David Davis asks about Vodafone

Interesting that David Davis has decided to pick up on the UK Uncut campaign against Vodafone. I don’t see how the Treasury Minister can say there is little or no evidence against HMRC, immediately after admitting he hasn’t seen the details… Stephen Williams then jumped on the bandwagon. Not sure what he’s getting at with football stars and grand prix drivers… is he saying Lewis Hamilton shouldn’t be allowed to live in Switzerland? (I was very disappointed when he moved overseas for tax reasons, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do and would have hoped he’d want to stay in the UK and make a contribution, but I don’t see that the Chancellor could force him to do so.)

Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): There is a lot of public disquiet about alleged enormous sweetheart deals done with major public companies—Vodafone and others—in the last five years. Three or four months ago, I tabled a question asking how many of these deals had been done, costing more than £100 million at a time. The answer I received was that the information requested was “not readily available” and could be provided “only at disproportionate cost”. I received a similar blocking answer this morning. When is the Minister going to tell the House what HMRC has been up to?

Mr Gauke: The National Audit Office has investigated and examined that as a matter of course. There is no question of sweetheart deals. The reality is that HMRC is seeking to recover as much tax as is due. That is what it has done in a number of cases. I am not going to comment on individual cases. That is a matter of confidentiality; I do not get to see the details. None the less, I think wild allegations have been made against HMRC, for which there is little or no evidence.

Stephen Williams (Bristol West) (LD): Following on from the question from the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), many of us will have seen—and some of us, myself included, will approve of—the demonstrations organised by UK Uncut outside certain high street well-known names. What are the Government doing to tackle corporate tax avoidance schemes by some large corporates; and what is the Chancellor going to do to make sure that the actions of some well-known and popular figures, such as premiership football stars and grand prix drivers, are also tackled?

Mr Gauke: The fact is that over the spending review period, £900 million is devoted specifically to HMRC for improving the capability of tackling tax avoidance and tax evasion. We take the issue very seriously and we announced proposals in December to reduce the tax gap further.

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