UK
17/09/2013 03:03 BST | Updated 17/09/2013 03:31 BST

City Tax-Avoiders 'Laughing At Families' Says Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Philips

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High-flying City workers who avoid their taxes laugh at ordinary families who pay their fair share, a Liberal Democrat peer has claimed.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury, who has worked in the City for 45 years, said it was "a farce" that high-earners on multimillion-pound salaries could pay proportionately less in tax than a nurse or soldier.

Speaking during a debate at the Lib Dem party conference in Glasgow, he said more had to be done to tackle tax avoidance.

He said HM Revenue and Customs needed 500 extra experts to deal with tax avoidance, telling an audience in the main hall that the rich and powerful who do not pay their fair share are no longer part of society.

Lord Phillips said HMRC faced an unfair fight as it tried to tackle the problem, which was made worse by the government continually changing the law.

The peer, a former lawyer, said the Tories were influenced by the demands of the City.

He said: "It's a farce. It's not David and Goliath - the HMRC against these unscrupulous avoiders - it's David without even his sling.

"It was Mrs Thatcher, wasn't it, who said there was no such thing as society? There is no greater exemplar of the limited truth of that notorious statement than our tax affairs today where indeed the rich and powerful are not part of our society, although they take, take, take.

"They like the relative honesty of doing business in Britain, but when it comes to taxes, oh no. We must take enforcement seriously because above all, it undermines the ethical and moral willingness of our decent men and women to have the state of affairs than we have got - where a nurse or soldier is paying a higher rate of tax than some guy on £10 million or £20m a year. That's a farce.

"The Tories might not like it because they have got a lot of leads in to the City where a lot of this is going on. They just laugh at us and I have been in the City now for 45 years. They laugh at us."