Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.

 

Friday, 15 April 2016

​TRUST IS THE BATTLEGROUND

A week is a long time in politics. For David Cameron, last week might have felt like an eternity. Following the illegal hacking of a law firm's computer and the release of the 'Panama Papers', Cameron became the first Prime Minister to publish detailed records of his own tax payments. A move followed at the time of writing by George Osborne, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon. No doubt, I'll be nailing my bank statements to my front door by the end of next week!

The argument for doing this is that if you are managing and voting on your country's finances then it is important the electorate know you are complying with the rules you set for others. If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear. It is a strong argument for transparency. Whilst I agree that transparency in politics is paramount, it seems to me that a move towards the public disclosure of tax returns is a dangerous step.

We need to tighten the law to further outlaw tax evasion but I also agree with the Prime Minister that we must be careful not to make aspiration and wealth creation 'dirty words'. They are the key drivers of growth and prosperity in our country that enable us to live independent lives and support our families, the bedrock of society. We must not drive wealth-creators overseas.

I am also concerned by this move because it undermines the principle of trust. Without trust, people will not engage in the political process. It was the eighteenth century MP Edmund Burke who argued that people with any degree of political power ought to be 'strongly and awefully impressed with an idea that they act in trust'.

Social trust exists between members of our community and our nation. When trust is broken the outcomes damage the integrity of families, communities and political institutions. The expenses scandal of 2009 was a devastating example of the effects of broken trust. Rightly, robust rules now exist to prevent such abuses of power.

We politicians have much to do in winning back the trust of the electorate but the solution is not to force all in positions of authority to publish their tax returns. This would only serve to further remove the responsibility to act in trust. We must count others worthy of trust and so engender social trust. We must work to build trust rather than further erode it.


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posted by Gary @ 09:57