Ed Miliband is to promise that regardless of how much he is attacked, he will not back down in his campaign against tax avoidance, saying that in government he will insist that the rich play by the same rules as the poor.
In a speech to the Welsh Labour conference on Saturday, he will claim that the HSBC scandal is much more than a row that has shaken the world of finance and politics and argue that it has also crystallised a deep sense of injustice about how Britain is run and who it is run for. He will say that the episode has threatened the fabric of a society that depends on all sections abiding by the same rules.
His speech in Swansea comes at the end of a week when he and his aides have come under intense attack from sections of the press over his own tax affairs, and the way in which they have likened the HSBC crisis to the phone-hacking episode in which Miliband confronted Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News International.
Miliband will say: “It does not matter how much I get attacked for this; I am not backing down.” He will point out that the so-called tax gap has widened to £34bn and accuse the government of simply shrugging its shoulders rather than ensuring that the rich and the powerful no longer fence themselves off from their responsibilities to the rest of society. He will claim that such irresponsibility ultimately threatens the fabric of society.
Seeing the past fortnight of revelations as a vindication after suffering repeated attacks over his anti-business position, he will say: “Two weeks ago, the British people were being told how to vote by a billionaire who doesn’t even pay tax in the United Kingdom and has moved the HQ of his company, Boots, from Nottingham to Switzerland. Last weekend, I promised that the next Labour government would tackle the scourge of tax avoidance, setting a six-month deadline for tax havens operating in UK overseas territories and crown dependencies to open up their books or face being blacklisted.
“This week, there were a series of revelations over industrial-scale tax avoidance at HSBC in Switzerland, which this government had known about even when it appointed its chairman as a trade minister. And then, just on Thursday, the man appointed to be treasurer of the Conservative party first threatened to sue me for saying he was a tax avoider, then announced that ‘Everyone is a tax avoider’ and he was just guilty of ‘vanilla tax avoidance’.”
Miliband will argue that these disputes are not about who is up or down at Westminster, but about the risk of a country divided, with one rule for the rich and powerful and another for everybody else. The government has failed to take action on tax havens, tax transparency, profit shifting and aggressive tax avoidance, he will claim.
He will promise: “We will govern without fear and without favour. A Labour government led by me will ensure that the same rules apply to everyone, no matter how rich or how powerful they are.”
This article was written by Patrick Wintour, political editor, for theguardian.com on Friday 13th February 2015 23.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010