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We must not miss this opportunity to change the system

April 19, 2016 8:11 AM
By Tim Farron, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Tim Farron 2016The politics of envy helps no-one, but trust in politics does.

I have no desire to poke around in the Prime Minister's private wealth, and definitely have no desire to force him to relive the pain of losing his father, having to confront that time all over again through the pages of national newspapers.
It is absolutely essential that British people have full confidence in our leaders, and that when decisions are made and Budgets are written there is not even a slightest hint of a conflict of interest or personal gain. But we are now in a position where people no longer have complete faith in this Government's decisions.

Trust in politics and our ability to get things done is taking another hammering. It's an poor indictment of our political system that the demand is now so great for the public to see politicians' tax affairs. Are we now in a world where there is an assumption that a politician is doing wrong, or is playing the system?

We must change.

In all of this, it's the British people who lose out. The Tories will cling to power, unthreatened by a sensible Labour opposition, and Corbyn's Labour will rush to find the biggest placard, the angriest slogan and the protestor with the loudest chant. Progress and action will be ignored.

I'll be releasing my tax papers this week. It's up to you whether you pick over them or ignore them. I don't mind. But let's not lose sight of what really is at stake. We can't have faith that our system is working for all of us when decision makers seem so distant from every day decision making.

We must rebuild faith in politics by doing what matters, by reaching out and helping people, and doing what we were elected to do in the first place.

We can all join this escalation in anger, with politicians all trying to out-do each other in what inquiry they call for, or who's head should be on the block, but none of this improves things for the better.

It is the sugar rush of politics. And sooner or later, everyone will crash back down, and we'll all be back to normal.

We must not miss this opportunity to change the system.

This is why in March I asked Vince Cable to lead a major review on tax, to ensure people can have faith in the system and that it works in a truly globalised world.

But there are also key things the Government could do now:

1. Move to a real anti-avoidance rule. The anti-abuse rules currently in place do not go far enough and too much slips through the net.

2. Strengthen penalties for participating in repeated avoidance schemes - the changes this Government is bringing in won't even allow someone to be named unless they have been involved in three separate avoidance schemes.

3. Use the anti-corruption summit this May to force overseas territories to hold a central list of beneficial ownership in each fund created, and for that list to be made available to HMRC.

This can be the start of progress.

Let's not lose focus. Let's make a difference in people's lives where it matters. That's what they elected us for.