HC Deb 15 January 1998 vol 304 cc483-4
13. Mr. Nicholls

If he will make a statement on his policy on tax-free offshore trusts. [21064]

15. Mr. Prior

If he will make a statement on the taxation of offshore trusts. [21066]

Mr. Darling

The tax treatment of offshore trusts is being considered as part of the wide-ranging review of tax that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced in his Budget statement.

Mr. Nicholls

Perhaps the Chief Secretary could tell us what progress has been made on implementing the commitment given by the Chancellor at the Labour party conference in 1996 that in future millionaires would not be able to exploit tax relief and offshore tax havens. Even allowing for the fact that bare-faced brazen cheek does not usually march hand in hand with a proper sense of shame, does the right hon. Gentleman sense any unease at having given such a commitment and then sharing the Treasury Bench with someone who was exploiting tax avoidance on a massive scale?

Mr. Darling

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor had greater success at our party conference than the hon. Gentleman had at his a few years ago.

Unlike the Conservatives, my right hon. Friend took action in his Budget to close tax loopholes. He has made it very clear that there is more action to come.

Mr. Prior

Given the Government's commitment to closing offshore tax loopholes and their commitment to high standards in public life, would it not be better if the Paymaster General was moved somewhere else?

Mr. Darling

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. I repeat the point that we have made time and again. For 18 years, the previous Government did nothing about closing tax loopholes. When Mr. David Shaw, of fond memory for many of us—even he was asking for something to be done—asked the now shadow Chancellor about the issue, he was told that it would impose a substantial and unreasonable burden on business."—[Official Report, 11 January 1990; Vol. 164, c. 706.] That is not our view. We have made it abundantly clear that we intend to take appropriate action to close loopholes. We took action in the Budget and, as I said a few moments ago, there is more to come.