The price of everything….
Lord Green resigning as Chair of TheCityUK
Open Letter to Mr Ben Price, the Director of Policy at TheCityUK
Dear Mr Price
Thank you for meeting with me yesterday in your capacity as Head of Policy at TheCityUK.
It was a pleasure to meet you and Ms McGowan and to learn more about the way TheCityUk represents such a wide range of financial services industries as a membership organization.
You may only have been in the job a short time but, if you don’t mind me saying so, you have already perfected that look of puzzled innocence when questioned about the importance to the UK financial services industry of our Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies as zero tax jurisdictions.
Can it honestly be the case that you “have no clear policy lines on their role“?
Can it be true that “this is not something that any of [your] members have really ever bothered about”?
Even now that your director (and my clerical colleague) Lord Green has resigned as your chairman on account of his role at HSBC, can it really be the case that “tax evasion and tax avoidance is not something that has ever come up on any radars at TheCityUk”?
To be honest, I was hoping that you would make a case for the importance of these jurisdictions to our domestic economy. That you would argue that they ultimately serve the greater good, that there would be dangerous capital flight if we opened them up for scrutiny, if we required that they publish their registers of beneficial ownership, and that this would damage our national growth and risk jobs at home. That sort of thing.
That would at least have been the beginning of an interesting conversation. And, as you say, we could then begin to look at the evidence.
But to tell me, as Ms McGowan did, that she wouldn’t be drawn into the Common Good conversation lest she risked “making a value judgment” – that was a genuinely surprising move.
And when you tell me that “there are a lot of grey areas” in the space between tax avoidance and tax evasion, I begin to wonder what kind of judgment you are making (when you separate the light from the dark) if it is not one that entails values.
Actually all this talk of “grey areas” momentarily puts me in mind of another very topical performance concerning control, bondage, secrecy and addiction.
And it occurs to me that I simply don’t know TheCityUk “safe word”.
Stop doing this, Mr Price!
Let’s have an honest conversation about tax.
And let’s think about what role we are playing.
Surely it should be to serve our consumers (note: this includes all those who use your members’ financial products) and to set a global standard for the Common Good.
And not just about helping rich people get away with what they can.
Wishing you a joyful Lent
The Hackney Preacher