defended the arrangements, saying that PwC had provided long-standing support to all three main political parties on a non-party basis.

“Given the complexity of government and that opposition parties do not have significant access to civil servants, the support provided by organisations such as these helps ensure that there is better scrutiny of Government policy,” a spokesman said.

“Where organisations provide staff to support research and analysis for opposition parties it is right that these are declared – as currently happens – in the Register of Members’ Interests.”

PwC said in a statement: “PwC has no political affiliation. Our people provide limited and fully disclosed technical support to the main political parties in areas where our expertise and knowledge of the business environment can help them better understand technical matters and the consequences of their policy proposals. We do not develop policy on their behalf.”

A Lib Dem spokesman said: “In common with other political parties and government departments the Liberal Democrats have employees seconded to us on a short-term basis.

“We benefit from the support and advice of those who join us, whilst giving them exposure to a political party in which policies are voted on by our membership.”

Published: Friday 6th February 2015 by The News Editor

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