Who do they represent?
Should our politicians represent the interests of the people in their constituency or the big businesses that donate to party coffers?
First we had the revelation that top executives from HSBC had donated nearly £900,000 to the Tory party. Last week we discovered that PwC donated nearly £400,000 to Labour. These are very significant amounts of money. Yet both HSBC and PwC have been implicated in massive tax avoidance schemes. That’s scandalous. Every pound that we lose through tax avoidance and tax evasion costs our public services. This so-called tax gap was worth £34bn last year. Just imagine how many doctors and nurses that would pay for, or apprenticeships, or how much that would reduce the deficit.
So why is it that successive government’s seem to turn a blind eye to such schemes? It would be naïve to think that these companies donate such vast sums of money to the political parties and don’t expect anything in return. These donations buy influence.
When the Westminster Parties accept such massive financial contributions, they cede power away from ordinary citizens. When the parties accept these corporate donations they stop representing the people of the UK. You can see the influence of corporate backers and lobbyists across government policy-making: it is very revealing to see how many of the politicians who decide the fate of the NHS receive funds from private health care providers.
So what should we do about it? I think there should be a cap on political donations and I think finding out who has given money to MPs and political parties should be much easier to find out.
Of course the big party machines need feeding so they’ll keep seeking big money. It’s another reason that I’m standing as an Independent – I won’t be in debt to big business: I will only work for the people of Sheffield Hallam.
I’ve had a number of emails about the revelation that HSBC has helped many wealthy individuals avoid paying tax asking how I would respond.
As the home of HSBC’s predecessor, the Midland Bank, this is a big issue for Sheffield. And it’s important to remember that the vast majority of HSBC staff work with the utmost integrity. For the sake of the diligent and upright staff, and the reputation of the financial sector as a whole, we have to address this enormously serious issue.
If the government was as concerned about tax avoidance as they are about benefit fraud then we would have much less of an issue with inequality than we do now and a much stronger economy. It’s scandalous that so many wealthy individuals and corporations who do business in the UK fail to pay a fair amount of tax while the poorest and most vulnerable are pursued with such venom.
With respect to how we might tackle tax dodging I’d suggest two things –
– that we close the loopholes that allow overseas-based businesses to avoid paying tax on their UK sales and income
– that we stop the ridiculous situation whereby commercial organisations such as banks and accountancy firms are given the responsibility to draft tax legislation and systems only to take that inside knowledge back to their clients. I think our tax rules should be constructed on behalf of the nation and in the interests of UK citizens by experts without a conflict of interest.
I believe a significant part of the problem and the reason that this issue hasn’t been fully addressed is the way political parties are funded (for example, the Tories have received £875,000 from senior HSBC staff) – Parties tend to act in, or at least protect, the interests of their sponsors rather than the electorate. It is one of the reasons that I’m standing as an independent – I want to act on behalf of the people of Sheffield Hallam rather than some corporate paymaster.