George Osborne Defends Giving Tax Avoidance 'Advice'

George Osborne has insisted he was simply pointing out the loopholes in Labour's tax system when, back in 2003, he appeared to give advice on how to avoid tax.

In May 2003, the then backbench MP, appeared on the BBC's Daily Politics and told a viewer of the programme how to use "clever financial products" to get around paying inheritance tax. "I probably shouldn't be advocating this on television," he mused.

The video was unearthed by The Huffington Post last month amid a political row between Labour and the Tories over tax avoidance.

Appearing on the Today programme this morning for a post-Budget interview, Osborne said: "I was pointing out that under the Labour government there were all sorts of loopholes that helped people evade and avoid their taxes. When I had the chance to actually do something about it in government, I’ve shut down those loopholes.

He added: People can judge me by my record. They can also look at the new measures we are announcing today very new tough new criminal powers to tackle tax evasion."

Osborne is today unveiling a new raft of weapons for prosecutors and tax authorities to clamp down on wealthy people who use offshore accounts to evade or avoid tax.

He said the moves - part of a £5 billion clampdown on tax avoidance - will help prevent the public spending "roller coaster" which independent economists believe will result from his Budget plan to end austerity a year early in 2018/19.

The Office for Budget Responsibility warned of a "sharp acceleration" in the pace of reductions to public service spending between 2016 and 2018 while the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicted "significant and some really quite deep spending cuts" over the same period.

But Osborne insisted that balancing the books was necessary to provide the "stability" needed to deliver high-quality health, education, defence and law and order over the long-term.