Osborne defends position on HSBC

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Published: Friday 20th February 2015 by The News Editor

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George Osborne has defended his response to the HSBC scandal, insisting the Government was cracking down on tax dodgers but it would be wrong for him to interfere with HM Revenue and Customs investigations.

The Chancellor said the allegations involving HSBC’s Swiss arm were “very serious” but it was not for politicians to decide on whether there should be prosecutions in individual cases.

He insisted the Government had provided HM Revenue and Customs with the resources needed to tackle illegal tax evasion.

Responding to the HSBC revelations Mr Osborne said: “There are very serious allegations, there are allegations around tax evasion, which is illegal.”

But he said: “We have independent prosecuting authorities in this country and I don’t think it would be right – and actually when you pause to think about it most people would agree – I don’t think it right for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be directing the prosecutions of individuals or individual companies.”

The lack of direct political involvement “has been one of the bulwarks of freedom in this country for hundreds of years”, he said at an event at the Tate Modern art gallery in London.

But he added: “I did say when I came to office that I wanted to see more prosecutions. We resourced HMRC accordingly and as a result prosecutions are up fivefold in this parliament compared to the last parliament.”

International agreements with authorities such as those in Switzerland meant the exchange of information would be much simpler, he added.

“That’s coming in in the next couple of years, it is one of the biggest changes in the fight against tax evasion,” he said.

Published: Friday 20th February 2015 by The News Editor

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