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David Cameron says wealth is 'not a dirty word' following tax row

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 12/04/2016

Wealth is not a “dirty word”, David Cameron said last night as he finally sought to fightback against a growing "lynch mob" unleashed in the wake of disclosures about the Prime Minister's financial affairs.

After more than a week of Government turmoil prompted by the release of financial information from a Panamian law firm, Mr Cameron yesterday defended the right of “aspirational” British families to earn money.

Mr Cameron, who became the first Prime Minister to publish detailed records of his own tax payments, defended the “right of every British citizen to make money lawfully” and said parents who give large financial gifts to their children should be “proudly” supported by the Government.

His intervention came as Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party sought to turn a row over the Prime Minister's finances into a wider issue about the taxation of wealth and entrepreneurs.

The Labour Party has called for a review of inheritance tax rules and higher taxes on the "rich". The Labour leader disclosed yesterday that he has no savings whatsoever and his personal finances are almost entirely funded by the state - in the form of his salary and generous gold-plated pension.

Downing Street was previously accused of fuelling the Labour anti-wealth agenda by promising to crack down on tax avoidance - and publishing the Prime Minister's tax records - rather than speaking up for the benefits of enterprise and wealth creation.

However, in an unprecedented Parliamentary appearance to tackle questions about his own finances, the Prime Minister finally sought to espouse Conservative values. But, he was warned that his decision to publish his tax returns has already prompted a “witch-hunt” against MPs.

George Osborne, the Chancellor, yesterday also published a statement on his earnings over the last tax year hours after Downing Street said the information should be made public. Minutes later Boris Johnson published details of his earnings.

Labour has in recent days called for all MPs and ministers to publish their full tax returns. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, published his tax return but faced embarrassment after it emerged that he had been fined £100 for completing his forms after the January 31 deadline.

Other Labour MPs - who also rely almost entirely on the state to survive - also began releasing details of their own returns. Senior Tories last night warned that the “genie is out of the bottle” and said that MPs from all parties will now feel compelled to make public their private financial information.

Mr Cameron published six years of tax returns after he last week admitted that he had personally profited from his stake in an offshore investment run set up by his late father Ian.

His opponents also attempted to criticise him for “avoiding” up to £80,000 in inheritance tax after his mother gave him £200,000 following the death of his father. Last night, Mr Cameron backed the right of middle class British families to “own shares and make investments to support their families”. 

“This is a Government and this should be a country that believes in aspiration and wealth creation – so we should defend the right of every British citizen to make money lawfully,” Mr Cameron said.

“Aspiration and wealth creation are not somehow dirty words – they are the key engines of the growth and prosperity in our country and we must always support those who want to own shares and make investments to support their families.”

Mr Cameron also launched a passionate defence of parents’ rights to pass on money to their children after Labour said it would review inheritance tax rules in the wake of the row over Mr Cameron’s gift from his mother. He also told MPs that his “father’s memory was being traduced”.

Mr Cameron said: “On the issue of inheritance tax there is an established system in this country – rather than people being embarrassed about passing things to their children by wanting to keep a family home within the family,

I believe it is a natural human instinct and something that should be encouraged.” Mr Osborne and Mr Johnson’s tax returns disclosed that they both benefit from lucrative outside earnings to supplement the salaries they receive from their elected offices.

Mr Cameron said he believed there was a "strong case" for the Prime Minister, leader of the opposition, chancellor and shadow chancellor to make their tax affairs public, but did not think the same should apply to all MPs.

"If this were to come in for MPs, people would also ask for a similar approach for those who ask us questions, those who run large public services, or lead local government, or indeed those who edit the news programmes or newspapers," he said.

"I think this would be a very big step for our country, it certainly shouldn't take place without a long and thoughtful debate and it is not the approach that I would recommend." Senior Conservatives on Monday warned that there will be a significant backlash if MPs are forced to publish their tax returns and said that backbenchers would quit.

Alan Duncan, a former minister, accused Labour of “synthetic indignation” and said they “hate anyone who has got a hint of wealth in them”.

He said that publishing tax returns would result in a House of Commons “stuffed full of low achievers, who hate enterprise, hate people who look after their own family and who know absolutely nothing about the outside world”.

Sir Edward Garnier, a former Conservative solicitor general, said: “If the Labour party wants to be taken seriously they should concentrate their fire on those who criminally evade paying tax and not on those people, no matter how rich they may be, who do pay their tax. It is a childish witchhunt that does them no credit."

Mark Garnier, a Conservative MP and member of the Treasury select committee, said it would be setting a "dangerous precedent" to force MPs to account for their income in such a way. Gerald Howarth, A Tory MP, said it would be an "outrageous intrusion". He added: "People would want to quit. We have to have our tax position proved by the inland revenue and that's it.”

Mr Cameron published six years of tax returns after he last week admitted that he had personally profited from his stake in an offshore investment run set up by his late father Ian. © Press Association Mr Cameron published six years of tax returns after he last week admitted that he had personally profited from his stake in an offshore investment run set up by his late father Ian.

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