Newbury MP defends David Cameron after tax leaks
But Richard Benyon will not reveal his own tax returns
The Conservative MP for Newbury has leapt to the defence of David Cameron and his family after recent revelations from the ‘Panama Papers’, but stressed that he would not be revealing his own tax returns.
A leak from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca last week linked several high-profile figures with the use of offshore tax havens.
The Prime Minister’s late father Ian Cameron was found to have set up an offshore fund which didn’t have to pay any UK corporation tax or income tax on its profits.
The Prime Minster was then forced to admit he had benefitted from the fund and, in an unprecedented move, published details of his tax returns.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News in the wake of the controversy, Newbury MP Richard Benyon said that he would not be making his income and tax information available to the public, describing it as “private information”.
He said: “What are you saying, that everybody should?
“People who work for government, local councils, journalists? Where is it all going to end?
“If people don’t trust me, they can say so through the ballot box. I have got absolutely nothing to hide.”
Asked if there was an element of hypocrisy in David Cameron clamping down on tax evasion in the wake of the scandal, Mr Benyon answered: “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s a ridiculous accusation.”
He was also critical of the recent media coverage of Mr Cameron’s late father and of his mother Mary, who still lives at Peasemore, and leapt to their defence, saying they had done nothing wrong.
Mr Benyon said: “David Cameron hasn’t done anything wrong and some of the wider accusations in the media were inaccurate.”
“I think it must have been hugely distressing for his family, for his mother, to be treated in this way.
“His father was a man I knew very well and he was one of the most honest and decent people that I could have known.”
North West Hampshire MP Kit Malthouse said: “Personally I didn’t see any pressing need for the PM to publish his tax returns and I don’t think we learned anything useful by him doing so.
“The House of Commons requires all MPs to register and publish their detailed interests and in my view these stringent independent rules are adequate.”
Reading West MP Alok Sharma said: “If it becomes a requirement for serving politicians, parliamentarians or councillors, to publish their tax return, of course I will.
“But frankly, as Jeremy Corbyn has suggested, if this were to become a requirement, it should also extend to journalists.
“And while we are about it, let’s have a national debate about whether, as in Sweden, everyone in the country should have to publish their tax return.”
But Jonny Roberts, former Labour candidate for Newbury in last year’s General Election, was more critical and called the Panama revelations “a national disgrace”, adding that he would gladly publish a tax return if he was MP for Newbury.
He said: “The Panama Papers are really only the tip of the iceberg and simply confirms what many of us have known for a long time – that there is a global wealthy elite who feel the normal rules of tax don’t apply to them.
“It’s wrong and we need politicians to be much, much stronger on this.
“Corbyn’s call to impose direct rule on British tax havens like the Cayman Islands to sort this mess out is absolutely right.
“It is a national disgrace that we, the UK, are talking tough on tax evasion while presiding over some of the worst culprits.
“I am pleased we seem to be moving to greater transparency over politicians’ financial affairs.”
He added: “ I would be happy to publish a tax return if I was MP for Newbury and I think all MPs and candidates should.”