Matt Brittin, Google Vice President, Denies Trying To 'Disguise' Business Operations

Internet giant Google today denied trying to "disguise" the way its business operated to minimise its tax bill in the UK.

Appearing before the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Google vice president Matt Brittin insisted he stood by evidence he gave last year that all the firm's advertising in Europe was sold through its offices in Ireland.

But in a series of testy exchanges, committee chairman Margaret Hodge said his claims were contradicted by documentation MPs had seen and evidence from a "stream" of whistleblowers.

Matt Brittin denied trying to 'disguise' business operations

"It was quite clear from all that documentation that the entire trading process and sales process took place in the UK," she told him.

"I simply suggest to you again that you think about what you actually said on November 12 which was that 'anyone who buys advertising from us in Europe buys from Google in Ireland, from our expert teams'. That is not what the whistleblower told us and that is not what the documentation demonstrated.

"I think you should think really carefully about what you said to us and whether or not that holds true."

Mr Brittin said the evidence related to the period before he joined the company six and half years ago and that suggestions that Google was trying to "disguise" the way it operated were "just not true".

"I stand by what I said. I described very clearly how we operate," he said.

Ms Hodge opened the hearing with a warning to Mr Brittin that it was a "very serious offence" to mislead a parliamentary select committee.

She read from Erskine May - the official guide to parliamentary procedure - that "a person prevaricating or giving false evidence can be considered to be in contempt of the House".

She added: "That has very serious repercussions".

Mr Brittin said Dublin was Google's largest operation in Europe with 3,000 staff and that any advertiser in Europe contracts with Google in Ireland.

"When we came to Europe we set up Dublin as our European headquarters pretty rapidly. We set that up because we wanted to be able to contract with customers across the whole of Europe, not just the UK," he said.