British Prime Minister David Cameron has fought back after days of criticism over his finances, lashing out at what he called hurtful and untrue claims about his late father’s investments sparked by leaked details about the offshore accounts of the rich and famous.
Trying to restore his government’s shaken reputation, Cameron insisted on Monday that “aspiration and wealth creation are not somehow dirty words” and that Britain was acting to stop evasion in its overseas tax havens.
He has been under mounting pressure since his father, Ian Cameron, was identified as a client of a Panamanian law firm that specialises in helping the wealthy reduce their tax burdens.
The prime minister initially refused to say whether he had a stake in Blairmore Holdings, an offshore firm established by his father, before acknowledging he had sold his shares in it shortly before he was elected in 2010.
“I accept all of the criticisms for not responding more quickly to these issues last week,” Cameron told MPs in the House of Commons.
“But as I said, I was angry about the way my father’s memory was being traduced.”
Cameron said his father had set up an investment fund overseas so it could trade in dollar securities – “an entirely standard practice and it is not to avoid tax.”
He said millions of Britons had investments in such funds through their workplace pensions.
Cameron said “there have been some deeply hurtful and profoundly untrue allegations made against my father,” who died in 2010.
Revelations about the Cameron family finances – found among more than 11 million documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca – have overshadowed the government’s claim that it is committed to closing tax loopholes.
Cameron has championed greater financial transparency, and is due to host an international anti-corruption summit in London next month.
A law requiring British companies to disclose who really benefits from their ownership comes into force in June.
Cameron said on Monday that Britain’s Crown dependencies and overseas territories – including such tax havens as Jersey and the British Virgin Islands – had also agreed to share beneficial ownership information with UK law-enforcement bodies.
The prime minister, a former PR man with a reputation for sharp political intuition, appeared to be caught off-guard by the tax furore.
His office initially insisted that his financial arrangements were private, before acknowledging that Cameron and his wife had sold some STG30,000 ($A56,179.78) in shares in the offshore fund shortly before he became prime minister in 2010, to avoid any potential conflict of interest.
Finally, on Sunday Cameron published a summary of his tax returns since 2009, becoming the first British leader to do so.
The records appear to show that Cameron paid his full share of tax – STG75,898 on taxable income of STG200,307 in the most recent tax year.