Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Foreign policy, international tax evasion, DfID and Bill Gates

On Monday I met with a group of concerned locals in Hexham to discuss the UK Governement's approach to international aid, our foreign policy in places such as Syria and Afghanistan, the progress being made on international tax reform and how best we address issues of global poverty.
We spoke for around 80 minutes and I answered questions on
- how we ensure the support goes to the proper recipients not to corrupt parties, as it clearly has done on occasions in the past
- how we lead the way in the transparency of our support - thereby ensuring that support is known and accounted for
- the pressure being brought to bear on recipient countries to ensure that they play their part in reforming their own countries - an example is the pressure that the UK government is bringing on Pakistan
- the difference that the new developments are making in the countries we support -  particularly for women and children
- the genuine problem of Syria's decline into civil war and our limited ability to help there without committing troops.
I made clear once again that there is no intention whatsoever to divert Dfid budget money for military use but again made the point that there is a need to support project development [like water projects / vacinations and infrastructure] with ongoing financial and security support.
- we discussed the legend that is Bill Gates, whose foundation has transformed African health in particular.
If you have not had a look at the Gates foundations efforts to improve world health I urge you to do so:
I met Bill Gates shortly after I became an MP - he is an incredible man who is putting his great we
alth to good use.
Finally, we also discussed tax reform so that countries, leading businessmen, and corporates pay their fair share. This will be top of the agenda at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June, but it was good to see progress being made on two levels recently:
- agreements with Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man on tax avoidance
- and this week George Osborne has a signed an information exchange agreement with the finance ministers of France, Germany, Italy and Spain in the latest effort to crack down on tax evasion.
Under the agreement, banks in the G5 will be forced to reveal financial details of foreign clients which will then be handed on to the tax domicile to be checked for evasion. The agreement, which is described as a “pilot” scheme, is based on the America’s Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) which has been used to capture US tax evaders abroad since 2010.
In a letter to Algirdas Semeta, the EU tax commissioner informing him of the deal, the five finance ministers have said the “pilot will not only help in catching and deterring tax evaders but it will also provide a template as to the wider multilateral agreement we hope to see in due course.” They said they “invite other EU Member States to join in this pilot” which they hope will remove “the hiding places for those who seek to evade paying their taxes.”
Fuller details here: http://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/uk-signs-tax-deal-france-171703796.html