POLITICS

Exeter University Student Ambushes David Cameron Over Tax Avoidance

Prime Minister confronted over blocking crackdown

07/04/2016 15:04 | Updated 07 April 2016

David Cameron has been ambushed by a university student over his "personal experience" of tax havens as the furore over the so-called Panama Papers continued.

The media was excluded from probing the PM as he took part in a Q&A at Exeter University - but he was asked by a student in the crowd directly about why he spoke out against a crackdown on offshore trusts in 2013

Cameron's father was named in leaked documents outlining millions of people enjoying reduced tax bills through overseas companies.

It prompted Cameron and Downing Street to make four statements on how he does not benefit from his late father’s Bahamas and Panama-based companies despite claims his inheritance may have been swelled as a result.

Writing for The Huffington Post UK, Labour MP Jess Phillips hit out at Cameron’s father's “utterly disgusting” behaviour.

And outrage was heightened when reports this morning recycled the Prime Minister previously "personally intervening" to block the extension of new tax arrangements.

While in the Devon city to campaign to stay in the European Union, he was mocked by a student who asked: "I am very interested in what the collective EU states could do to combat tax avoidance – something you have personal experience of."

Dan Kitwood/PA Wire

In response, the Prime Minister said that he had “made tax and transparency the number one issue for the first time” at international summits.

He claimed Britain would be the first country in the world to have a "totally open register of beneficial ownership, so you can see who owns what company".

Alluding to an anti-corruption summit to be hosted in London next month, added: "It's not fair when you've got companies who are basically shifting their profits around the world, rather than paying them in the country where they make their money."

Journalists principally from London travelled with the PM for the session - the launch of the EU referendum campaign aimed at under-25s - but were not given the chance to quiz the PM.

In any case, Cameron received a rough ride after also being quizzed on the £9.3m pro-EU leaflet drop to every house in the UK, which campaigners for "Brexit" have criticised as a "waste" of taxpayer's money - and giving the "In" campaign an unfair advantage.

Despite there being no suggestion that the avoidance arrangement or others exposed by the leak were anything but entirely legal, Cameron responded to the news saying:

That is a private matter, I am focused on what the government is doing”

In 2013, Cameron wrote a letter to then President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, arguing that trusts should not automatically be subject to the same transparency requirements as companies.

 The letter is available to see here.

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